Worlds & Time

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Class Warfare

This is past due, but Slacktivist has been running a set of posts on relative wealth, including this one, this one, and this one.

I'm posting in a few of those, under the normal name, but I suppose that I really should admit it:

I believe in class in America today.

At which point, my Republican readers, if I had any, would accuse me of "Class Warfare."

Yes. That sounds about right. You know what the best thing about that is? They can make it sound like they themselves are not engaging in warfare. And it is war. The problem is that one side of the war is very, very well funded, whereas the other side is having trouble making ends meet.

The ideal American Dream (now trademarked to Disney and Universal Pictures, with network rights owned by NBC) is that of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps by the power of hard work.

Of course, in this day and age, there are some caveats on that. You see, most people want to have more wealth so that they can live better, but really, in order to build yourself up that means living down.

Someone on one of those Slacktivist threads pointed out that if you're making $40k a year, and you live frugally, you can save a million dollars. I have two sets of aunts and uncles that have done this, actually.

But what does that mean? No kids, first off. They're too expensive, and you tend to want spend money on them. Or, if you do have kids, don't feed them too well.

And you need a sort of inhuman focus. The ability to work two full time jobs, or at least one full time and one part time job is a good way to pull it off. You might also want to consider being a teetotaller, because alcohol is expensive.

Otherwise, you really want to be born into it. This article is an analysis of people on the Forbes 400 wealthiest people list, and also an interesting read.

It basically says that the number of people on the list that have actually pulled themselves up from relative poverty is overstated by Forbes, and they insinutate that it's due to some sort of misplaced desire to attribute it to this great American Dream. In fact, 42% of people in the top 400 were born with enough wealth to qualify, and another 13% started with a background worth more than a million dollars.

True, 31f the people on the list managed to get there without significant assets to start with, including Ross Perot and Kluge (whom I've never heard of before), but does that really indicate that people can work they way up just by working hard?

Perhaps, but it helps if you're born with it.

And of course, this means that I support the estate tax. Or the Death Tax if you prefer to put it that way. I'm not afraid of it, really. If I ever had millions of dollars and children to pass it on to, I'd still support it. If you're going to work your way up to the top, that still means that you should have to work for it.

And, I believe in class. I believe that there's a widening class gap, as proved by the widening gap between CEO pay and pretty much everyone else. The Slacktivist posts are about relative wealth though, and there's another interesting point of view.

I'm not in the upper class of the U.S., but as a citizen of the U.S., I am in the upper class of the world. When someone says that 100K a year isn't enough to live on, it's not just based on American wages, it's based on the world. Mexicans are so desperate to live in a place where 20K a year is possible that they're willing to risk their lives crossing the border.

So even when people qualify what they've said, that makes me sick. I don't care if you live in New York City. You're in the top 1f people in the world in terms of wages per year. Do they have any clue what they're actually saying? How much of a disinterest must you have in the rest of humanity do you have to have before you can't understand the relative terms?

After all, according to Slacktivist, the median household income for NYC is roughly 60K per year. Does that mean that even people around the midpoint in New York City are living in poverty?

So I guess I'm a bad person, a class warrior.

I suppose I can live with that.

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