Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pit Me an Olive, Boy


All of this is a testament to the amazing (and rapidly expanding) cultural divide that exists in this country, where the poor and the rich seldom cross paths at all, and the rich, in particular, simply have no concept what being broke and poor really means. It is true that if you make $300,000 in America, you won't feel like you're so very rich once you get finished paying your taxes, your mortgage, your medical bills and so on.

For this reason, a lot of people who make that kind of money believe they are the modern middle class: house in the burbs, a car, a kid in college, a trip to Europe once a year, what's the big deal? They'd be right, were it not for the relative comparison -- for the fact that out there, in that thin little ithsmus between the Upper East Side and Beverly Hills, things are so fucked that public school teachers and garbagemen making $60k with benefits are being targeted with pitchfork-bearing mobs as paragons of greed and excess. Wealth, in places outside Manhattan, southern California, northern Virginia and a few other locales, is rapidly becoming defined as belonging to anyone who has any form of job security at all. Any kind of retirement plan, or better-than-minimum health coverage, is also increasingly looked at as an upper-class affectation.

Rich and poor regularly cross paths.. when they come to clean our house, or mow our lawn, or show up to work.

It is true that if your household income is less than a million a year, you probably don't feel particularly "rich". However, when your toothless housekeeper is desperate for an early pay check so her kid can get something to eat, it's generally a reminder. Or, when the personal assistant needs a 3k advance in order to avoid being thrown out of her apartment and losing her shitty car, it crosses your mind as you write the check knowing you're probably not going to get the money back.

I can walk out of the house today and buy literally anything I want.. short of, say, a Lear jet. It's odd that that can co-exist with the very real understanding that we don't feel wealthy. You only feel wealthy when you can do things that very wealthy people can do. If you're not in that class.. you're just a wannabe.

... which obviously doesn't suck.

It also works the other way -- the poor have no idea what real rich people are like. They apparently never see them, which is why the political champions of middle America are at this very minute campaigning in congress to extract more revenue from elderly retirees and broke-ass students while simultaneously fighting to preserve a slew of tax loopholes for the rich, including the carried-interest tax break that allows hedge fund billionaires to pay about half the tax rate of most Americans.

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