Culture

Pity the Plight of Those Who Only Earn $100k

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From the Annals of Those Who Just Don’t Get It:

Neale, 33, says he surpassed the $100,000 mark last year but says that between mortgage payments, the high price of heating fuel, gas, food and everyday items in life, his salary doesn’t go as far as he thought it would. Neale is married with three children and says that his extracurricular real estate and investment activities help them buy the extras in life.

“Now that I’ve made (a $100,000 salary), it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. We make sacrifices. It’s not like I tell my kids we’re going to have to eat peanut butter and jelly every night. We live well, but I wouldn’t consider it anything extravagant,” says Neale.

Many now consider $250,000 the new $100,000 income. Adam says that level of income is typically required to provide what many have before expected of a six-figure salary. Adam also points to other expenses that are not necessities but are considered part of a middle class lifestyle — things like cellphones, high-speed internet access, vacations, karate lessons, iPods, laptops and digital cameras.

At a time when millions of Americans are still struggling to find work, when the number of people on food stamps has doubled in the past five years, and when the per capita income in the United States is around $41,000, it’s hard to feel terribly sympathetic for the plight of those who are struggling to pay for karate lessons.

In Romney-Rehberg world, perhaps, a $100,000 income does not make one wealthy, but in the real world of most Americans, that kind of income provides remarkable comfort and privilege. Wouldn’t it be nice if the media spent more time covering the impact of real poverty instead of lifestyle pieces for the upper middle-class?

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

17 Comments

  • A very significant part of the article was what came from Mari Adam:

    “Adam points to health care as a major expense that has grown almost twice the rate of inflation. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks the costs of health insurance, found in 2011 that insurance costs had increased by a whopping 134 percent since 2000. The total cost of health insurance now averages $5,429 per year for individuals and $15,079 for families. Adam says college costs have also grown tremendously in recent years. According to the College Board’s annual “Trends in College Pricing” report from last year, published tuitions at four-year public universities are up 42 percent in five years, the largest increase of any five-year period since the 2007-09 school year.”

    As you’ve indicated in your other links, Pogie, those increased costs of living don’t just affect the 6-figure club. They cascade down to lower incomes; one might say “trickle down”. Resenting those who make six figures doesn’t really benefit anyone, because all the benefit is going to those who make 7+. We shouldn’t pity anyone’s plight for what they struggle through financially until we establish a baseline of what is necessary for a society to provide. Health care and education should be higher on that list than freedom from the fear of terrorism.

    In my more evil moments, I think that those who in any public way complain or denigrate for others the need for what is basic to every human life (health care, education, food, shelter and energy) should be denied any use of outside publicly funded assistance. They should pay a tax for driving any public road. They should pay real production cost for any food provided from a subsidized agriculture. They should be required to buy blue-dyed gasoline at significantly higher rate from any company that accepts government subsidy. They should not get a mortgage interest tax deduction, or tax deduction for their spawn. In other words, those who bitch that they can’t make it on what most of think a god-salary, and yet speak or vote against those who need public weal, should be forced to live as their task masters in the very highest income brackets live. Tell me that wouldn’t realign their priorities …

    • Clarification:
      “those who bitch that they can’t make it on what most of us think a god-salary, and yet speak or vote against those who need public weal, should be forced to live as their task masters in the very highest income brackets – can easily – live. Tell me that wouldn’t realign their priorities …”

  • I would just like to point out that from the standpoint of Keynes et al, Neale is the perfect demographic to target the economic multiplier effect since it is the “affluent” that have the highest propensity to spend – karate lessons, lawn care, outsourcing laundry, etc. . Now, I don’t waste any sympathy on Neale and his ilk, but it needs to be considered that, if one believes Keynes, Neale and his contemporaries are damn important to the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus.

    I don’t buy any of it. But I posit that you do. I may be wrong about that.

    • Most? Where do you get your numbers? Most, really? I don’t feel sorry for the guy either but let’s have a little perspective. Retired people have significantly more wealth. This is only a bit dated but it’s still roughly correct.

      • OK.. let me clarify it. Any elderly person on basic social security makes roughly $695 a month (and that is before they take out the mandatory health coverage premiums). While there are plenty of elderly NOT on basic social security, there are still a significant amount of elderly that are – my mother being one of them. She couldn’t make it on SS so she now lives with my wife and I and works through the “Experienced works” program so she can pay her health care costs.

      • Gee Dave welcome to the world of real People. You see most people who become elderly these days in Montana dont have the wealth you are talking about. The average income in rural America was $31,404 per person in 2009, approximately $200 below the 2008 figure — a result of the recession that began in December 2007.

        Urban county per capita income has been falling for the past two years, from $43,520 per person in 2007 to $42,038 in 2009. We in Rural Montana figure into the Raw data on the low side of that poll, not the high side.

        Tell me again how well Montana elders are doing if they don’t make that income. anymore.
        http://www.dailyyonder.com/rural-incomes-fall-2008-2009/2011/05/08/3316

        53 percent of people 65-74 or older live beneath the poverty line in the USA . 29% of those Seniors are 200% under the poverty line as of September 2011
        http://www.ebri.org/pdf/publications/books/databook/DB.Chapter%2006.pdf

        Usa Today, paints a pretty rosey picture doesn’t it? I specialize in home care health, here in Dillon and I got to tell you a lot of folks in that age range are just hanging on!

        If they didn’t have government services, like social security, disability, plus food stamps and Medicaid they would be out in the streets!

          • I don’t consider Norma an “enemy”. I just find her … unsatisfying as a candidate. I have chosen not to engage her anymore because Craig was right in his statement that Rob and I were beating a dead horse.

            As far as your insinuation that I would “hack” to get back at an enemy, you are way off base. Yes, I probably do possess the skill set to do it but A) I wouldn’t disrespect Don’s site enough to do that B) I don’t see Norma worth the effort, and C) hacking is illegal. If you have learned nothing about me in the last five years, you should at least have learned that I have a healthy respect for obeying the law – even when I don’t agree with it. My wife calls me a boyscout and I don’t see that as an insult. The fact that you would joke about Rob or I commiting what is certainly a felony says a lot about you, though.

  • Moorcat, first, I think you make the common mistake that income is indicative of wealth in the retired cohort. For example, my mother-in-law only earns the minimum SoSec check and thus, doesn’t earn even close to the what is considered the U.S. poverty line. But she has substantial equity in other assets that allow her to get along reasonably comfortably. There is no way a reasonable person could call her poor.

    But you’re experience is anecdotal. The data suggests that the wealthiest economic cohort by age group are the retired. That’s just what the data tells us.

    • No, Dave, what you fail to consider is that since 2007, 40% of the average person’s net worth went up in smoke, and the ones hit the hardest were the ones that had equity in their homes, retirements and investments. A lot of that accumulated wealth you speak of that was held by the elderly simply disappeared.

      Further, you can’t eat your home, your trailer, your things… without income, and with the rising cost of medical care, the elderly and poor have been hit the hardest by the economic turn of events. That is why your dated chart is useless. Medical bankruptcys, upside down homes, retirement accounts failing.. all these have hit a large sector of the elderly community. While there are plenty of elderly that have weathered the storm well (I assume your mother in law is one), many have not. Dillon – a community with an usually large number of elderly – is a perfect example. Some of the elderly community here is doing fine, but a majority of them are NOT.

  • First, the study I linked considered the economic correction. Secondly, yes you can “eat your house” either by selling it or getting a reverse mortgage – as my mother-in-law is doing. Again, I think your seeing the world through you own anecdotal evidence. The data don’t bear you out.

    • Actually it does. Let’s do a little experiment, Dave.

      Use the same numbers but take out the top 10%. If you do that, suddenly the numbers fall into a sort of bell curve, with one end being the younger bracket, and the other end being the elderly. The people at the top of the curve are those in thier mid 40’s – mid 50’s. The elderly are higher than those just starting out but not by much.

      The reasons are obvious. Those just starting out have little net worth and are often in debt (college etc). Those in the middle are done raising kids, usually have better jobs and have had enough time to earn equity in their homes and investments. The elderly are better off than those starting out due what equity they have in homes and investments but not as well off as the middle because they usually have crap for incomes.

      That is my problem with numbers. They have no context and can be massaged to mean just about anything you want them to mean. No personal offense intended, Dave (I cut you some slack because you were the one that convinced me to rethink my views on drugs – specifically marijuana), but numbers lie, and often those lies are convincing.

      Moreover, the economic crash coming at the end of the year with severly effect the poor and the elderly. Those numbers will become truly scary unless something radical is done. To matters worse, those of my generation, due to retire in the next 20 years are in even worse shape than those before us because the 2008 recession pretty much wiped out 18 years of savings and retirement as well as equity in our homes/real estate. This isnt’ “anecdotal”, Dave. This is documented fact.

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