The Oppression of the Rich

Please stop struggling to survive for a minute and feel pity for the rich, who struggle to attend fancy graduate schools, send their children to private schools, employ hired help, drive two cars, and own a large home in an expensive city. Sometimes, they may even have to limit how many times they eat out each month!

Todd Henderson

Oppressed Wealthy White Man

Todd Henderson, a University of Chicago Law Professor, during a lengthy pity party which can be found here (scroll to bottom), wrote last month:


Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.

Mr. Henderson certainly has an interesting idea of what life is like for “most working Americans”. This working American lives in a cheap, shoddy apartment with four roommates, no tv, works full-time, makes under $15k/year, has only rudimentary health insurance, is on food stamps, can’t afford any more school, and has no car.

The Wall Street Journal published some helpful advice for him so that he can learn to cut his exorbitant costs and save (the Horror!). One chilling suggestion they offer is that he mow his own lawn!

Bradford Delong, a Professor of Economics at UC Berkley, responded at length, including this tidbit:

Now it is time for a reality check on this “most working Americans.” The median household income in the United States today is $50,000. Half of all households make more than this. Half of all households make less. The big expenses in the Xxxxxxxxx family budget–their $60,000 a year in contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles, their $25,000 a year savings building home equity, their $55,000 for housing, their $60,000 in private school costs, even their $10,000 a year for new cars–are simply out of reach for the overwhelming majority of Americans. Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year–the Xxxxxxxxxs make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year–the Xxxxxxxxx’s make 4.5 times that. The Xxxxxxxxx’s are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year.

Michael O’Hare, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkley, wrote:

So how does our third-of-a-million-a-year law prof/doctor couple and their three kids, barely scraping by already and falling before our eyes to the very bottom of the top 1% of US families by income, make out under Obama’s rapacious soak-the-rich commie attack on all that is holy and American and fine?

…His taxes will go down $3700; he can buy one of those ties every two weeks! And this guy is threatening to fire the gardener and the house cleaner, take the kid out of art class, turn off his cell phones, and try to raise competent adults with only basic cable.

…[Mr. Henderson] also blithely says ” The biggest expense for us is financing government.” No it isn’t: their biggest expense, and it’s three times larger, is financing their private consumption.

Paul Krugman seems to have found Mr. Henderson’s complaints particularly annoying:

[I]t has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

[A] belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it.

…The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

As a high-income person in one of the world’s most high income countries (the US is ranked in the top 10 for both GDP and PPP), it is a little difficult for we little people to listen to his whining without lashing out. Clearly, I could not resist it either.

Update 12/13/10: I can’t believe I have to do this, but remember- if your comment is a personal rant against me, it will not get published. Please refer to the Comment Policy page.


One thought on “The Oppression of the Rich

  1. Pingback: Let’s Be Real: You’re Rich « The Czech

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