Re: Becoming our mother?

From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Mon Mar 19 2001 - 13:01:56 PST

On Mon, 19 Mar 2001, JTS - MCDLXXXVI wrote:

> I fall into the definition of rich by every standard but my own,
> as most of FoRK does, based on my salary. What's the line now, $50k/yr?
> $70k/yr? I pay heap big taxes, ...
> The "rich" that are so popularly assailed are actually the middle class.

I'd agree that definitions can cause a real problem here. First, we think
we're clever by bumping the "rich-poor" dichotomy up to a
"rich-middleclass-poor" trichotomy. We forget that we have 5 different
tax rates for each of 4 different filing methods[1]. And within each of
those levels, there can be a great difference in income. (e.g., $26k to
$63k at 28%, or 288k to 1,000,000k at 39.6%.)

Now, most economists and social scientists would not consider $50k or $70k
"rich". They would consider that to be a middle-class household income
(although it might take two wage-earners to get you there). Upper-middle
class would be roughly $100k to $200k. Rich would be roughly over $200k a

Of course, it depends on whom you're asking and under what circumstances,
and real people can have different standards than economists. To someone
making $18k a year, $70k seems like a huge amount, an amount that would
"solve all their problems." But if you're making $70k and living in SV
and trying to provide a middle-class, Brady Bunch lifestyle in a "nice"
community, $70k will likely feel extremely tight. The same $70k will put
you into the upper middle class in Arkansas. It all depends.

But if you talk of incomes > $200k, they'd be considered rich by almost
all Americans. Not super-rich, but rich.

So when you say that:
'The "rich" that are so popularly assailed are actually the middle class.'

, that is true sometimes. For the purposes of this thread, let's figure
out whom we're talking about. Shall we use "the rich" to refer to people
in the highest bracket, the 39.6% rate? That would mean people earning
over $288,350 a year.[2] High-end doctors, lawyers, as well as business

And then we could use the term "super-rich" to refer to those who, for
example, earn more than $1 million a year.

-Matt Jensen


[2] Although of course, the rate is marginal. They pay an average of 31%
on the first $288,350, then 39.6% on anything above that.

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