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How Out Of Touch Are Romney & Obama?

This, from the Christian Science Monitor: [1]

In a recent speech, President Barack Obama referred to the “middle class” 14 times, defining it as a family that makes up to $250,000 a year. …

Referring to the election as a “make-or-break” moment for the middle class, Obama used the term repeatedly in his July 9 speech calling for an extension of “middle-class” tax breaks for families making less than $250,000, or $200,000 for individuals — basically everyone but the top 2 percent. He mentioned the phrase seven times at a fundraiser Tuesday in San Antonio.

This, from a new interview with Mitt Romney [2]:

Mitt Romney is promising to reduce taxes on middle-income Americans.

But how does he define ‘‘middle-income”? The Republican presidential nominee defined it Friday as income of $200,000 to $250,000 a year and less.

The definition of ‘‘middle income’’ or the ‘‘middle class’’ is politically charged as Romney and President Barack Obama fight to win over working-class voters. Romney would be among the wealthiest presidents, if elected, and Democrats have repeatedly painted him as out of touch with average people.

Obama also has set his definition for ‘‘middle class’’ as families with income of up to $250,000 a year.

Romney’s comments came an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s ‘‘Good Morning America.’’

‘‘No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is (to) keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers,’’ Romney told host George Stephanopoulos.

‘‘Is $100,000 middle income?’’ Stephanopoulos asked.

‘‘No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less,’’ Romney responded.

His campaign later clarified that Romney was referencing household income, not individual income.

The Census Bureau reported this week that the median household income — the midpoint for the nation — is just over $50,000.

 

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49 Comments To "How Out Of Touch Are Romney & Obama?"

#1 Comment By Ping Lin On September 14, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

Could this be an urban dichotomy at work?

From living in Manhattan for a few years, I can definitely tell you that $100k for a household isn’t middle class. (In many places, it’s barely enough to give you rent money.)

It could be that this is a reflection of Romney and Obama spending the majority of their time in various metropolises rather than rural/suburban settings.

#2 Comment By Blairburton On September 14, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

From [3]

“Americans won’t decide whom they would rather have a beer with or whom they would rather have dinner with but whom they could count on to help change their flat tire when the car is stranded by the roadside and they’re standing in the middle of the highway waving their arms for help. Here comes Barack in his hybrid Fusion. He stops and tries to fix the tire, and pretty soon it’s obvious maybe he’s not that great at fixing tires, so while he fusses they try to wave down someone else. Here comes Mitt in his Cadillac. He’s great at fixing tires … on Cadillacs. He claims he’s great at fixing other tires too but gives no indication of such, and in fact gives no indication that he would know another other tire if he saw it. It doesn’t matter anyway because not only isn’t Mitt going to stop, it’s not certain he even sees anyone in the middle of the highway waving their arms or that he won’t run them over if he does.”

#3 Comment By Michael On September 14, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

This is not evidence of being out of touch. I suspect that both Obama and Romney know that $200,000 or $250,000.00 or whateve ris not middle or median income for an individual or a family. What it is instead is evidence that neither candidate wants to tell the American people the truth – that taxes are going to have to go up for everyone – because they knbow the average voter will punish them at the ballot box for it. Limiting the increases to those making over $250,000 (in Obama’s case) allows you to (dishonestly) get away with it.

#4 Comment By Cannoneo On September 14, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

I don’t think they are necessarily personally out of touch, though they may be. These figures have to do with their tax proposals and the politics of how many voters to raise vs. cut taxes on.

I think the media is more guilty of allowing this stuff to pass, in part because national media figures are very wealthy but don’t like to admit it. In many cases they are richer and more out of touch than politicians.

#5 Comment By jaybird On September 14, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

@Blairburton:

I think P.J. O’Rourke made a similar analogy once, that if you’re stuck with a flat on the side of the highway, Republicans might wave as they drive by, but don’t stop, and Democrats will stop and try to help, but set your car on fire in the process.

#6 Comment By reflectionephemeral On September 14, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

From living in Manhattan for a few years, I can definitely tell you that $100k for a household isn’t middle class.

Depends how you look at it. On the one hand, you’re choosing to consume high-cost housing. On the other, maybe you’re working in a position that doesn’t exist where you’d be able to live in a bigger house for your money.

I’ll go ahead and offer my theory that this is a product of elites walling themselves off, and pulling up the ladder behind them. Every adviser on economics for both parties, and all their college buddies, and all the journalists who ask them questions about economics, share a security that the vast bulk of Americans don’t have.

This used to be worse on the right than on the left– I recall Fox News going nuts when folks suggested restoring surplus-era tax levels, on the grounds that “a teacher and a cop combined make $200,000, how can you say that’s not middle class!” But it could be worsening. Certainly, [4], which [5].

#7 Comment By MWorrell On September 14, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

I’d be rich if I was living in Alabama. But I live in Chicago, and frankly I don’t know how any family making under six figures could possibly exist here. The ones who are out of touch are the people who live in areas where houses cost 100,000 and property taxes are a couple thousand a year. It’s a big country.

#8 Comment By Lindsey On September 14, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

I have to admit that I am frequently uncertain by what is meant by “middle class” when it is used in articles or discussions. The median household income cited here ($50,000/year) sounds more like the bottom end of middle class. Below that would be working class. But that is my response that is based on my experiences. Is middle class actually defined by the median household income?

#9 Comment By JT On September 14, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

, I can definitely tell you that $100k for a household isn’t middle class.

True for parts of lower Manhattan; not true generally. [6].

#10 Comment By mlarsen23 On September 14, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

I don’t think that this definition of the middle class really reflects how out of touch they are or aren’t. I think many of not most people with household incomes between $150K and $250K would also consider themselves middle class, whether they actually are or not.

#11 Comment By Beyng On September 14, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

I think defining classes by personal or household incomes is stupid. Millions do not an aristocrat make.

Anyway, a household pulling in $200k would probably be considered upper-middle class in most locales (though, to me, such a salary constitutes fantastical wealth). I suspect why Mitt and Obama insist on using it, though, is that many small businesses are taxed under the regular income code. Many small businesses, moreover, have revenues in the $200k – $250k range. Thus, if either party promised to raise taxes only on folks earning, say, more than $100k, they would have the small business community up in arms. Not good, either politically or fiscally.

#12 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On September 14, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

The class demarcation in US society isn’t over how much money a person makes, it is about how much money someone has! Basically who needs to work to pay their bills versus who can survive off their investments.

For good or ill, I’m middle class while Paris Hilton and Mitt Romney are upper-class.

#13 Comment By SteveM On September 14, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

What is “Middle Class” is merely another oily Politico-Reptilian diversion. The ONLY reality that matters is $3.8 TRILLION in annual spending.

Neither of the those feckless Chumps has the guts to tell America how it will be paid for.

However it’s defined, those atrocious Clowns are going to Free Lunch/Free War deficit spend “Middle Class” America over a cliff.

#14 Comment By Chris On September 14, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

jaybird, the analogy sounded kind of familiar to me too. But it turns out that it’s not P.J. O’Rourke, it’s Dave Barry:

The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They’re the kind of people who’d stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn’t bother to stop because they’d want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club.

On a slightly more serious note, it never made sense to me to say higher incomes don’t count if you live in Manhattan. But your income is still buying something of value: The ability to live and work in one of the most dynamic places in the history of mankind. It’s unclear to me why “consumption” in the form of higher real estate costs is any less real than any other kind. If you have $200K in Manhattan, you’re still upper class. NTTAWWT.

#15 Comment By skrifari On September 14, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

I think Obama and Romney are politicians. Politicians have been known to tell people what they want to hear and I’ve met a fair number of people with incomes that high (or nearly) who consider themselves middle class. They’re highly affronted if you suggest they may not be.

#16 Comment By lasorda On September 14, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

In New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, $250,000/year is most certainly middle class. You can live comfortably here in LA on $250,000. It’s the salary of a young partner at a medium sized law firm. You can buy a small home in the San Fernando Valley or in another “perimeter” community, but you can’t get close to Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills, Hancock Park or Pasadena if you have kids. Those areas are for rich people. There are a lot of people living in and around those cities making six figure incomes and struggling to pay the bills. Don’t discount them (us).

#17 Comment By Bruce Ross On September 14, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Both candidates have called $200-$250K the upper threshold of what they consider middle class.

I’d agree. That income range is pretty common for talented professionals, but it’s still very much the income of people who get up and go to the office every single morning. Bourgeois prosperous? Absolutely. A nut that gives you the freedom to tell your boss to pound sand in a disagreement? Nah.

#18 Comment By Bar Bill On September 14, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

Lindsey @ 1:30:

The concept of the American lower class being from 0-50th percentile in income (below $50k) is disturbing. Congratulations, America is a lower-class society.

#19 Comment By Brett On September 14, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

The $200k to $250k figure is mentioned as the upper limit of the middle class, not as some kind of Everyday Joe kind of income.

I have to give you credit, though, for mentioning that Romney and Obama both said essentially the same thing. Some writers on this site would not do that – the Obama quote would be ignored, while Romney would be excoriated.

#20 Comment By SusanMcN On September 14, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

I am amazed that anyone can think a family making six figures is middle class. Boggles the mind. Our family of five isn’t even close to six figures but we have cable, old cell phones, a newer car, college educations, all the food we need, and money to pay a babysitter now and then. I’d still consider us at LEAST upper middle class or more likely, lower upperclass.

#21 Comment By Connie On September 14, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

Maybe you weren’t blogging two years ago when the furor arose over Todd Henderson’s blog piece about how he (a lawyer?) and his wife (a doctor) could barely make it in the Chicago area on their “middle income” after paying private school tuition, a nanny, a gardener, and retirement savings. Even his wife felt compelled to disassociate herself from his (selfish, repugnant) comments.

The first commentor has nailed it. In urban areas, with their associated high expenses (including the assumed private school expenses starting just after birth), $200,000 for a two income family is barely making it, especially when coupled with student debt for graduate school. BUT people who choose that life are doing exactly that, choosing it. They could live in Omaha or Des Moines or Milwaukee and have much more money left after tax, even with lower incomes. They might not get to shop the same stores, or see Broadway plays as soon, or eat at the same tony restaurants with small servings of food dished up on decorated plates. But by God they are going to live where they want, spend their high salaries as they please, and group themselves with the two teacher family living in Rochester, Minnesota.

They are also the ones whom both parties want the support of, both with money and votes, and neither R nor O can afford to tell them that they are really rich. (And they don’t feel rich compared to the excesses of the so-called 1%, although compared with most everyone on the planet at every time in history, they are clearly well above “middle class.”)

#22 Comment By Surly On September 14, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

We’re in that demographic, and we “consider” ourselves middle class, because culturally, we are. We both came from backgrounds of living below your means, and substituting your own labor for spending money on things. My husband maintains the cars (oil, tire rotation, fluids); we don’t pay for housecleaners, lawn services, etc. We don’t take expensive trips. I don’t know for sure what other people make, but I do know that most people I suspect have about the same income as we do are all hiring a lot of things done and do a lot more travel than we do.

Intellectually I know we are in the top 5% in terms of household income, but I don’t “feel” like I’m in the top 5%. I often feel like we should have more to show for it, but I don’t know what everybody else’s net worth is. Our money tends to disappear into savings and retirement accounts.

#23 Comment By Al-Dhariyat On September 14, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

I think Beyng is in the right here. The reason they use $200-$250k isn’t about households per se, it’s because that threshold encompasses small businesses and they’re loathe to tax small businesses.

#24 Comment By EngineerScotty On September 14, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

Certainly, there’s a big difference between $250k and $50k per year. On the other hand, neither income will make one wealthy–and as Ping points out, $250k/year doesn’t go very far in many big cities.

The problem is that the 3-4 gradients we use to describe income levels (wealthy/middle-class/working-class/poor) is insufficient. This [7] is I think a more useful way of looking at things.

#25 Comment By Kit Stolz On September 14, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

This is about tax cuts, not Census Bureau definitions. Obama says middle-class is up to 250k to avoid saying that he wants to raise taxes on households earning more than that a year. Romney says middle-class includes those making 200-250K to inoculate himself against the charge that the wants to lower tax rates for the rich.

Given the actual impact of a return to Clinton era tax rates, the alleged equivalence is a little dubious. Yes, both men are politicians, and know how to spin the truth. But Obama really does want to raise tax rates for the rich, and not for the middle class, and Romney really does want to cut tax rates, which will especially benefit the rich.

#26 Comment By JB On September 14, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

No, I could not “live in Omaha or Des Moines or Milwaukee and have much more money left after tax, even with lower income.” Even after California’s onerous taxes, my wife and I are so far coming out slightly ahead financially by living here rather than taking a MUCH lower-paying job in most other places in the country. For other reasons — such as raising our children — we’ll likely leave L.A. for somewhere relatively more safe and wholesome within a few years, but it won’t be because it’s a net financial gain.

#27 Comment By Bruce Ross On September 14, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

Incidentally, in Santa Clara County, Calif. — San Jose and much of Silicon Valley — the average weekly wage for all employed people is $1,836 (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics). That’s just shy of $100,000.

Is twice the average income in a major American city a nice upper boundary for “middle class”? Doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

And don’t get me wrong, if in one year of my working life I net that much money, I’ll feel like I’ve made it.

#28 Comment By Theophilus On September 14, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

Part of the problem is defining socioeconomic class purely by income – both social and economic factors are at play. If you divide blue-collar-hourly-workers, white-collar-salaried-workers, and people-who-won’t-get-fired-for-not-showing-up-at-the-office, most people will identify a working class, middle class, and upper class person, without hearing a wink about income. But the American Dream has been promising middle class incomes for working class labour since WWII, and as a result the working class is broadly insulted if it isn’t referred to as the middle class. This, in turn, justifies the misguided notion that most people are middle class. They just aren’t. Fully half of America isn’t middle class, socially or economically, but extending the term downwards allows people to hide from this reality.

#29 Comment By W.E.B. Dupree On September 14, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

I agree with several of the comments here. A few years ago, in my mid-30s, after years of working, then going back to school, then working some more, my income finally reached the (low) six-figure level. Around that same time, my wife also finally reached a key career goal that has led to her earning a similar income. I do not think of our income as “middle class income” anymore (while the good times last, anyway).

But, I do understand the idea that you can earn a high income and still feel middle class. It’s not just that we live in a big city. It’s also partly that I always was, until very recently, middle class, and I don’t feel like I’m suddenly a different person. When my income finally reached just over $100,000, I was driving a 10-year-old Saturn (which I finally traded in for a Honda Fit) and was (and still am) burdened with substantial student loans. We live in a two-bedroom condo, not a McMansion. I buy most of my clothes at Ross Dress For Less (I’m a cheap guy).

I’m not trying to tell a sob story at all. I’m just saying that you can still feel like a middle class family even if your income finally gets too high to keep using that term. Also, given the state of the economy, it feels like our income could all be taken away at any time, so we’re conservative with our money. If my wife and I can keep this up for a few more years, though, I will happily concede that my self-description as “middle class” will become absurd.

#30 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On September 14, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

This reminds me of something I heard while working for a large corporation back in the early 90s. The entitled son – I’ll call him “Junior” – of one of the company’s officers got a paid internship (for which he did nothing but talk to his friends about party plans) in my department. (Kids of the powers-that-be got paid internships; kids from the unwashed masses got unpaid internships).

Junior told one of my co-workers one day that he could not understand how anyone could live on less than $70,000 a year. Keep in mind, this was $70,000 in the early 90s, not now.

He said this, of course, to someone who was making less than that, as did almost the entire department. This is the same clueless mentality of the individuals running for president (and probably other offices, too).

#31 Comment By Matt On September 14, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

I agree with the ‘upper limit’ theory. I’m sure someone would have told Obama by now that 250k a year is a freaking fortune to most people. What it is is sort of ‘playing it safe’ to make the middle class as wide as possible.

#32 Comment By sdb On September 14, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

The median household income in Manhattan is $64k. For the city as a whole is it $48k – slightly lower than the median household income nationwide.

The middle quintile nationwide ranges from 39k-61k (in 2009). The second quintile ranged from 20k-39k. The forth quintile ranged from 61k-100k.

The median net worth of households by quintile was 8k, 40k, 90k, 200k, and 1M (in 2007). If you are making over 100k/yr and worth in the neighborhood of $1M, you are rich…even in Manhattan.

The total federal effective tax rate by quintile in 2007 was 4%/11%/14%/17%/25% – the top 1% paid a rate of ~30%. If you account for transfer payments (disability checks, unemployment, Social Security checks, etc…), the effective rates are -308%/-42%/-5%/10%/22% and the top 1% has an effective rate of 28%. Marginal rates for those at the bottom are way too high.

A lot of those in the 100k-200k range are small business owners. While not technically middle class when measured by income quintile, effectively they are as their income tends to be more volatile and they pay for more out of it than regular salaried employees as I understand it.

Raising taxes on those making over 200k/yr is mostly a political ploy – the real expense is for those making less than 200k. The middle class has to pay more if they want to sustain the current size of government. Right now they are getting more back in transfer payments than they are paying in. This isn’t sustainable.

#33 Comment By Lindsey On September 14, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

Bar Bill, I apologize if I offended you. I wish I had used “working class” instead of “lower class,” as it would have been a more appropriate term for what I meant. I could not think of it at the time. As I stated in my previous post, I realize that my experience influences my concept of middle class. I come from what I would consider to be an upper middle class background. Based on my current income, I would consider myself to be working class, so I meant no disrespect to anyone. I was trying to find out what different people meant by “middle class.” Does household income have to fall within a strict range? What is that range? Is that range determined by the median household income of the United States? If I have certain level of education or exhibit certain behaviors, am I still middle class, even if I fall outside the income range? Basically, is there an objective measurement for being middle class? I do apologize if these are naive or ridiculous questions; I’m not trying to be a troll.

#34 Comment By Jake Lukas On September 14, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

Word order is very important. It is interesting to see how this is flowing about the media. The Daily Beastslapped up a headline, [8]. Yahoo has an [9] via ABC News by Stephanopoulos which already has this note: “(Correction, 11:34 am: A previous version of this article said that Mitt Romney defined middle income as between $200,000 and $250,000 a year. In fact, Romney defined middle income as that salary range “and less.”)” Salon managed to include the “and less”, but [10] still tells a story of its own. A quick Google search will no doubt reveal others who’ve had to change headlines. This would all sound a bit different if he had said, “250-200 and less is middle income.” Still a bit absurd, but not as easy to make into a scandalous headline.

The [11] in this country is something very different, because it speaks to a reality rather than merely a perception or construct. It is much easier, and safer, for a politician to speak of class instead of income. Class is a more a function of consumption than income. If we can buy some of the things we want, some of the things proper to the middle class, then we feel like we’re a part of the middle class. The expansion and success of the economy of consumption in the 20th century is the reason most Americans self-identify as part of the middle class, whether they’re just above the poverty line or just below 200k per year. A household making 35-40k where I live owns a used car or two, has a television and a computer, has a grill out on the porch, and a mortgage payment (at least they used to). Here we have the status symbols of middle class respectability.

Even as income and buying power has declined, many have been able to harbor the happy illusion that they remain in a safe middle because of the relative cheapness of consumer goods. Politicians who’ve promised to maintain this illusion have been rewarded. (This incidentally is one of the reasons health care has become an such an issue for politicians. Unlike consumer goods, its cost has increased greatly. As it swallows family budgets it destroys middle class pretense by cutting into expendable income.) Since we still all feel middle class, middle class tax cuts (however defined) feel like a good idea because they allow us to consume more of the things that give us middle class security. This tactic will continue to work until the cost of commodities drives the price of consumer goods out of the reach of the majority of people.

#35 Comment By irmaladuce On September 14, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

I have to roll my eyes every time some one insists you need to make a quarter of a million dollars a year to live in a city. Well, I live in a city. I live in Chicago. And I make way, way, way less than that. Now, I don’t live in a trendy neighborhood and I cut my own grass. I don’t buy every new Apple gadget that hits the market or do all my grocery shopping at Whole Paycheck. I gather some people think a life such as mine is no life at all. But there are millions of us city folk who are neither millionaires nor paupers.

#36 Comment By z On September 14, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

How a certain income level feels depends on a person’s circumstances, obviously. For the couple who each makes $125,000, is trying to raise kids, save realistically for college and retirement, care for aging parents, be prepared for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, etc., it’s a far cry from being rich. Most people don’t save as much as they probably should, so those who do tend to feel more pinched at the same income level. Also, these census figures are pre-tax, aren’t they?

#37 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 14, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

I guess working class is those who actually work for a living, while those “above” don’t do anything that could remotely be considered work, but exist off the labor of those “below.”

Gee, sounds about right these days. Kind of flies in the face of the idea that people aren’t rich because they don’t work.

#38 Comment By Polichinello On September 14, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

… or do all my grocery shopping at Whole Paycheck.

Ha! That’s a good one.

#39 Comment By Caroline Nina in DC On September 14, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

What JB said–lots of other great comments on this thread, too. My husband has a job that ONLY makes sense if you do it in NYC, DC, Chi, or LA–there’s a vast income dropoff if we were to try to move to Montogomery or Omaha. And “retraining” to do something else doesn’t make sense for us in our early 40’s–we see how that has turned out for so many others.

We max out on retirement savings, try to give as much as possible to church, and send two children to a (relatively) cheap private school in our inner ring suburb–which we are glad we live in because with the price of gas, if we lived far out, the commuting costs would be stratospheric.

No Whole Paycheck or restaurants for us. We do love going to the opera once a year, though!

#40 Comment By TimG On September 14, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

At the risk of being preachy, or judgmental or off topic (please forgive me, that’s not my intent), is anyone aware of how utterly absurd (and fascinating) this conversation is for someone (yours truly) living outside a rich country? $50,000/year IS the 1%, globally. I realize there is a cost-of-living context to the discussion, apples to apples and all, but I had to throw in my, uh, 2 cents’ worth.

#41 Comment By Peterk On September 14, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

talk of what is middle class and what is the right dollar level is all useless. $250K in NYC is not the same as $250K in West Feliciana Parish

go up to Washington DC and a whole ton of people are earning $100K plus but it doesn’t get you much when rent for a shabby one bedroom apartment runs north of 2K per month, but just 2 hours or 120 miles south in Richmond that $100K can provide for a comfortable living.

this is just nothing more than demagoguery at work in an effort to show that Romney is clueless. why not focus the microscope onto Obama/Biden to find out who is clueless

#42 Comment By James C. On September 15, 2012 @ 1:49 am

I wish the November election mattered much, but it doesn’t. The challenges facing this country are so serious and weighty, but our statesmen are not.

It was not always so.

How appropriate that Steven Spielberg’s new film “Lincoln” is being released in November. The trailer came out yesterday:

#43 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On September 15, 2012 @ 9:20 am

TimG, when I was in India I could buy goods and services substantially cheaper than in the US. Buying lunch was about a dollar versus seven in a US city. So I would guess that an income of $7,000 would allow someone to have a US standard of living there. The engineers were paid above $20,000 and lived pretty well on that amount of money.

#44 Comment By lankyloo On September 15, 2012 @ 11:14 am

I’m with you irmaladuce. I also live in Chicago, on high 5 figures, and feel very comfortable. I’d like a lot more, but don’t feel like I’m stretched in any way, and can enjoy a lot of luxuries.

It seems to me that at some point a lot of people decided that being middle class meant being able to live luxurious lives. Having a decent house, saving for retirement, going out to eat once a week, and maybe having a boat or a cheap cottage in the woods were indications of a well-to do middle class lifestyle, at least when I was growing up. Now it seems you have to have a huge house, be able to eat luxury items all the time, be able to pay staff (cleaners, nanny’s, etc.), and having a luxury car. I consider myself to be on the upper end of middle class based on my lifestyle, but not according to what a lot people think.

I would also add, that in Chicago, if you are earning $250,000, you are doing very well. You can live in the best neighborhoods and go to fine dining restaurants frequently. How is that not affluent?

#45 Comment By Chris On September 16, 2012 @ 1:22 am

Wealth and class are the third rail of American culture.

We like to pretend that the children of the Chairman of the Board and single parents in the inner city have equal resources and opportunity to achieve. We like to pretend that “Middle Class” starts in the top 4% of income distribution.

We’ve embraced the myth of “the indispensable man” and the rewards to which such a man is entitled, a myth that renders the vast majority of the humans on this planet “dispensable.”

And then we wonder how it is that we’ve got a “culture of death” and that abortion has never been significantly curbed.

#46 Comment By Monterey On September 16, 2012 @ 2:46 am

$250K is upper middle class. But it’s still middle class, therefore. Which is why Obama also talks about that being his limit over which he claims he wants to raise taxes (which is a joke; he didn’t do it when he could, so it’s just election-year rhetoric and nothing more).

What do we know about$250K/yr earners? They eat, they have a roof over their heads, and they take vacations. Maybe a kid in private school. But they can’t get up one morning and just decide they don’t want to work anymore. They’re saving for retirement just like everyone else. After all, they’re not Alex Rodriguez earning $25M a year.

So it’s upper middle class. But still middle-class in that sense.

#47 Comment By Monterey On September 16, 2012 @ 2:49 am

..and thank goodness democrats finally figured out that you’re not ‘rich’ if you make $70k a year. They used to threaten to raise taxes on people earning much lower than $250k. But hey–EVERYONE got a tax increase when Obamacare came in. The dems just didn’t tell you.

#48 Comment By Chris On September 16, 2012 @ 10:11 am

Monterey,

I think you misunderstand how the marginal tax rate works.

Everyone pays the same taxes on income up to each margin, no matter how much they earn. When your income exceeds that margin the income above that margin is taxed at a higher rate. So a “tax increase on people earning more than $200,000” is, in fact, a tax increase only on the income they earn above $200,000, which could be only $100, if they earned $200,100.

#49 Comment By JonF On September 16, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

Re: –EVERYONE got a tax increase when Obamacare came in.

In what alternate universe? Here, people are paying taxes at historically* low rates. Obama has not, I repeat HAS NOT raised anyone’s taxes to date. Even the much maligned and apparently poorly understood ACA only contains tax increases on A) people making over 250K a year B) people with high-price health plans and C) certain business interests (tanning beds, etc.)

* historically = post WWII in this context