The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

That's Rich!

I remember a friend worth over twenty million dollars telling me he was "Upper Middle Class." And I know people with two cars, two television sets, living in a house, and who have never missed a meal in their lives who consider themselves "poor." Now...obviously there are no hard and fast rules for these things, and a tremendous amount of subjectivity. "Poor" in America is at least Middle Class in most of the world. But certainly, it would be fair to say "the top X%" of the population (in Net Worth) is rich, and the bottom X % is poor. What is X? 5%? 10%? 1%? Sure, there will be other factors to consider, and "rich" people have problems of their own.

In monetary terms, what is rich? What is poor?


Stephanie: my heart breaks for you. The church shooting (the Unitarian church is one of the most open, loving, non-discriminatory institutions in America) is the act of a diseased mind. The fact that Conservative hate-books were found in his apartment screams for the need for a more civil dialog. It could have been a bombing, with liberal hate-books, but I don't see a liberal equivalent to, say, Micheal Savage or Ann Coulter. But there is quite horrific stuff on both sides, and as the country swings Left, we'll probably hear more of it. And while these thoughtless people claim "it's just entertainment" on another level they know damned well that the most radical 5% of their audience is listening, and capable of actual violence. "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" he says. And then when it is done, the king wails and moans that he didn't mean KILL the guy. Yeah. You have to be careful what you put out there. That's why I was so pissed at Fox for "accidentally" dropping assassination memes into the culture.

There are those among us who are fragile emotionally. Who are so afraid that they are consumed with hate and anger, and brittle enough perceptually to really believe "their side" is 99% right, and the other side 99% wrong. And these poor souls have always done the dirty work, been the bully boys. While the politicians and pundits can wring their hands and say they didn't mean actually KILL anyone.

Yeah, right. My heart dies for the friends and families of those who died or were terrified in that church. And please, don't suggest that "If only someone there had brought a gun..."

While Unitarian Churches aren't exactly "Christian" I think it is reasonable to assume that Christ would not have brought a gun to church. There's a limit. I don't think we want a world where you HAVE to be armed at all times just to feel safe enough to pray. And in my mind, anyone who thinks that's a good idea has a Sympathetic Nervous System that is WAY out of control.


I am not a military historian. Some of you guys are. So the following thought is offered, knowing that I may have my head completely up my butt.

It seems to me that asking military officers or active duty personnel about whether we should stay or go in a fight is slightly counter-productive. Pardon me for asking (sincerely) but isn't a Gung-Ho attitude part of the job description? Isn't the psychology of stay and fight until the last bayonet is broken essential to the men and women who consider themselves warriors? So many times I've heard such people say that they aren't about politics, they aren't about overall strategy--they're there to get the job done. Bless them. No culture can survive without such magnificent human beings. How do you motivate yourself to stay in a war zone? I would think that you have to believe in the mission, or your buddies, or have the ability to fall in love with the helpless children and hapless civilians around you. To find any and every shred of justification for placing your life at risk--or justifying the taking of lives, the death of people whose faces will haunt your dreams the rest of your life.

It doesn't seem quite fair to ask them if we should stay or go--because they are, by conditioning and nature, designed to say "yes." It would seem fairer to ask retired officers, and men who have been in the conflict zone but have now returned to civilian life. In other words, who are no longer carrying the burden of having to be "Gung Ho" to prevent burn-out and psychic collapse.

On this one, you guys can set me straight if I'm wrong. Am I crazy, or are fighting men and women, especially their commanders, highly unlikely to say "we should get out" while tasked with moving forward?


Mike Ralls said...

Rich is being able to live off the interest. Everyone else feels the tiger at the door and knows they have to get up and feed it, even if they really don't want to. When you can live off the interest, you pretty much only have to "work" at things you want to work at. That to me is "rich."

Poor is not being able to afford enough food to avoid malnutrition or enough clothes and shelter to avoid death or serious illness by exposure. This means that _very_ few people in the first world are actually poor, but this has been the general definition throughout most of human history so I don't have a problem using it.

After all, there are still over a billion people on the planet who Jesus of Nazareth (or someone else concerned about the poor from thousands of years ago) would have no problem looking at and saying, "That person is poor."

Christian M. Howell said...

Rich and poor are indeed subjective. In monetary terms, I would say you're poor if you make less than $20K\year. You would be rich if you make more than $100K\year.

I say that because if you make $20K and your bills(rent, lights, heat) are around 35% of your net, that leaves you with $13K for 12 months. That includes food, clothes, tansportation, entertainment, furnishings, etc.

Take $100K and do the same calculations and you have $65K for 12 months or more than $5K each month. That will allow you to save, invest and still have the essentials.

Over $200K is what I would call VERY rich, above $1M is super rich.

With the troops (I was Airborne) their job is to stay and fight, so you would expect them to say stay.

That isn't the reality though as no one WANTS to be at war.

I would think that the most consistent response would be "I do what I'm told. I don't handle policy."

Anonymous said...

"... are fighting men and women, especially their commanders, highly unlikely to say 'we should get out' while tasked with moving forward?"

In Vietnam, the general sense among many soldiers that the war was pointless became infamous.

It's very hard for me not to wonder if this isn't another case of "heads I win, tails you lose": if the soldiers in Iraq were saying that they were fed up, would you then be arguing that their opinions shouldn't count? But, in fact, they're tending to say the reverse, especially after the surge and the reversal of fortunes in favor of the U.S. which at least coincided with the surge.

--Erich Schwarz

Kami said...

The type of folk in war zones aren't homogenous. Some are soldiers, some are contractors, some specialize in medical aid while others are educators, and so forth. This doesn't even take into account the different nationalities present in the war zone. How they connect with the local populace also varies widely, not just due to their role but individual personalities. So I think there's a danger of over-generalization. Even among soldiers, who appear to be unified under their mission statement, there's a healthy ongoing dialogue about what's right and wrong, what's messed up, what's going well, and how much help is needed where and for how long.

And then it's also an issue of who is getting their hands dirty where. The folks who see combat are going to have a different view than the folks who are working in safe zones helping rebuild infrastructure. Who do you listen to? Hopefully the folks who are there who are in charge of coordinating the effort and who ship the big picture back to decision makers in W D.C. are listening to everyone they can both local and those there on a mission, sorting through to get at concrete facts, consulting with experts in various fields, and basically doing a good job in a very complicated situation. It's very difficult to trust the people on the ground because the stakes are so high and so many people believe we shouldn't be there in the first place. I don't like having to trust strangers with stuff like this. But the only alternatives I can see are to head over there and try to assess the situation myself, decide who to trust to give me good information, or accept a proxy of some sort. I've decided on trusting some folks regarding the information they give me (but not accepting that data as absolute fact,) and mistrusting another group with the information I hear from them (but not completely disregarding them because they may be on to something.) I'm also willing to allow that the good things I've heard and read about some of the military leadership and its relationship with local leaders is probably accurate, and I'm hoping it will work out for the best for the locals who ultimately have to survive in what will be an ongoing hostile environment due to the nature of the political and religious situation in the entire region.

One thing I've noticed about word 'from the ground' is that it's pretty consistently not about them or doing what's right in an abstract sense or payback. It's about supporting the local people they've come to care about. Helping others from a position of sincere caring can still go wrong, but I think the power and nature of that giving can overcome serious obstacles and has the potential to come out right in the end.

Mark Jones said...

I wouldn't want to think it necessary to carry a gun when attending church, but on the other hand neither is it unreasonable for someone who habitually carries to do so while worshipping. The point of doing so is self-defense, and a murderous lunatic with a shotgun certainly qualifies as a threat.

On the other hand, given how swiftly (and heroically) those five or six men responded to the shooting, I doubt they could have done better if anyone had been armed. Despite a surprise attack, the gunman only got off three (four?) shots before being taken down.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Should we stay or should we go???

As a former Army Captain, I would agree with you in terms of the psychological conditioning. In the military, particularly the all-volunteer military, so much of the initial (and later training) is designed to push you to quit. You are constantly asked (in very interesting ways) whether you want to quit. At VMI, I remember a guy who used to walk the new cadets over to the edge of post, tell them that they should quit, and offer to get them a taxi. That type of training produces people who are prone to never quit, even when it is reasonable. There have been times where I've had to ask my self why I'm doing something, and really ponder whether I was continuing simply for the sake of not quitting.

So, yes, perhaps the guys on the ground are not the best ones to ask. However, when the guys on the ground say we should leave, then it is REALLY TIME TO GO.

- Christian: How can you stand being on a blog with all the "legs" around here? (To all others - Long story - paratrooper slang).

Marty S said...

Steve: Defining rich, middle class, or poor is very difficult. Nobody would dispute that Bill Gates qualifies as rich or that a homeless person who lives on the street qualifies as poor, but in between is hard to define. The same income and assets that would enable a single individual to live "richly" might stretch a family with three children to put through college. My wife and I have three TV sets for two people, does that make us rich? Does the fact that the new one is five years old and the other two over ten years old change your opinion. Similarly, we have two cars(new one seven years old) and three computers(one laptop, and two desktops). I certainly don't think I'm rich, I think there is a fifty-fifty chance I will go broke before I die. But I'm sure that some people would consider me rich.

Andrea said...

My goddaughter, who grew up until age 8 in a family of beggars in Colombia, says "poor is when you eat dirt because you know you won't get any food today." Poor is eating one meal a day if you're lucky. Poor is scrounging through dumpsters for food. Poor is having the utilities shut off almost every month, for not being able to pay. Poor is paying for your food with food stamps, while people in line behind you watch and judge you.

I agree with Mike Ralls, rich is being able to live off the interest, not having to work. Assigning a monetary value to "rich" doesn't work, as even in the U.S. there are wide disparities in cost of living.

I'm a nurse. When I lived in Kentucky I made $20 an hour. In San Francisco CA I make $50 an hour, or 2 1/2 times my Kentucky salary. However, the cost of living in San Francisco is 5-10 times higher than where I lived in KY. Where I lived in Kentucky, you could buy a REALLY nice 3 bedroom house with a big yard for under $100K. In San Francisco, you would pay over a million dollars for less space.

I consider myself middle class. I can afford a very small apartment, one city away from where I work. In 5-10 years I might be able to afford a condo in San Francisco, if I keep saving for a down payment. I am able to cover my living expenses, and save a couple hundred a month. I'm able to take a few graduate school courses a year without financial aid. I guess I could be considered upper middle class, and I'm certainly more comfortable than I've ever been before. And I choose to go to graduate school, and choose to live in San Francisco rather than Kentucky because I like it 1000 times better here. But rich? No. Rich people can afford to buy a house. In San Francisco.

Dan Moran said...

I like Mike Ralls' definition, but it's a complicated subject.

I'm "rich." I live in a 6 bedroom house in a nice part of Los Angeles. I make comfortably more than six figures each year. I "plan" to retire to a yacht in my old age -- 60.

Of course, I have five children. They're 6 to 18 years of age. All five of them are going to college -- over the next 16 years that works out to somewhere in the ballpark of 3/4 of a million dollars -- going to UCs, at that. I drive a 2004 Mustang convertible that I bought used. My wife drives a 2000 Expedition with 130K miles on it. There's cosmetic damage to both cars we haven't bothered to fix ... because we're staring at a 750K college bill if none of the kids go on to get advanced degrees. Oh, and one daughter wants to be a surgeon ...

That yacht may be a condo by the time I'm done ... nonetheless, I'm "rich." I'm one of the guys in the top 10% of wage earners in this country. And I'm all in favor of me paying a larger % of my income than the guys in the bottom 90% ... and the guys above me paying a little more yet.

Anyone wants to talk tax cuts I'd support? Cut the payroll tax. Conservatives rant about the evils of the "income tax" ... because it affects the wealthy. But they either don't understand or intentionally obfuscate the fact that most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. The frequently repeated assertion that the poor don't pay taxes is horsecrap. I've lived on minimum wage. Somehow taxes got taken out of those checks anyway.

AF1 said...

I agree that retired soldiers with combat experience are good people to ask about military matters.

They tend to be very objective, as they know what it's like to be a warrior AND they have ideas on how to best use our fighting men.

Christian M. Howell said...

@ the lawyer,
They're not too bad. At least they dirty, nasty legs like on Fort Bragg.
Just kidding all.

Quoth the SEALs I did Jump School with "HooYah."

Christian M. Howell said...

Mike, I think your definition of poor reaches destitute.

Anonymous said...

I've been retired for a few years, but during my time in, the majority of officers were upper middle class consevative, and the majority of enlisted were lower middle class conservative. There were no left leaning liberals or anti-war types to speak of for obvious reasons.

When the current crop of soldiers come by to visit (because I live near the beach) they seem very invested in the Iraq mission. some have been there three or four times. After seeing the results of a market bombing they really get worked up and motivated.

Between those two facts I doubt you'll get an unbiased assesment of the war.

One thing I will say, They think They are winning, especially since the surge.

I'd say one thing to remember when you talk about withdrawl, Iraq has no Air force or heavy army units right now, and they won't have them within the next two years. I don't think they will want us to withdraw till they have some, or they'll be defenceless from Iran.

John M

Kai Jones said...

Rich, poor, and middle class are more about the size and shape of your choice field than your income.

However, IIRC sometime last year the NYT said that fewer than 20% of US households have an income over $80,000 per year. It's really hard for me to stretch the definition of "middle" to include the top 20%. And another article at Yahoo Finance said that if you're making more than $40,000 per year, you're doing better than half the households in the US.

Income isn't the only factor, but it's a big one because it influences the size of the choice field. Putting 5 kids through college (kids who maybe wouldn't qualify for academic scholarships nor needs-based aid) while maintaining a nice home and only working a regular job (not 2 or 3 jobs) is part of a choice field that belongs to the rich. So does living places like the Bay Area or DC--complaining that your house costs too much doesn't mean you're only middle class, part of what you are buying with your income is the amenities of the place you choose to live, and that's part of your choice field because of your high income.

Pagan Topologist said...

I like the definition of rich I heard several years ago. You are rich if and ONLY if you employ at least one lawyer full time, working just on your interests.

I am in Mexico City with very limited Internet access until Monday, so I may not see any comments after mine until after that.

Kukulkan said...

The situation at the church might not have ended better had someone been armed with a gun, but it likely would not have ended worse. When I look at the places where mass shootings take place, I see a common thread: they happen at places where people are unlikely to be armed with guns. Mass shooters want to create maximum carnage -- they choose places where the victims won't be armed. How many incidents have you heard where a gunman ran into a police station (employed by the man) or a military base and started shooting? Why are the cities in the U.S. with the highest murder rates also cities with oppressive gun laws? Guns are not evil (nor are they good). Guns are tools. They simply amplify the attributes of the user. Do some research on who uses guns for murder. Overwhelmingly, murderers who use guns are people who are prohibited by law from owning guns because of prior felony convictions. Lawful gun owners make up a small fraction of the murderer pool.

So, I'm not going to say that this latest calamity would have ended better had a bystander been armed, but I don't see how it could have been worse.

mjholt said...

Two questions:
liberal hate-books, but I don't see a liberal equivalent to, say, Micheal Savage or Ann Coulter. But there is quite horrific stuff on both sides, and as the country swings Left, we'll probably hear more of it.
Please give me a couple of titles and authors' names. I am very curious, because I have not found any equivalent to Coulter, Savage, Limbaugh, Dobbs, et. al.

While Unitarian Churches aren't exactly "Christian"
Say, wha? This is from the American Unitarian Conference website:
"Unitarian Christianity is, like other forms of Christianity, a religion that asserts the divine character, divine spirit, and divine foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ." The Unitarians eschew the Nicene Creed (which I wish the Methodists and everyone else would, too), believe that there are many paths to God, and disbelieve in the Trinity. The Trinity is a hairball of a topic, but the Unitarians are definitely Christian.
For more than my poor defense, go to

Marty S said...

I don't think I buy the live on interest definition. When my father retired in 1975 my parents had a life savings of $70,000 dollars definitely not rich even then, but they lived in a one bedroom rent controlled apartment and managed off SS and the interest and principle for 22 years.

Josh Jasper said...

John Scalzi has a great write up on Being Poor in America.

He's also an up-and-coming SF luminary. If you've not read his book, Old Man's War, you should.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

There's a category that I call the "petite rich". They're getting enough interest or gradually digging into an inheritance and they'll never have to work so long as they limit themselves to a middle class or lower life style.

For obvious reasons, they're inconspicuous compared to people who have a flamboyant lifestyle, but I think there are a lot of them compared to the genuinely rich.

Anonymous said...

Rich is when you influence policy.

WEALTHY is when you MAKE policy.

Poor, middle-class, and all the rest is when you ARE the policy, good, bad, indifferent, or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"How do you motivate yourself to stay in a war zone?".

Short and very abbreviated answer:

Think of you, your family, and best friend or friends all caught up in a dangerous, desperate, and simultaneously potentially fatal and severe bodily and psyche situation.

Your goal isn't some convoluted political policy matter or some lofty existentialist claptrap about nobility or any such nonsense. It's survival, down and dirty. You just want to get back home in as much of the same way you left it, and you also want everybody around you to do the same because the best insurance to attain this goal is a group singled-minded sense of purpose and dependent upon everybody around you feeling and performing in the exact same way.

In this kind of environment closeness takes on a meaning unlike any other imaginable. It also creates in tandem one hell of a paradox. You want to leave, and you want everybody else to leave, but if you leave you must leave the very people you've come to love and depend upon. And that is a pure bitch.

You'll leave, eventually, and one way or another, but while you're there, you NEED something to help you justify and sustain your presence there. This is it. It's kind of like what Freddy Sykes told Deke Thornton in The Wild Bunch.

"It ain't like it used to be, but it'll do".

Marty S said...

Nancy: Are your "petite rich" 25 year olds who never worked and have an inheritance or do you include 65 year olds who worked 40+ years and managed to save 10% of their income each year.
To everyone: Are two families each with a $100,000 income, but one where husband and wife each earn $50,000 and one where only the husband works and earns $100,00 equally rich?

Steven Barnes said...


If the soldiers in Iraq, AND retired soldiers or returned soldiers all said we should stay, I would believe that that was the legitimate soldier's attitude, and had nothing to do with the call of duty. That wouldn't mean we should stay. I think that if I thought we should leave, but the vast majority of Americans thought we should stay, I'd grumble but remember that I might be wrong. A majority of Americans might still be wrong, if I said "leave" and most Americans said "leave" that wouldn't make me right, but I'd feel more confident in my position. If our troops said "stay" then I would never make the argument that we should leave for THEIR sake. Maybe my own (taxes or a fear of destabilizing political situations) but I would never say that our troops didn't know what was good for them, and we should take them out for their own benefit. Any more than, if the Iraqi majority says "leave" I would say we're staying for THEIR benefit.

Steven Barnes said...

BTW, Mike--I LOVE the idea that "rich is being able to live off your interest." That is a very good one.

Steven Barnes said...


your cars and TV sets don't make you rich. But they would seem to exclude you from the category of "poor" quite nicely.

Steven Barnes said...

I hear Randi Rhodes or Mike Malloy use some pretty ugly hate-speech on the radio. Tune in sometime.
The fact that your parents lived on "SS and interest" doesn't change what I said. I said "interest." How about "a middle-class lifestyle off interest alone." Would that work better?
How about "top 10% income--rich. Bottom 10% income--poor." That would work as well as most standards, I think, since you HAVE to compare it with others in your country, state, or city.
My wife went to a Unitarian church, and it was her opinion I was channeling. No offense to anyone intended.

Steven Barnes said...

Why do cities with the highest murder rates have the most oppressive gun laws? I think the answer to this question reflects political position more than truth. There is likely a bit of "chicken and the egg" here. Someone pro-gun will say it's because citizens can't defend themselves. Someone anti-gun will say that when a city's murder rate is high, tough gun laws are passed to try to stem the violence. Each side with have it's stats.
I'm a gun owner. I don't trust the police to protect me or my family, and trust myself to be more likely to shoot the bad guy than myself or my kids. But I believe in gun control--at least as much control as the state has over automobiles and drivers: basic competence and so forth. A person who carries a gun and is comfortable with it might well carry it to church, no problem. But telling spiritual folks that they SHOULD carry guns strikes me as not understanding spiritual folks very well.

Dan Moran said...

Income isn't the only factor, but it's a big one because it influences the size of the choice field. Putting 5 kids through college (kids who maybe wouldn't qualify for academic scholarships nor needs-based aid) while maintaining a nice home and only working a regular job (not 2 or 3 jobs) is part of a choice field that belongs to the rich.

My oldest daughter graduated 3rd in her class -- would have been 2nd but she changed schools during high school, and for some scoring thing I don't understand even yet, that counted against her. She had a 4.4 GPA ... and my income made it virtually impossible for her to get even an academic scholarship. UC Santa Barbara offered her a $6K a year scholarship ... but it costs $28K a year to go to UCSB, and for the difference, she's going to a better school.

I'm certainly well off -- we passed up a $6K/yr scholarship. But I carry $2 million in life insurance because if I died tomorrow, my family, and particularly my 3 sons, would be in desperate trouble. Working rich?

There's a difference between income and assets; any meaningful definition of "rich" should distinguish there. One of the reasons I like Mike's definition, it does that.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, my notion of "petite rich" is intended to cover people who don't have to work for much, possibly all, of their lives. It isn't about people who are living off savings and investments that they earned.

Marty S said...

Steve: I would certainly agree with you that I am not poor. I would place myself somewhere between middle middle class and upper middle class, but closer to middle middle class. I was just trying to point out as with my question about two income families versus one income family, that there are many variables aside from income and assets that need to be thought about when trying to categorize a person/families economic status.

Kai: First of all the 20th percentile for family incomes is closer to $100,000 not $80,000 secondly, I live in NY because I was born in NY, most of my family still lives in NY as do most of my life long friends, so while it is my choice, I would in my estimation be living poorer if I moved away from all this even if I could then afford more physical goods.

Marty S said...

I had an interesting experience this evening. I was at a party and I asked three people how they would define rich. All three said assets of ten million or more.

Kai Jones said...

Marty S: Okay, put the quintile at $100,000 per year. If your household income is over that, you're rich in the US. (Most everybody in the US is rich compared to the rest of the world.)

The choice field doesn't guarantee that there won't be costs to your choices, just that you have more choices, so moving away from your family may be a cost to exercising your choice--or it may be a choice you can afford to make, because you're not dependent on family backing up your survival if you lose a job or become disabled.

Choice field isn't about outcomes, it's about opportunities. Applies to privilege, too: white privilege doesn't mean no whites are poor, or unloved and unhealthy, just that we have a bigger choice field to start with.

Pagan Topologist said...

Marty S, I know you are a statistician, but aren´t you confusing the eightieth percentile with the twentieth? I find it really difficult to believe that only twenty percent of the U S population earns less tha 100K or 80K, whichever.

Rory said...

"... are fighting men and women, especially their commanders, highly unlikely to say 'we should get out' while tasked with moving forward?"

Steve, not only wrong, but seems like a deliberate attempt to find an excuse to disregard first-hand information you sense will disagree with your preconceptions.

If you could find a majority of soldiers in history who wanted to stay and fight, there might be some justice in it. But the sentiments on the ground range from, "I want to go home." to "This is important, let's get it done and go home."

I have NEVER heard any active duty soldier in a war zone say that he wants the conflict prolonged. I HAVE heard officers, who are required for the most part not to publicly contradict the policy makers waffle.

A war of attrition is one thing. Most of the actions happening right now are very different. The troops rely on extensive contact with natives for for everything from language aid to supplies to maintenance. The troops get to know the natives (I'd use the country name, but this isn't theater specific). When the political reasons for the action seem nebulous to stupid and the troops want to stay, it is because of what they learn from the natives.

I've seen a little of how the news services in country operate. I can state categorically that the soldiers/contractors/aid workers are the only ones getting first-hand information from regular people. Why is it so important to discount what they report?

Delete as usual please, but think deep about this one. There is something you are really resistant to in this subject.

Mike Ralls said...

I recall a survey done a while ago, and when it asked people what "rich" was, the most common answer was someone with 3x the income of what the person being asked the question made.

Marty S said...

Pagan: We were talking about the earnings group so I assumed everyone would know as I meant the top 20% earn over 100k. Sorry.

Marty S said...

Kai: I have to try this one more time. A person lives on Long Island in NY. They earn $100,000 at their profession. After taxes they have $75000. This allows them to own a 2200 sq. ft. home and put food on the table for their family of four, but doesn't leave enough for a family vacation. They are rich. Now they move to Bloomington Illinois. The pay their profession in Bloomington is $50,000 After taxes they have $41000. The cost of a similar 2200 sq. ft. home and putting food on the table(I'm using putting food on the table as covering all the basic necessities) is $37500. They now have $3500 to go on a family vacation. They have also gone from the rich to the middle class. I don't know about you but if that's the correct definitions of rich and middle class then I think the whole concept is utter nonsense.

Dan Moran said...

Marty, you may disagree with it, but that's how it works. The 1st guy is building equity in a house that's worth a lot more than the second guy. When they each get to retirement age, guy #1 has a much bigger chip to cash in.

Kai Jones said...

Marty: part of what the guy on Long Island is buying is *living on Long Island*. Some places are more desirable to live than others; those places cost more, sure, but that you can afford to pay that extra cost (and benefit from the desirable area) means you are rich.

The desirability of the area, the amenities (for example, living near NYC with its culture, bars, shopping, history, museums, diversity of people) is part of the value you are buying with the higher cost.

I just don't know how to simplify this any further; if it helps, you are by far in the majority of not understanding this piece of economics, I try to explain it to my friends all the time and they almost never get it.

Marty S said...

Kai: The people I'm talking about rarely go into NYC. They can't afford it. What they mainly get for living on Long Island is a lot of traffic congestion. I myself, go into Manhattan perhaps once a year. I have been to two Broadway shows in the last twenty years. Believe me I don't live in NY for any of the reasons I you mentioned and benefit little from them.

Marty S said...

Kai: One more attempt to get across the problem with your concept. Take a couple living in a one bedroom apartment in the Bronx. They have two children who share the bedroom while they sleep in a pullout bed in the livingroom. They earn $30,000 a year, can't afford medical care so they use the free clinic. But with an income of $30,000 a year they fall into the middle class. They choose to live in the Bronx, so they can take advantage of the Shows, high class restaurants, the shopping etc. So by your standards they are middle class where as if they lived in Bloomington, made $18000 dollars a year were able to afford a two bedroom apartment and few other amenities they couldn't afford in NY they would be poor.

Kai Jones said...

What's the problem, Marty? You've stated my position correctly without any controversy. Yes, the Bronx family is middle class (even though they have to use the free clinic) and yes, the Bloomington family is poor.

You obviously don't think there's a higher value to you to live where you live than, say, where I live, so why do you live there? Why aren't you taking your income somewhere else and living a life with more amenities? What keeps you there? What makes it preferable to stay than to move?

Whatever that thing is, be it family or friends or a worship community or what have you, that is what you are spending your income on instead of a bigger apartment or more dinners out, when you choose to stay where the cost of living is so high.

Marty S said...

Kai:So a family in the lower 20% of income that needs food stamps isn't really poor. They just choose to live in the U.S. instead of going to another country where they could be middle income. I don't buy it. Money is just a medium of exchange. Its not how big the number is, its what it buys. Lets say in a barter economy You can trade 50 gallons of milk for a new saddle. If I now decide to institute money to facilitate trade, it doesn't matter whether 50 gallons of milk and a saddle are both worth $100 or are both worth $200, you are still trading 50 gallons of milk for a saddle.
The same thing applies to with a job. The same job pays more in one part of the country than another because the money purchases less goods in that part of the country. If I earn $100000 in New York at my job and I move to Bloomington one of two things will be true. I will be paid less to do that job or that type of job is not available in Bloomington.

Brother OMi said...

as a former veteran, i was trained to follow orders and ask questions later. i did things i totally disagreed with, but i would face dire consequences if i didn't follow them. You are right in your assessment. i am not saying we were zombies, we can think for ourselves. the way the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan adapt is proof of that.

when i was younger, it bothered me to encounter people who were "slumming" it when they came from very well to do homes. i was insulted by that because i came from a poor single parent home.

folks are just spoiled.

Ed Greaves said...


The Tennessee church that was assaulted was a Unitarian Universalist Church, not a member of the AUC. There is a difference.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I can say that it is quite reasonable to say that as a whole we aren't exactly a Christian denomination any longer. While I personally consider myself Christian, there are many in my congregation who would get quite riled up if you considered them such. The religion may have grown out of the earlier Christian denominations and philosophies of Unitarianism and Universalism. But on the whole specific dogmatic faith has been left behind. So it would be rather problematic to say that we, as a group are Christian.