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RICH PEOPLE

Rich People Who Don't Think They're Rich

August 15, 2001

Someone I know -- who shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty, as well as to avoid open warfare between us -- left me speechless the other day.  That's not, as visitors to this website may have already surmised, an easy thing to do.

This person (whom I'll call by the false name Don) had flown out to California from New York with one of his children.  He used frequent flyer miles to upgrade both their tickets from coach to first class.

Don was quite impressed with first class -- the space, the food, the choice of movies, the attentiveness of the flight attendants.  Fine.  Don usually, like most of us, travels in the cramped, noisy and altogether unpleasant quarters of coach.

Then Don started to tell me how he had felt a bit ill at ease to be sitting in first class with his child.  As Don relates it, whenever he boards a plane bound for coach in the rear, and walks through the first class section and sees the people sitting there, he always mutters to himself something about all the "rich" people enjoying such comfort.  Now that he and his child were sitting there, he was worried other coach passengers passing through would think the same thing about him and his child.

After a moment or two of speechlessness, I quipped that perhaps Don and his kid could have worn buttons that read "Frequent Flyer Update" or some such slogan that would clearly distinguish them from the truly rich people in that first class cabin.

Now why was I speechless?  Because I know Don's household income has to be at least 500K a year, and other than a mortgage, the family does not have any substantial liabilities.

Let's see, the median family income in this country (that income which half the people earn more than and half the people earn less than) is $49,497.  So Don earns at least 10 times more than half the country.  Seems pretty rich to me.

Well, maybe you're not rich until you're in the top 5-10%.  According to the Census Bureau, to be in the top 5% of families by income you have to make at least $155,040.  Don more than triples that.

Well, maybe you have to be in the top 1% to be rich?  The cut-off point for that is an adjusted gross income of $269,496.  I'm pretty sure Don makes this cut-off point, unless he has deductions to adjusted gross income totaling nearly 50% of his gross income, which is highly unlikely.

All this is to say, Don is "rich" by any definition of the word.  Maybe not Gates-level super-rich, but still rich enough for it to have left me speechless when Don made his comments about sitting in first class.

Until those who are rich like Don -- who make more money than 99% of the rest of the country -- acknowledge that they are rich and that the amount of money they earn and the wealth they possess is part of the problem, there's no hope of stopping and reversing the rising level of income inequality and economic injustice in this country.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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