It's always the dentists.
February 4, 2015 10:39 AM   Subscribe

The Upper Middle Class is Ruining America, by Reihan Salam, for Slate.
...within days of the State of the Union, the Obama administration was forced to reverse course and abandon its plan to make 529 plans less generous. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, and House Budget Committee ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen, who represents the wealthy Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., were the key drivers of the decision, according to a report by Rachael Bade and Allie Grasgreen in Politico. My guess is that both Pelosi and Van Hollen saw firsthand the fury of upper-middle-income voters who sensed that Obama, normally a paragon of upper-middle-class virtues, was daring to mess with one of their precious tax breaks. Paul Waldman, writing for the Washington Post, had it right when he observed that “the 529 proposal was targeted at what may be the single most dangerous constituency to anger: the upper middle class.”
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man (241 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Woohoo! Finally a little love hate!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Noah Millman reflects on Salam's article: Class Resentment, Class Treason, and Political Consciousness (The American Conservative, February 3, 2015)

excerpt: "... you can contextualize the kind of policy criticism Salam is making within a general libertarian critique (government will always be co-opted by those who already have power; here are examples how upper-middle-class professionals use government to shut the gate on the middle class; we need less government so nobody can rig the game that way). Or you can contextualize it within a general left-wing critique (here are examples of how upper-middle-class liberals act to protect their class interests to the detriment of the poor and middle class; we can’t let a left-wing politics be compromised by the need to keep a large and wealthy class on-side just because it makes the right sounds; we need a class-based politics that doesn’t get hijacked by cultural politics). These are both frameworks for talking about how to reduce the political influence of a favored class, and create an opening for new entrants."
posted by Auden at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


This week on People Who Are Destroying America: Liberals!
posted by Poldo at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Salam seems to bucking for David Brooks' role as the liberals' favorite "reasonable conservative," but all I hear amidst this op-ed page contrarianism is how mean the upper class are for threatening the Koch's billionaire tax breaks and how upper-class licensed professionals need to get "Uber'd." I don't know about you, but I don't want to be "Uber'd."
posted by jonp72 at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


I sensed that their gut political instincts were all about protecting what they had and scratching out the eyeballs of anyone who dared to suggest taking it away from them.

Baby, you and me ain't nothing but mammals...

Basically, the author was forced to rub elbows with upper middle class people while coming from a less-advantaged position. He professes annoyance, but his actual emotions were much stronger than that, and his subsequent political positions are reactions to these people and their casual, occasionally hypocritical liberalism.

Sorry, dude-- the problems start with the plutocrats who are buying public opinion; not the smug, Prius-driving Whole Foods shoppers who fostered your insecurities.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2015 [68 favorites]


Yes, God forbid we do something to defray the skyrocketing costs of college education

Stupid FarhadMajooesqueContrarianSlatePitchy article, Stupid Slate
posted by leotrotsky at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man.

So, I am already destroying America by being a) the child of immigrants/not white, b) not straight, c) being somewhat in favor of environmental regulation, d) not completely pro-super-capitalism, and e) not completely super-pro-patriotic... but now also because I'm "upper middle class"?

At this point, I don't know if there's anything about my simple existence that doesn't destroy America.
posted by qcubed at 10:57 AM on February 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


Compared to Slate's normal MO, neither Salam or Millman seem to be particularly contrarian in either of their articles.

Talking about a subject that receives virtually no scrutiny? Yes. Contrarian? No.

The plutocrats are a problem, but the upper-upper middle class is far more pervasive, and directly affects the rest of us in a much more direct and tangible way, all while possessing a staggering lack of self-awareness about the privilege and influence that they hold.

For every Mitt Romney, there are ten thousand small business owners paying themselves $200k a year, while milking their businesses dry by underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.
posted by schmod at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2015 [97 favorites]


At this point, I don't know if there's anything about my simple existence that doesn't destroy America.

Uncertainty is Ruining America
posted by leotrotsky at 10:59 AM on February 4, 2015 [39 favorites]


For every Mitt Romney, there are ten thousand small business owners paying themselves $200k a year, while milking their businesses dry by underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.

A friend's wife works for someone like this. Bought himself a nice new car this year, and is currently cheating his employees out of commission bonuses they were promised.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


To be fair, the middle class are generally the ones that cause revolutions. The poor are too busy trying to survive under oppression, and the rich are too busy oppressing.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


Uncertainty is Ruining America

Behold, I have become American, destroyer of Americans. Look upon my works and despair. Or something.
posted by qcubed at 11:01 AM on February 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Slick trick, defining "upper middle class" as an identity group defined only by the author's unsupported and unsupportable projection: "from comfortably affluent families hailing from an almost laughably small number of comfortably affluent neighborhoods, mostly in and around big coastal cities" and "well-groomed people [who] were politically liberal," whose, "gut political instincts were all about protecting what they had and scratching out the eyeballs of anyone who dared to suggest taking it away from them"

...rather than you know, by level of income?

It's the ill-defined but definitely acting in concert and definitely liberal group of people with little provable relation to each other, other than did I mention how liberal they are?, that are ruining America. Definitely not Charles or David Koch who bankroll my primary publication as well as employ all of my profession and personal contacts either directly or indirectly.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2015 [78 favorites]


Wanting the best for your kids is a apparently a hypocritically absurd "nonnegotiable."
posted by borges at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The plutocrats are a problem, but the upper-upper middle class is far more pervasive, and directly affects the rest of us in a much more direct and tangible way, all while possessing a staggering lack of self-awareness about the privilege and influence that they hold.

For every Mitt Romney, there are ten thousand small business owners paying themselves $200k a year, while milking their businesses dry by underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.


Just like with everything else, Baby Boomers did not invent self-absorbed assholes.

Said assholes can only flourish in a proper environment, like bacteria in a petri dish.

The environment is the problem.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


AMERICA IS DESTROYING AMERICA
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 AM on February 4, 2015 [27 favorites]




The upper middle-class are the 1% that are visible. We see them when we visit the dentist/doctor/lawyer. We see their cars parked at fancy eateries. They are the people's whose wealth are visible to everyone under them.

Also, the upper-middle class are generally going to be richer than we will ever be. Most folks can only aspire to be middle-middle class (yeah, it gets hair-splitty here, I know).

But honestly, I think the anger that the populace has towards the 1% is better directed at the .1% or .01%; they are the wealthy (not merely 'rich'). The .01%-.1% are happy to see everyones anger directed at the upper-middle class, it distracts them from the obscene wealth the wealthy posses (and the power that comes with that wealth).

And the actually wealthy folks are pretty invisible to most of us. We don't park near their helipads, we don't see their private jets, we don't enter their country clubs.
posted by el io at 11:09 AM on February 4, 2015 [43 favorites]


James Kwak: The Rich, the Poor, and Whether Tax Policies Live or Die
To summarize: If you’re poor, a 529 plan gives you nothing, since you don’t pay income taxes in the first place; the AOTC gives you $4,000 ($5,000 under Obama’s proposal) because you can take $1,000 of the credit per year even if you pay no taxes. If you’re in the “middle class” (making at least $74,900 and able to save $3,000 per year per child), a 529 plan gives you $5,800; the AOTC gives you $10,000 ($12,500 under Obama’s proposal). If you’re in the upper class, a 529 plan gives you $26,300; the AOTC gives you nothing. Do I even need to write the rest of the article?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I read this when it came out several days ago, and thought the author had missed the mark. It's not the money that makes the class that causes the problem.

His real target should be the pervading sense of NIMBY-writ-large that prevents compromise on any number of issues.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


The people in those crosshairs aren't "upper-middle-class" they're entry-level rich. They may have what would be a upper-middle class income (or better) but they're after the tony neighbourhoods and the private schools like the rich folks they aspire to, and whining that it's a bit of a stretch.

And they're not, as a group, 'liberal'... most of that cohort are pretty solidly right of center.

So we have a conservative pundit singling out a group of successful people, for acting conservative.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Except that I vote lefty, gladly pay my taxes, support gender equality, support obamacare (as a beginning to better universal healthcare), support positive immigration reform, and don't despite my occupation, represent any of the ideals Salam would like to make you think I do.

I also take issue with statements like this one: Notice that upper-middle-class credentialed professionals like dentists, lawyers, and doctors rarely get Uber’d to the same degree...
I'll accept low cost 'providers' entering the market when they are required to pay the licensure fees i pay, pay malpractice insurance and are required to take the CE I'm required to take.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Except that I vote lefty, gladly pay my taxes

My point is that folks like you are probably the exception, in that group.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And they're not, as a group, 'liberal'... most of that cohort are pretty solidly right of center.

I'd love to see statistics on this. In the area I live in (SF Bay Area) they skew majorly liberal-with-a-dose-of-hypocritical.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:16 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Bay Area on the whole is a case study in how liberalism - and I mean specifically liberalism, rather than socialism/leftism - fails in practice. The city, the peninsula, Silicon Valley, the exurban East Bay, the north bay, and even great swathes of Oakland and Berkeley are places where hyperindividualist liberalism is the governing ideology. Although the residents here mouth statements about inclusivity and acceptance in the abstract, they are completely gung ho about avoiding all of those things should they appear to threaten either property values or creature comforts when actually realized. Moreover, the idea of collective action is absolutely anathema to them, since individual choice is the only version of freedom comprehensible to them. This is how a bunch of property owners in wretched little towns like Palo Alto and Menlo Park, all of whom think of themselves as enlightened environmentalists, end up frantically trying to sabotage high speed rail lines in order to protect the sanctity of their large backyards. This is how Marin county ends up as a hotbed for measles outbreaks triggered by selfish antivaxxers. This is how they all find themselves either comfortable with or totally oblivious to Tom Steyer's hedge fund's use of economic force majeure to expel long-term residents of West Oakland to make way for white people - after all, if the people being foreclosed upon after being stuck with predatory loan terms had simply freely chosen not to get scammed, they'd still have their houses, right?

To steal a line from the old song, no one should love these liberals. They're unlovable. They play the role of weeping Walrus to the right wing's cynical Carpenter. Either way, the oysters get eaten.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:16 AM on February 4, 2015 [131 favorites]


Hey artful i was replying to the article and not you specifically, the timing of my reply just put it right after yours
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:18 AM on February 4, 2015


schmod: For every Mitt Romney, there are ten thousand small business owners paying themselves $200k a year, while milking their businesses dry by underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.
And they collectively own less than Mitt Romney's class, so I'm not convinced they are nearly the problem that the 1% are.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:19 AM on February 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


At this point, I don't know if there's anything about my simple existence that doesn't destroy America.


It's like you're the anti-matter of America.

For God's sake don't touch anything!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:23 AM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


They're a problem to the extent that they help perpetuate the 0.1%.

wrt tax breaks, the (second home) mortgage interest deduction and the cap on social security taxes are two gifts that work for the wealthy. Also not a 0.1% thing particularly though.
posted by idb at 11:23 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not convinced they are nearly the problem that the 1% are.

They are a huge part of the problem. The main opposition to a living wage is from small business owners. They have enough numbers and political clout to effectively retard reasonable progress on this front (even places that have moved to increase the minimum wage are doing on glacial timelines or moving the wage up to still below survival rates - My favorite example here in Chicago was when the owner of The Bourgeois Pig complained about the proposed increase in the minimum wage to 13 bucks by 2019).
posted by srboisvert at 11:26 AM on February 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


Uncertainty is Ruining America

Is there a Buzzfeed quiz I can take to pin down exactly what kind of ruination I am wreaking on America that I can post to Facebook? I don't ever do those quizzes (except that one about Downton Abbey - I'm Sybil, duh) but I would do that one.
posted by amanda at 11:27 AM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


say, let's you and him fight...
posted by ennui.bz at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]




Yeah but small business owners are not the same group of people as "vaguely liberal well-to-do people I don't like", even if members of the latter are represented in the former. God, my kingdom for some class analysis in the United States.
posted by beefetish at 11:32 AM on February 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Clickbait Headlines Are Ruining America
posted by gwint at 11:33 AM on February 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


This pretty much comes down to the he's trying to steal your cookie joke, doesn't it?
posted by ckape at 11:33 AM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


the thing about Obama's 529 plan is that it's precisely the sort of attack on the base that concern-trolling conservatives like Salam urge "third way" pols like Obama to advocate in order to demonstrate that they are "serious"... as you can see from this article you can play both angles of that con.

it's really "carried interest" loophole and a transaction tax or go home...
posted by ennui.bz at 11:34 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Small business owners are not at all part of the same class as highly-paid employees, even if their personal incomes are the same.

Isn't it probably more productive to talk about people with income primarily from wages, versus people with income primary derived from their existing wealth? Wealth inequality dwarfs the already serious income inequality in the US, and I'd think that, if we want to look for a qualitative cut-off point above which Ufettered Hatred should start, it should be mostly related to the manner in which people increase their wealth, which is only secondarily related to the actual first derivative of their wealth (in that employees with very high salaries invest their income and become the other type of person pretty quickly, so two different things are coupled).

An upper-middle class employee being paid a six-figure salary by an employer in principle has a qualitatively similar relationship with the "means of production" as a sandwich artist does, no? Both people have interests that are dissimilar from someone whose main source of income is their own pre-existing wealth.

However, as I said, the highly-paid one often is able to invest enough to become "mostly a capitalist" instead of "mostly a worker" in short order.
posted by busted_crayons at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


you and me ain't nothing but mammals...

They've found a way...
to make their natural tendancies pay?

He is your dentist! he is your dentist
He has a talent for causing things pain! gasp!
He is your dentist! he is your dentist
People will pay him to be inhumane! he loves it!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have to laugh every time I hear about "Small business owners." My wife runs a small business, herself and 1-3 employees depending on the year. She's in the same category of a place with 50 employees.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Pew: Money Walks: Republicans Are Losing Ground among the Affluent, Too
While much of the shifting balance among affluent voters reflects changes in the national mood, two important demographic changes among high income voters are related to the parties’ fortunes. First, members of minority groups constitute a greater share of high-income voters than at any time in the past. The proportion of top-income voters who are black, Hispanic, or from another racial minority background has doubled from 10% in 1995 to 21% today, while the proportion who are white has dropped from 90% to 79%.

Secondly, a greater share of top-income voters have a post-graduate education than in the past — 35% up from 24% in 1995. In general, Americans with post-graduate training are more likely to be Democrats than those with four-year degrees or who attended but did not complete college.
Andrew Gelman: Rich people are more likely to be Republican but not more likely to be conservative
The poorest people are more likely to be liberal, and the richest are more likely to identify as moderate rather than conservative, but overall there’s less going on here than I would’ve expected.

In contrast, the relation between income and party identification is strong, and goes in the expected direction.

There must be a lot of low-income moderate Democrats and high-income moderate Republicans out there.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


A whole lot of missing numbers in the article and this thread.

What, exactly, in the income at which one enters the top 1%? There's a lot of talking about doctors and lawyers, as if there isn't pretty big income diversity in those professions.

A partner-track lawyer at a white shoe firm is not in the same class as the lawyer respecting a pension fund at a labor-oriented firm. A private practice GP is not the same as as oncologist in a nationwide hospital system.
posted by spaltavian at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


> my kingdom for some class analysis in the United States.

I mean why do we have to single out and pigeonhole people when generally yes, this pervasive NIMBY-istic "fuck you I got mine / I'm such a special snowflake and I deserve to be an exception to the rules because _____" attitude is the root of the problem. It crosses class boundaries and political ideology and is sort of an idealized version of the "noble gung ho pioneering 'Murican individualism" trope. I can't even rightly articulate what it is, but it is *everywhere* in the contemporary political / cultural zeitgeist. How do we fix this attitude? no fucking clue.

it's a massive issue here in Boulder; I see this "gated home" mentality in a lot of the housing code / homeless policy / environmental policy here, don't get me started on the special snowflake anti-vaxxer yoga mom cohort, we got that in spades too. I fight the good fight as I can in city council meetings but I'm one tiny social justice fighter and I'm not really that well educated, just mouthy.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Yeah, the upper middle class is the problem when it comes to paying their fair share towards public goods and services. OK. Sure. Just gonna leave this here.

How about we eliminate the Angel of Death loophole above, say, a million bucks and crank up what the top income tax bracket pays before going after any segment of the middle class?
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2015 [14 favorites]




So the 529 account my parents started for me paid for my university tuition and living expenses. I am so thankful that I don't have any debt and that I was able to work while in school due to choice, not need.

I know that this puts me in extreme privilege, but I think there are better places to 'take money from'* than college funds...

* yes, I know this is an oversimplified explanation of what would happen if 529 were re-vamped, but I think you get the point
posted by Strass at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


An upper-middle class employee being paid a six-figure salary by an employer in principle has a qualitatively similar relationship with the "means of production" as a sandwich artist does, no? Both people have interests that are dissimilar from someone whose main source of income is their own pre-existing wealth.

or a highly-paid CEO?

However, as I said, the highly-paid one often is able to invest enough to become "mostly a capitalist" instead of "mostly a worker" in short order.

The question with both the CEO and the highly-paid professional is why exactly are they paid so much? And the answer for both is that it is largely to stand in front and look respectable while in the back the "capitalists" liquidate the business. The reason US CEO's are paid so much is because American capital has been liquidating/looting American business on a large scale. The bigger the theft, the more you have to pay the cover to keep things looking respectable and most of the cons the "Bain Capital" class run take a while to hit maximum payoff.

A shallow "means of production" analysis really misses what is going on in the "financialization" of the US economy.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


It must be emotionally satisfying to realize that the people you didn't like in High School are the very people ruining the country.
posted by Area Man at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2015 [31 favorites]


Sorry, dude-- the problems start with the plutocrats who are buying public opinion; not the smug, Prius-driving Whole Foods shoppers who fostered your insecurities.

I'm very sympathetic to this article because, like Salam, I came from a working class family and now regularly rub elbows with the upper-middle class. From what I've seen, it's the upper middle-class whose opinions are most for sale. There's only so many people in the .1% to vote so they need to draw in the upper-middle class with rhetoric and policies that both flatter them (they're "job creators" and part of the working %47) and play on their fears and insecurities: (charter/magnet schools, land use regulations, etc.) These people are bombarded with political messages from every angle.

The thing is, they think they're liberal because they don't go to church regularly, hate gays, and think drug use is a medical problem. In reality, they're just as conservative and individualistic as the most Ayn Rand loving libertarians when it comes to anything that affects their lives. They will happily vote for welfare policies that make the lower classes a little less miserable but will also vote for nasty development restrictions that raise home values and keep anyone from the lower classes living near them. They also vote for policies which help the super rich because they all feel that they or their children are one good idea or business break away from joining them. It's crazy making because they really can't see the contradictions in these positions or even admit that it's awfully convenient that the policies they support are good for them at the expense of others.
posted by Schrodinger's Gat at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


What, exactly, in the income at which one enters the top 1%? There's a lot of talking about doctors and lawyers, as if there isn't pretty big income diversity in those professions.

From Saez and PIketty the top 1% income in the US (for 2007) starts at about $400K per household. The top 10-5% is from about 100K to 150K per household.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


like Salam, I came from a working class family

Salam's dad was an accountant. Working class he aint.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:52 AM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


the thing about Obama's 529 plan is that it's precisely the sort of attack on the base that concern-trolling conservatives like Salam urge "third way" pols like Obama to advocate in order to demonstrate that they are "serious"... as you can see from this article you can play both angles of that con.

it's really "carried interest" loophole and a transaction tax or go home...


QFT. The 529 thing is peanuts compared to carried interest or taxing capital gains less than earned income, which is how many of the wealthiest make their money.
posted by indubitable at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's always the dentists.

First they came for the dentists ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:55 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I consider myself from a working class background because the car I got for my 16th birthday wasn't even new.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


So are the upper-upper-middle on the menu finally?
posted by sammyo at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2015


So we have a conservative pundit singling out a group of successful people, for acting conservative.

This is where the realignment has to start. For too long, American politics has had the unnatural alliance of Mammon and faith. It's time for working class conservatives to realize that conservative policies do not benefit the end goal of a conservative society, but only the plutocrats. It's easy to rag on Salam or (even moreso) Douthat, but their vision of Sam's Club conservatism should have been the future for the GOP, not the Tea Party.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I came up with a phrase yesterday to describe a facet of San Francisco's NIMBY liberalism: "Development Derangement Syndrome". We've had so much opposition to building more housing here because of concerns about "Manhattanization" or similar nonsense that's code for "if you build more houses, my view will be obscured and my property values will go down".
posted by MattMangels at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's easy to rag on Salam or (even moreso) Douthat, but their vision of Sam's Club conservatism should have been the future for the GOP, not the Tea Party.

Aside from the upfront conflict between "working class" Republicans and exporting manufacturing to China AKA Sam's Club, there is no Republican Party without Wall Street. That is the "base" of the Republican party. The reason why the Republicans went batshit over Clinton is that Clintonism (and Obama as well) was based on abandoning working class politics and making a broad appeal to Wall Street on behalf of a "new" Democratic party: Clinton was trying to poach the base of the Republican party.

Of course, the financiers understand that they can play off both parties against each other for maximum profit.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


What, exactly, in the income at which one enters the top 1%?

If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [39 favorites]


Frankly, I'd be concerned with Manhattanization, too. Those people are so deranged they don't even understand that Chicago-style pizza is pizza, calling it "casserole" or some such nonsense.

Flag: planted.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


What, exactly, in the income at which one enters the top 1%?

How much it takes to get into the Top 1% in every state
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


*Correction, Jan. 31, 2015: The article originally misstated that homeowners who arrived before the drawbridge was lowered see their homes grow in value. The gentrifying homeowners raise the metaphorical drawbridge to keep their neighborhoods exclusive.
"Mr. Salam, sorry to bother you. This sentence here - did you mean 'drawbridge' or 'portcullis'?"

"What? Oh. 'Drawbridge.'"

"Thanks."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm middle-middle but I know a lot of upper-middle people and they are most certainly not destroying America, and definitely not intentionally. True, like most of us, they sometimes fail to see how their own economic situations give them access to opportunities and advantages that don't even make sense to people even just a little worse off, but that's not a deep moral failing so much as the common state of humanity. This thing is axe-grindy as all get out and seems to be precisely aimed at splitting liberals along economic class lines.

This pretends to be an article about politics, but it actually seems more like its doing politics to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I consider myself from a working class background because the car I got for my 16th birthday wasn't even new.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton


I laughed out loud at this. Reminds me of the high school I attended, in which very many kids got a new BMW for their 16th, wrecked it, and had a new one a week later. (I did not have a car.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


My corner of Soviet Canuckistan is also chock-full of rich people who vote NDP (Canada's most left-wing federal party) but wet their pants over the prospect of paying taxes sufficient to actually fund the programs and services the party espouses (or used to, before the current federal government Overton Windowed the entire country to the right).
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:11 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".

Does income mean "wages or salary" exclusively? Seems the term "residual income" wouldn't make sense otherwise.
posted by spaltavian at 12:12 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


my kingdom for some class analysis in the United States.

The fact that you're asking for class analysis indicates that you don't actually have a kingdom to give.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


This thing is axe-grindy as all get out and seems to be precisely aimed at splitting liberals along economic class lines.

And what's wrong with that? It sounds as if it's time to take on rank hypocrisy in liberalism. Perhaps someone should coin an epithet for this new caricature: Nissan Leaf Liberals?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


For every Mitt Romney, there are ten thousand small business owners paying themselves $200k a year, while milking their businesses dry by underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.

Tell me about it. I'm an accountant who does not do taxes because I get all hepped up on the rampant cheating. Yes, folks make $200K a year but on the books they make a third of that. People run their personal expenses through their businesses all the time. And assume that's what 'everyone does' so if they don't they'd be a fool. Don't even get me started on charitable giving that is only funding churches, churches that are far too involved politically. I still think of the guy that was trying to figure a way to expense resurfacing the tennis court at his summer home because he had done some business entertaining there.
Maybe I'd be more middle class if I was a rule bending type, but I have to work internally in a business, far away from where I can see any of that bullshit.
posted by readery at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".

Does income mean "wages or salary" exclusively? Seems the term "residual income" wouldn't make sense otherwise.


Yeah, pretty much. I put "income" in quotes to mean "what people generally think of as income" (i.e. wages or salary), rather than a strict legal definition.
posted by Etrigan at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And what's wrong with that? It sounds as if it's time to take on rank hypocrisy in liberalism.

When has it not been time? "Liberals are hypocrites" is heard constantly from the left, liberals and the right. It's really okay to focus on the log in their eye rather than the speck in your own once in a while.
posted by spaltavian at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also take issue with statements like this one: Notice that upper-middle-class credentialed professionals like dentists, lawyers, and doctors rarely get Uber’d to the same degree...
I'll accept low cost 'providers' entering the market when they are required to pay the licensure fees i pay, pay malpractice insurance and are required to take the CE I'm required to take.


WTF? Why do you think taxis are mad about Uber, have you never heard of the taxi license fees that Uber isn't paying, the insurance they're not buying, and the permit system they're not following?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


Workers and Rich are natural enemies.
Like Communists and Americans.
Or Nazis and Americans.
Or non-Americans and Americans.
Or Americans and other Americans.
Damn Americans, they ruined America!
posted by halifix at 12:25 PM on February 4, 2015


Substitute the words "upper middle class" with Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, and pretty much everything out of his mouth makes a lot more sense. As in:

"and though many of the upper-middle-class individuals I’ve come to know are good, decent people, I’ve come to the conclusion that upper-middle-class Americans threaten to destroy everything that is best in our country. And I want them to stop.

I work with 40 or 50 of his targeted demographic. Most of us donate time to local free clinics or other charities. Some of us have kids in private school but mostly public. I would say most of us don't live with income insecurity, but feel a bit at a loss as to how to address that on a national level. If the day ever came where there was a real policy debate on proper taxation of everyone's wealth, and not income as it is now, I suspect all of us would welcome it. None of us will flinch when tax rates rise, or the AMT comes along and takes an even bigger bite of our income that already is cut in half for state, fed, SS and medicare taxes. Meanwhile the truly wealthy have the resources and power to truly guide national taxation policies while the rest of America is apparently being told that the real reason they are suffering is because of the professional class making between 250-400K. If those fuckers would only cough up 60 or 70% of their income instead of 50%, the problems of the working poor would vanish. Better yet, pay doctors and anyone else half as much and watch that income go right to social programs, and certainly not executive compensation packages or a new long-range bomber.

This guy is such an epic troll for the ruling class that Slate should be embarrassed for wasting bandwidth on his drivel. I know that Metafilter despises anyone not proudly getting by on 10 dollars a week but targeting the most taxed demographic in the country as "destroyers" is just pathetic.
posted by docpops at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2015 [46 favorites]


As far as I am concerned the upper middle class, middle class and working middle class (blue collar) are what hold most industrial/post industrial/first world countries together. I am delighted for them and have little or no hesitancy in supporting their agendas and needs. I want physicians, lawyers, architects, managers, statisticians, well compensated factory workers, small business owners, fair wages for all employees working 35 hours a week, nurses, traffic engineers, geologists. They will at times be at odds with each other but they have more in common than the chronically unemployed, chronically poor or the 1%. Frankly, I find the left/socialists/progressive/liberals as tediously tiresome of pitting class against class as I do the conservatives/Republicans/right etc. ( oops, just what docpops said).
posted by rmhsinc at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find the left/socialists/progressive/liberals as tediously tiresome of pitting class against class

TIL that Reihan Salam is "left/socialist/progressive/liberal".
posted by tonycpsu at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".

if you make $389k annually you're in the 1%, full stop.
posted by p3on at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Slick trick, defining "upper middle class" as an identity group defined only by the author's unsupported and unsupportable projection...

He's got a million of 'em:
Though virtually all of these polite, well-groomed people were politically liberal, I sensed that ...
Yet without really reflecting on it, I felt that ...
Let’s just say that upper-middle-class status is a state of mind.
My guess is that...
It doesn’t look like it.
Why does he feel that his hand-wavery feelings and guesses are worth publishing? It's because the UMC Conspiracy is keeping the truth from us:
Want to guess how popular the idea of increasing the wages of nannies is with the upper-middle-class people who employ them? I’d love to know, but I’m sorry to report that upper-middle-class pollsters have yet to ask the question.
Sorry, but I'm not buying any horseshit today, thanks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Want to guess how popular the idea of increasing the wages of nannies is with the upper-middle-class people who employ them? I’d love to know, but I’m sorry to report that upper-middle-class pollsters have yet to ask the question.

Yeah, that stuck out at me, too. "I could have had a point here, but these darn upper-middle-class people stopped me from having anything of substance to say on this particular issue!"

I just want to know why pollsters have yet to ask questions like "is Slate a terrible website?"
posted by teponaztli at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


And what's wrong with that? It sounds as if it's time to take on rank hypocrisy in liberalism.

Because the core tenets of the New Deal and the march of progress and prosperity is locked in a life-and-death struggle with some incredibly wealthy and organized enemies. We lost an election to them, massively - and if you want that trend to continue, by all means, go ahead and convince the segment of your coalition with the time, money and management experience to swing elections your way to stay home in 2016, the filthy hypocrites.

Very real enemies proposing some incredibly revanchist policies aimed at disenfranchising and impoverishing and literally sickening huge swaths of your fellow Americans are currently in power - and you're upset some dude buys a Nissan Leaf? That they need the mortgage interest deduction to make ends meet? That they would prefer to both help the poor kids pay for college and keep their kid's college savings account? A grip needs to be got, here.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:56 PM on February 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


It sounds as if it's time to take on rank hypocrisy in liberalism.

This is the "Soccer is the next big sport in America!" of online political debate. I think the first Usenet post ever might have been about hypocritical liberals.
posted by Etrigan at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


if you make $389k annually you're in the 1%, full stop.

Ah. I'm pretty sure we should distinguish between "the 1%" and the literal 1%.

"The 1%" being roughly the monkey spheres of Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers - all together maybe the population of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The 1% being literally 3 million people.
posted by pan at 1:03 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the first Usenet post ever might have been about hypocritical liberals.

Love Me, I'm a Liberal came out in 1966: Ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center where it affects them personally...
posted by teponaztli at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Journalism like this is why we can’t have nice things…
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 1:05 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I particularly enjoyed his argument that the answer to gentrification via glass-walled condo towers is more glass-walled condo towers.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:08 PM on February 4, 2015


tonycpsu--I don't understand your comment and you left off part of my sentence ??? please clarify
posted by rmhsinc at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2015


many ou older folks got into middle class because labor union were strong, organized, and with lots of members...Union just about gone now and so too the clout that eats better salaries and benefits
posted by Postroad at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]



Love Me, I'm a Liberal came out in 1966: Ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center where it affects them personally...
posted by teponaztli


QFT. Phil Ochs has it (lyrics from the Youtube site):


İ cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
posted by lalochezia at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


rmhsinc: I was just pointing out that it's kind of strange to see complaints about liberals "pitting class against class" in response to a piece from the decidedly-not-liberal Salam where in he does precisely that.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:16 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


None of us will flinch when tax rates rise, or the AMT comes along and takes an even bigger bite of our income that already is cut in half for state, fed, SS and medicare taxes.

How is anyone supposed to believe that you won't flinch when tax rates rise when you couldn't even make it to the end of that sentence without complaining about the current tax rates?
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I mean it. Why are we continually engaged in this hapless exercise of singling out "the enemy" when it's not people who are at fault, it's this pervasive, solipsistic exceptionalism philosophy that crosses all cultural, economic and ideological divides.

This is what political interests (including the media) use to divide the majority against itself regardless of race, religion, or demographic, so that no meaningful debate or vote or policy ever actually occurs.

We are not good at egalitarianism in this country (anymore, assuming we ever really were), tho we pay lip service to it (and how!) Our ability to think communally has been sold to the highest bidder. We're the cultural equivalent of monkeys stuck in the coconut trap of greedy self-interest, or the toddler who can't distinguish short term benefit (Cookie now!!) against long-term societal gains (2 cookies for everyone, if you take a nap).

"We have met the enemy and they are us" -- Walt Kelly.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


None of us will flinch when tax rates rise, or the AMT comes along and takes an even bigger bite of our income that already is cut in half for state, fed, SS and medicare taxes.

How is anyone supposed to believe that you won't flinch when tax rates rise when you couldn't even make it to the end of that sentence without complaining about the current tax rates?
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:20 PM on February 4 [1 favorite +] [!]


...aaaannndd there it is.

I stated a fact. 50%. Not a complaint. I like paying taxes, in the same way I get a small joy out of making my mortgage payment. I don't really think about it too much because complaining doesn't get me anywhere. I wish more of my taxes went to subsidize health care and schools instead of the military but there is no lobbying organization for the demographic that pays the most in taxes. It's why the AMT will never go away. Again, feel free to demonize me or people making more than some arbitrary number you feel should be more than enough for anyone to live on. I don't give two shits either way. I'm too busy drowning in a lack of a national health care policy to care.
posted by docpops at 1:29 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't know about you, but I don't want to be "Uber'd

Neither do I. Neither should doctors or dentists. But the political problem at hand is that the upper middle class is the side politically agitating to go about Uber'ing other licensed professionals and celebrating deunionization as a means of getting cheaper TV sets and home renovations.

The problem is that the upper middle class emulates the class interests of the upper classes, in part because of certain short sighted economic incentives and in part because they would prefer the social association of upper class interests to middle class interests.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 1:36 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


docpops: I stated a fact. 50%.

Dude, you need a better accountant.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:36 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The upper middle-class are the 1% that are visible.

Look, numbers have actual meaning. "The 1%" doesn't mean "Everyone I dislike who is richer than me." And in fact, the 1% number was picked specifically so that those powerful political upper middle class individuals wouldn't fall into the hated class. Per this article, the top 1% are people who earn over 394,000$ a year.
posted by corb at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Look, numbers have actual meaning.

By that same logic, Salam's thesis is bullshit, because he doesn't bother define the class he's talking about using income percentiles.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:40 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Income tax is for suckers who can't make their income appear as capital gains. We fight like crazy politically for an extra point on the top end bracket when John Q CEO gets his salary in options and works around the capital gains tax that would be due.

It's rigged no matter what way you look at it. The upper middle class is the only class that keeps the tax system functional.
posted by Talez at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think the first Usenet post ever might have been about hypocritical liberals.

Internet archaeologists report that this was, indeed, the first Usenet post:

Subject: If You Think That a Star Destroyer Would Beat the USS Fucking Enterprise, You Actually Support Fascism Over Democracy, You Hypocritical Liberal!!!
Date: March 27, 1980
From: psychohistory_grognard01@starfleetacademy.edu
Newsgroup: rec.arts.sf.starwars.unmoderated

n/t
posted by Copronymus at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


TIL that Reihan Salam is "left/socialist/progressive/liberal".

Given the current sad state of American politics, he might as well be.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2015


tonycpsu - I stand corrected and apologize for the exaggeration. Adding up the various tax rates got me there but of course you are correct that the actual tax rate looks closer to about 35-37%, since I live in a state with high state income tax and very little mortgage deduction. In any case, whatever congress does from year to year is out of my hands, and I can promise you that past "tax breaks" under Bush or anyone else were a charade - the AMT that no one talks about made up for it and more.
posted by docpops at 1:47 PM on February 4, 2015


I just want to know why pollsters have yet to ask questions like "is Slate a terrible website?"

It's getting to the point where "SLSlate outrage bait" might need to be added to the flagging drop-down if trends continue.
posted by aught at 1:48 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Salam's thesis is bullshit, because he doesn't bother define the class he's talking about using income percentiles.

In fact, he dismisses it early and quickly: "We could define it by income—say, all single adults who earn more than $100,000 a year, or all married couples that earn more than $200,000—but that’s too crude." More to the point, he himself doesn't want to offend people who might be Slate readers, so he's leaving it open for everyone to put whomever they want into that category while finding ways to exclude themselves.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have a feeling that the AMA will change their opinion about single payer after doctors have been uber'd
posted by just another scurvy brother at 1:50 PM on February 4, 2015


By that same logic, Salam's thesis is bullshit

I don't disagree with that, but that doesn't mean we need to let the bullshit in ourselves.

Upper middle class people aren't destroying America. Middle middle and lower middle aren't destroying America. Everyone wants a nice life for their family and none of the middle class families are moustache-twirling railroad barons threatening to tie pretty ladies to the tracks.

Mind you, I think most of the actual "1%" aren't trying to tie pretty ladies to the tracks either, but that's a political difference, and we can differ on our political conclusions while accepting and agreeing that fuzzy math for the sake of feels is a bad plan.
posted by corb at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a feeling that the AMA will change their opinion about single payer after doctors have been uber'd
posted by just another scurvy brother at 1:50 PM on February 4 [+] [!]


Remember, Ubering the doctor is only half the battle (the easy half). Training the American public to accept standardized medical algorithms that don't include annual (mostly useless) physicals, MRI's for joint pain that is 2 days old, and 20 physical therapy visits for back pain that could have been prevented with even one day a month in the gym will be the fun part.

Most doctors in primary care don't really care either way. Morally all of us know it's the right thing to give every person access to care from cradle to grave. Our culture of personal freedoms is what is going to destroy us.
posted by docpops at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Very real enemies proposing some incredibly revanchist policies aimed at disenfranchising and impoverishing and literally sickening huge swaths of your fellow Americans are currently in power - and you're upset some dude buys a Nissan Leaf? That they need the mortgage interest deduction to make ends meet? That they would prefer to both help the poor kids pay for college and keep their kid's college savings account?

For all of the money and lobbying power those real enemies have, the republic runs on votes, and they need voters to keep those policies in power. Is it only the Tea Party alone who's sustaining their political power? Or are there also relatively affluent liberals in the upper middle class who are tacitly helping them by opposing policies that might possibly threaten their own (that is, those of the upper middle class) wealth? Salam is making the case that there are. While it's disingenuous for him as a conservative to focus on the liberal latter while ignoring the Tea Party former, and so his class analysis leaves a lot to be desired, it's at least a provocative piece that raises some interesting questions, and perhaps room for self-reflection.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".

At least according to the World Top Incomes database, this is incorrect - most income of the top 0.1% comes from wages or entrepreneurial income.
posted by ripley_ at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


docpops: In any case, whatever congress does from year to year is out of my hands, and I can promise you that past "tax breaks" under Bush or anyone else were a charade - the AMT that no one talks about made up for it and more.

Yeah, but AMT or not AMT, that graph shows that the story you've told about how public policy is gouging your income gorup is at best exaggerated and at worst a near total fabrication. The differences between the various income groups we're talking about are low single digit percentages. The tax code is barely progressive once you get into the middle class percentiles, and, sure, I'd love it if the rates went up for the top 1% instead of the minuscule drop, but the idea that the not-quite-super-rich are being gouged is not borne out by the data.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hope you're ready for Hillary! She won't even bother to try to change anything in terms of wealth inequality. Nobody will have have to hear anything more about that except from weirdos in masks wielding puppets creeping out journalists in smaller and smaller free speech zones. Obama may or not be sincere about increasing taxes on the rich, but Hillary and other (I guess people call them neo-liberals now tho I hate that and will call them) Technocrats will continue down the path her husband started: Status Quo or Bust, BFFs with Silicon Valley and its neverending treasure trove of privatization. This guy will love her.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Republicans are done precisely because more and more anti-tax upper middle class people are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Eventually some smart politician in the Democrat party is going to make that explicit. In some ways, Obama already has, but others will take it further. We'll see if the Democratic primary debates will actually kick up any dust on this issue next year.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2015


tonycpsu - so in all seriousness, where should we stop when taxing someone making over 250K? If 35% is not enough, how is 50%? It's still some arbitrary line in the code that ends up being bread and circuses while GE pays a negative tax rate. Those people paying over 150K in taxes on their 450K salaries have it pretty damn good, but how far will we get if theirs is the only trough anyone feeds from?
posted by docpops at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


you could look at class vs. culture as an organizing principle of society and an animating force for governance, so to the extent that external threats -- terrorists, china (the environment?) -- aren't a threat to the 'american way of life' then internal divisions can come to the fore, but then that makes stuff like spending $2.4tn on infrastructure pretty tough.

oh and also btw, fwiw...
uber is bein uber'd - "Google is a deep-pocketed, technically sophisticated competitor, and Uber’s dependence on the search giant goes far beyond capital. Uber’s smartphone applications for drivers and riders are based on Google Maps, which gives Google a fire hose of data about transportation patterns within cities. Uber would be crippled if it lost access to the industry-leading mapping application, and alternatives—such as AOL's MapQuest, Apple Maps, and a host of regional players—are widely seen as inferior."

meanwhile...
That $1 Billion TransferWise Deal Is Exactly Why Mark Carney Worries About 'An Uber-Type Situation In Financial Services'
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney worries that technology will disrupt the banking and financial services industry in just the same way that it has torn apart newspapers, radio and the postal service. His chief concern is that governments will fail to regulate it until it's too late — "an Uber-type situation," as he put it at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

The news that foreign currency exchange startup TransferWise has raised $58 million in investment at a valuation of $1 billion proves that Carney is right to worry: Tech startups — or fintech startups, as they're called in Europe — are working as fast as they can to turn traditional banks into the steam-engine manufacturers of the 21st Century.
which brings me back to...
-Death of Banks
-Dealing with the transition to the information age
-[GREEN] JOBS FOR ALL
posted by kliuless at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


tonycpsu--thanks for the response--I should have reversed the order in the sentence--I am aware he is a conservative. Complaint about (some) liberals stands.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:12 PM on February 4, 2015


Upper middle class people aren't destroying America. Middle middle and lower middle aren't destroying America. Everyone wants a nice life for their family and none of the middle class families are moustache-twirling railroad barons threatening to tie pretty ladies to the tracks.

People who cross picket lines also want good things for themselves and their families, but they're also stabbing their fellow man in the back to do it. Road to hell, etc.

I thought it was a really interesting article, agreed with most of it. For the people who don't like it, how do you think about gentrification or NIMBYism in places like Manhattan/Brooklyn or SF/Oakland/Silicon Valley? Are those concepts somehow disconnected from what Salam is saying?
posted by TypographicalError at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Upper middle class people aren't destroying America. Middle middle and lower middle aren't destroying America. Everyone wants a nice life for their family and none of the middle class families are moustache-twirling railroad barons threatening to tie pretty ladies to the tracks.

You know... I kind of disagree with this. Our country's poltical structure runs on spite. We literally killed people who were "getting above their station", which was what a lot of southern lynchings were motivated by. We jacked up public university tuition into the stratosphere due to middle class resentment at college students getting to study for free. Many people will openly complain that many working people make way too much money when that amount is $50k/yr plus health insurance. It is not merely a matter of people just trying to do right by their families. It is also a matter of policing those lower on the totem pole to ensure they don't get a penny more than what many people decide they strictly "deserve."
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


docpops: Those people paying over 150K in taxes on their 450K salaries have it pretty damn good, but how far will we get if theirs is the only trough anyone feeds from?

This argumentum ad absurdum shows how weak your argument is. Nobody has put forth a proposal where only the top 1% pay taxes.

In my ideal world, the top 1% bracket shown in the link I posted would be higher than the next 4% bracket, which would in turn be higher than the next 5% bracket, and on and on. The specific percentages required of each percentile would be determined by how much is needed to fund the government, so no, I won't be giving you a specific percentage as you've asked for. I am with you on closing corporate tax loopholes to raise revenue, and if that brings in enough revenue to lower personal effetive rates across the board, I'm all for that, but I don't think the numbers would add up.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:19 PM on February 4, 2015


And in the meantime the upper middle class will be the trough that feeds the tax system as we systematically destroy America. Got it.
posted by docpops at 2:22 PM on February 4, 2015


TypographicalError: how do you think about gentrification or NIMBYism in places like Manhattan/Brooklyn or SF/Oakland/Silicon Valley? Are those concepts somehow disconnected from what Salam is saying?

Part of the problem is that far too much of many peoples' wealth is tied up in their primary residence, so changes to their neighborhood can have an outsized impact on them compared to people who rent, or to the wealthy, who don't have as high a percentage of their overall wealth tied up in their home(s). This leads people to be very defensive about their neighborhoods and home values in a way they wouldn't have to if the house value were a small percent of their net worth, or if they were renting.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


docpops: And in the meantime the upper middle class will be the trough that feeds the tax system as we systematically destroy America. Got it.

So your plan here is argumentation by repetition, despite having your thesis disproven by actual data?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:25 PM on February 4, 2015


We jacked up public university tuition into the stratosphere due to middle class resentment at college students getting to study for free.

I don't think class stratification is generally based on spite, though. If you study the middle class throughout history, you'll find it has historically been the most inflexible on what it viewed as class shifting - most determined to prevent people who stood to interfere with middle class pursuits, even more so than the actual upper class. And I think a lot of that is to preserve what they already have, not simply for kicks.

The middle class, for example, has generally sacrificed significantly - which is a thing they can afford to do - to get their kids a college education. If working class people also were able to get college educations in mass, it would devalue the college tuition they already provided their kids - because college degrees are primarily valuable for reasons of scarcity. It's not as though college really prepares you even a tiny bit better for most jobs that require college degrees.

There's no such thing as a leveling mechanism that preserves everyone's gains.
posted by corb at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2015




The hell you say!

"income taxes" != "taxes"

Also, 1913 != 2015.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:42 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's no such thing as a leveling mechanism that preserves everyone's gains.

Because gains are relative. Expanding access to public amenities or even expanding access to the dignity of decent stable labor devalues the enjoyment some people gain out of having those things-- thus the policing over whether a retail worker "deserves" to have health insurance or which members of the public "deserve" to have public sector jobs.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2015


I don't own a house in the Bay Area...every time the market was ripe, I found myself unemployed or broke...typical cost of a home in my neighborhood is between $900K and $4 million. I could move, quit my job, uproot my family and find someplace that I can afford. Sure, but I wouldn't find the same work for similar pay.

I drive a 2001 Prius.

My kids attend public school in a wealthy district.

We contribute to our community.

We enjoy food and wine and the occasional dinner out, yes, but we're not springing for The French Laundry any time soon.

On paper, I fit into "Upper Middle Class," and I just about live paycheck to paycheck because shit's expensive in the Bay Area.

Day care/after school care, rent, car payments, commute expenses, insurance, taxes and a 401K...when all is said and done, we have nothing left over for even a 10% down payment on a house in any of the neighborhoods we have lived over the last 20 years. We don't have enough for that down-payment in virtually any neighborhood within a 50-mile radius.

Sure, we're well-off, but I'm not going to apologize for wanting to send my kids to good schools, and as it is, my commute is ~2 hours/day. My wife works full time, volunteers for the school and Girl Scouts...we don't own an article of clothing that cost us more than $100.

How we're ruining America is beyond me, I am trying to get through the day most of the time. Comfortable, sure, but I'm not going to apologize for it...and I don't need to claw anyone's eyes out to keep it. Mostly, I think I'm taking years off my life to hang on to what I have.
posted by Chuffy at 2:49 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Every tax proposal Obama made in the State of the Union was dead on arrival, but the 529 proposal really made me wonder if all the "A" list talent in the White House has already split for their post-DC private equity jobs.

Republicans mouthed the outrage but taxing 529s was aimed straight at the heart of the Democrats' most essential faction. The South shows what happens like when the urban / suburban cognitive elite and the institutions they control go Republican: supermajority Republican victories as far as the eye can see.

It would have taken 30 seconds on the phone with Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer for Obama's tax policy people to have figured this out, but that was 30 seconds they apparently didn't have to spare.
posted by MattD at 2:55 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


You realize the author is trolling.
posted by the jam at 2:55 PM on February 4, 2015


Okay, here's the thing, even if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you're still getting good schools, get to live in a great city, a two hour daily commute isn't that out of the ordinary and you state you're living comfortably. Many more people than you are doing all the same routine, but with none of the benefits.

If you don't realize the immense lead you have over most people then you are part of the problem.
posted by Ferreous at 2:57 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


underpaying their employees, cheating on taxes, and voting Republican.
Like Arianna Huffington? Oh wait...
posted by Ideefixe at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, here's the thing, even if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you're still getting good schools, get to live in a great city, a two hour daily commute isn't that out of the ordinary and you state you're living comfortably

That's what middle class means.
posted by aspo at 2:59 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, what it used to mean.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you don't realize the immense lead you have over most people then you are part of the problem

I think most of the middle class are aware that they are doing better than people in grinding poverty. What do you want them to do? Wear sackcloth and hair shirts and flagellate themselves for your satisfaction?
posted by corb at 3:05 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


The hospital plans
Your brother drew 'em all
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chuffy: I could move, quit my job, uproot my family and find someplace that I can afford. Sure, but I wouldn't find the same work for similar pay.

But it's not zero sum, either. I moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in part because I could keep the same salary but with a much lower cost of living. We own a 4 bedroom house in a comfortable neighborhood with only a 20 minute commute to my job, and we bought the house for around 200k. Google here is paying Mountain View salaries for people who will move to Pittsburgh to work at the Google office here, no joke.

Living in or near these nice, but very expensive cities is itself a privilege that people pay more for. Same goes for NYC, DC, and many other places.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


All of this ignores that corporations slip through tax loopholes that individuals at any tax bracket get dinged on, while also maintaining "personhood" when it comes to political donations. These arguments--making individual tax payers scrapple over who pays more crumbs--does nothing but distract from the Kochs and other plutocrats who play fast and loose with legal definitions and taxes to their own personal and political ends.

Regardless, it remains true that the tax system is regressive. Even though the poorest pay the least on paper, they pay the most as a percentage of their meager earnings, especially when you figure in sales tax and vice taxes.
posted by readymade at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2015


readymade: Even though the poorest pay the least on paper, they pay the most as a percentage of their meager earnings, especially when you figure in sales tax and vice taxes.

It's actually not, as the chart I linked above shows. The bottom 20% pay less than the next 20%, and so on, until you get to the top 1% who pay less than the 4% below them. There are individual taxes that are highly regressive, including sales tax, etc. but when you look at all taxes as a percentage of all income (including transfers) the poor do get a break -- not nearly as large a break as I would give them if I were in charge, but the tax code itself isn't regressive by any definition of the term I'm familiar with.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree, even if the rich are morally more culpable, the upper middle class keeps the rich on top. And the upper middle class is a softer target.

I favor automating, crowd sourcing, etc. all the managerial, administrative, etc. jobs that produce an elite who're both believe they earned it while also subconsciously recognizing their vulnerability due to not possessing any real skills.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


how do you think about gentrification or NIMBYism in places like Manhattan/Brooklyn or SF/Oakland/Silicon Valley?

As far more complicated than the simple matter of supply versus demand that Salam would suggest that it is.

Yes, I think NIMBYism is a problem (I, for one, welcome the Upper East Side waste transfer station). And I agree that we need to take into account the way that environmental and zoning regulations adversely impact lower-income individuals.

But unlike Salam, I don't think most affluent people would prefer to live in condos in Manhattan, especially given the steeper prices that plenty of people pay to live in brownstone Brooklyn. And given the ridiculous vacancy rates at midtown condo developments, I don't think eliminating regulations and allowing unfettered condo growth is any kind of solution.

Plus, in hating on the latte-swilling near-rich, Salam ignores the role played by the real estate industry and its multimillion-dollar lobbies. In truth, NYC hasn't seen a self-interested tightening of regulations in favor of kale-eaters, but a lobby-driven loosening of height and zoning restrictions in neighborhood after neighborhood. He would have you believe that pretentious Whole Food shoppers are asking for changes, when, in actuality, the developers of his beloved condo towers are the ones demanding that rules to be bent in their favor—and getting their way.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:25 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


t corb, I didn't suggest any of that. All I'm saying is that being unaware of your own privilege due to wealth is harmful to society. It's like white guys saying "well I had a hard life, ergo I don't have privilege compared to minorities."

Blind spots like that have consequences.
posted by Ferreous at 3:30 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Our culture of personal freedomsis what is going to destroy us.

I think a lot of people confuse arbitrary preferences and whims and conveniences for personal freedom these days, but historically, we had a culture that recognized personal freedoms come tightly bound to personal responsibilities, so in return for the freedom, there was an expectation you'd exercise it judiciously. Now the expectations are so screwed up people literally argue that it's self-censorship to exercise restraint and good judgment begore you speak. It's not personal freedom but this theoretical freedom on steroids people have come to expect that's the issue.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:32 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Dude, you need a better accountant.

That is average of course, I do pay an effective rate of a little over 40% because I live in a high tax state and have no real deductions other than the federal deduction for state income tax. (No mortgage, etc). And all of my income is either salary or short-term capital gains, etc.

A married person with a house and some long-term capital gains would pay significantly less on the same income.

But really, 40% is not a big deal. I find it hard to believe anyone who is paying that much has any real hardship.

There are probably a few weird edge cases I'm not taking into account, but it would be pretty rare.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:34 PM on February 4, 2015


There's no such thing as a leveling mechanism that preserves everyone's gains.

Unions and labor law and progressive taxation and a tax on capital. Even the ultra-wealthy wind up winning out because the standards of living rise for them as rapidly as it does for those they gave up some of their (unused and hoarded) wealth, providing them with luxuries and services they could not attain for any amount of money before. It's not like this is crazy talk - it's been tried in the USA, and the change in velocity for the average American from FDR to Reagan, and from Reagan to now, is obvious, and stands in sharp and bitter contrast to the Scandinavian nations.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


The Bay Area on the whole is a case study in how liberalism - and I mean specifically liberalism, rather than socialism/leftism - fails in practice

If this is failure can you please show me success? The Bay Area has a lot of problems, yes, but many of them are the problems of a successful urban area. Not to mention you've lumped thousands of square miles as one monolithic entity and cherry picked examples to make it seem like the whole place is falling apart.

And honestly, the Build Baby Build SF chorus is getting old. There's lots of areas in the Bay Area that can grow relatively easily, and much of SF's growth is doing so in ways that do strongly impact neighborhoods, and neighborhoods that are already reeling from too quick gentrification.
posted by aspo at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]




There's lots of areas in the Bay Area that can grow relatively easily

The problem seems to be that nowhere wants to build. SF doesn't want to, Mountain View doesn't want to, none of the Silicon Valley cities do... they want to build office space and let other cities build the housing.

(I got the hell out of SF years ago, but since I work in tech it comes up all the time).

(And tech companies in LA pay the same as SF, but while LA is expensive, it's nothing compared to SF).
posted by thefoxgod at 3:48 PM on February 4, 2015


And given the ridiculous vacancy rates at midtown condo developments, I don't think eliminating regulations and allowing unfettered condo growth is any kind of solution.

On the contrary - the 50% vacancy rate indicates why building more is a solution!

If people are willing to pay property taxes in your city without actually using services, that's great. It only becomes a problem if there isn't enough housing for everyone.
posted by ripley_ at 3:57 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And the answer for both is that it is largely to stand in front and look respectable while in the back the "capitalists" liquidate the business. The reason US CEO's are paid so much is because American capital has been liquidating/looting American business on a large scale. The bigger the theft, the more you have to pay the cover to keep things looking respectable and most of the cons the "Bain Capital" class run take a while to hit maximum payoff.

Yeah, I thought about this, too, and I think it's probably more important to the discussion than the thing I suggested, but I decided my analysis applies to these "front" people, too, for trivial reasons, namely that nobody getting paid that high a salary isn't also investing it and thereby being part of the capitalist class. So, from the (narrow and probably not useful) point of view of pointing fingers at a particular set of people, the shallow analysis I offered suffices.
posted by busted_crayons at 4:02 PM on February 4, 2015


providing them with luxuries and services they could not attain for any amount of money before.

Like what, exactly?
posted by corb at 4:04 PM on February 4, 2015


much of SF's growth is doing so in ways that do strongly impact neighborhoods

When dealing with decades of pent-up demand, that's not especially surprising. The impact on neighbourhoods would be lessened if the Bay Area had been able to grow gradually - but instead most neighbourhoods (and especially Silicon Valley) were frozen in amber.
posted by ripley_ at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2015


I am a photographer, my wife is a school teacher and we are solidly lower-middle class. I currently have zero retirement because I had to cash it in during the down turn. We're finally digging our way out of debt and are within a year of being college loan and car loan free. The last few years have been a roller coaster ride financially and I still don't feel confident we won't see another plunge. But the one thing we've done is save for our daughter's college education with a 529 plan and now this dick hole thinks my wife and I are the problem?! We have about 3 years of state school tuition squirreled away and it's one of very few tax shelters we've been able to take advantage of and now we should give that up too?

I can not say this more plainly: GO FUCK YOURSELF. Our "middle-class" world has been under attack for the last 14 or so years by republicans (and wall street) who think the 1% don't have enough tax breaks and don't control enough of the world's wealth. I thought Obama was high when I read he suggested eliminating 529 plans.

How about this: you can eliminate 529's when you socialize the public university systems in this country so everyone who wants a college degree can get one without going into $50k worth of debt.
posted by photoslob at 4:34 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is factually incorrect. Many Bloomberg rezonings were downzonings.

I don't deny that downzonings exist, but even according to the study that your Capital NY article is citing (which only includes data for 2003-2007, btw), upzoning well outweighed downzoning:
Even though they made up only 14% of all the rezoned lots in the City, the new residential capacity added to upzoned lots outweighed the capacity lost from lots that were downzoned or contextual-only rezoned. As a result, the net effect of these rezonings was to increase the City’s total residential development capacity “on paper” by about 1.7%. This represents almost 100 million additional square feet of residential development capacity—or enough space, at least “on paper,” for about 80,000 new units or 200,000 new residents.
Plus, the downzonings you're bringing up? They aren't exactly taking place in charcuterie board and Baby Bjorn central. Ozone Park is a far-flung neighborhood with a median income of a little over $40k—that's $10k below the median income for the city as a whole. Is an entrenched lower-to-middle middle-class white population using downzoning to keep out immigrants? It might be! But raising the specter of schmancy upper-middle-class Manhattanite boogeymen, as Salam does, only turns attention away from that conversation.

So, yeah, I think Salam's article is overly simplistic, and I don't think deregulation in the form of upzoning is an adequate solution. Or, as that same Capital NY article said,
But, in practice, just saying “we should build more” is not enough, especially if the goal is to make cities affordable. More than 180,000 new units of housing were built from 2002 to 2011—the vacancy rate has actually inched up—and the city has not gotten cheaper.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:35 PM on February 4, 2015


Like what, exactly?

Less fear they will be eaten, for one thing. Priceless.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


providing them with luxuries and services they could not attain for any amount of money before.

Like what, exactly?


A hugely more educated labor force, for one.
posted by Etrigan at 4:48 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If people are willing to pay property taxes in your city without actually using services, that's great. It only becomes a problem if there isn't enough housing for everyone.

There isn't enough housing for everyone, and a disproportionate amount of the development taking place—particularly when it comes to higher-rise developments—is geared toward foreign buyers seeking investment properties, and not local individuals seeking residencies. As such, those apartments aren't increasing supply in the general market for residents and prices aren't going down.

And property taxes? Thanks to a 10-to-25-year abatement program, not so much.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:50 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a photographer, my wife is a school teacher and we are solidly lower-middle class. I currently have zero retirement because I had to cash it in during the down turn. We're finally digging our way out of debt and are within a year of being college loan and car loan free. The last few years have been a roller coaster ride financially and I still don't feel confident we won't see another plunge. But the one thing we've done is save for our daughter's college education with a 529 plan and now this dick hole thinks my wife and I are the problem?! We have about 3 years of state school tuition squirreled away and it's one of very few tax shelters we've been able to take advantage of and now we should give that up too?

The problem is not that you and people like you are putting money into 529s hand over fist - it's that very few people like you are actually able or willing to do so. The results is that the very large majority of the people who are putting money into 529s are upper-middle class people, who are able to shield a lot of their income from taxes in this manner. So if you're putting $30,000 into a 529, the rich guy over there is putting 10 times that in. The end result is a regressive tax system, where the rich are able to shield more of their income from taxes, while the middle class are unable to do so. In the end, this drives up college costs for everyone, as that money has to go somewhere. I think 529s are regressive in outcome, even if not in intent, and I say that as someone whose household is in the top 5% of incomes and who fully intends to fund 529s for her future children. Still not good policy.
posted by peacheater at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


All of Reihan Salam's columns read the same:

The liberals are absolutely right about this and this and this ...
The conservatives are absolutely wrong about this and this and this ...

And then you come to the punchline: "And that's why I vote Republican."

It sounds like an Aristocrats joke.
posted by JackFlash at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Six pale white faces in the photo at the top of the page ... "I felt that it was inevitable that I would live among them" (without being one of them, is the clear implication) ... "The influence of [the ultrarich] is considerable, no doubt. Yet the upper middle class collectively wields far more influence." OK, enough, this guy has already forfeited my sympathy.

"Take away the mortgage interest deduction from a Koch brother and he’ll barely notice." So let's do that, then. But I think he would very much notice.

Clickbait and, as ennui.bz noted upthread, a whole lot of "let's you and him fight". Meh.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 5:15 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


a disproportionate amount of the development taking place—particularly when it comes to higher-rise developments—is geared toward foreign buyers seeking investment properties

Patience, patience....
posted by IndigoJones at 5:19 PM on February 4, 2015


Meanwhile the truly wealthy have the resources and power to truly guide national taxation policies while the rest of America is apparently being told that the real reason they are suffering is because of the professional class making between 250-400K. If those fuckers would only cough up 60 or 70% of their income instead of 50%, the problems of the working poor would vanish.

this is a myth - the simple truth is if you want to help the bottom 50% the way people seem to want them to be helped, you're not going to do it just by increased taxes on the top 1% or 10% - no, the top 50% are going to all have to make some sacrifices - there won't be enough money to do it otherwise

increase the minimum wage? - fine, but you'll be paying more for things

guaranteed national income? single payer health care? better roads? better schools? college educations for all those who want them?

fine, but it's going to cost us all money and lessened lifestyles to do it, not just the rich
posted by pyramid termite at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like what, exactly?

Medicine and technology, which require mass markets of consumers with disposable income. Economies of scale work best when wealth distribution is flatter.

Take, for instance, Space Tourism. It was a Dumb Idea. It was putting the cart before the horse. The wealthy elite aren't prepared to fork over enough capital to make space hotels viable. Yet, something happened just this week that will probably make space hotels viable.

You know what's going to make it possible for the ultra rich to vacation in orbit?

Mass market satellite internet. Google sunk major capital into SpaceX, because they want high-bandwidth, low-latency internet access available for every last advertising demographic on the planet. This is made possible by rising standards of living in developing countries where it's difficult to deploy fixed telecommunications infrastructure for one reason or another. The follow on effects will be the tech capable of maintaining infrastructure in space, which means space factories for better medicines and materials for cooler gadgets they could not (or wouldn't think to) have commissioned or purchased with their individual wealth.

If wealth distribution looks like a very fat diamond, the wealth is concentrated at the middle, where it will have the most velocity due to network effects and economies of scale. More stuff happens faster... think of the technology arc from Hoover to Reagan. We kinda slammed into a wall at that point, where change is incremental and evolutionary, because the velocity of commerce has slowed as wealth distribution became top heavy, a golf-T rather than a fat diamond.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Ah ha, here's the 529 tax loophole. So they're not tax deductible, but there are basically no contribution limits and the growth of the contributions is tax-free. And if you're the kind of moneybags that actually has to worry about the estate tax (multiple millions in assets), this is a way to avoid it. Yeah, I can see why Obama might be interested in tightening this up, it's nowhere near as controlled as, say, the various defined-contribution retirement plans (even 401(k) tops out at $17,500/year in contributions and the deduction phases out somewhere around 100k/year income).
posted by indubitable at 5:36 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


it's [529] one of very few tax shelters we've been able to take advantage of and now we should give that up too?

Very few tax shelters? Have you and your spouse maxed out your Roth IRAs? Have you and your spouse maxed out your 401(k)s?

If you haven't maxed out your Roth IRAs, in most cases you would be better off putting your savings there instead of a 529 because it has all the same tax advantages as the 529 and you can spend the contributions on whatever you need to, not just education.

As James Kwak pointed out, the 529 is really only of benefit to those whose incomes are so high that they have literally maxed out contributions to all of their IRAs and all of their 401(k)s.
posted by JackFlash at 5:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Two points, evidenceofabsence:

1) You're focusing on supply without considering how it interacts with demand. If housing supply increased but prices went up, the logical conclusion is that demand also increased. Not hard to believe in a place like NYC, which is why "Housing supply increased but so did prices" doesn't do much for me as an argument.

2) The very wealthy can, and do renovate existing housing if new housing isn't available. Preventing new luxury housing from going up isn't going to make them disappear from NYC - absent other policies, it's going to make them bid up prices for other housing.

You're right about the Bloomberg rezonings not being uniformly downzonings, thanks. Ed Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko have an excellent paper titled "Why is Manhattan So Expensive?" that goes over many other legal barriers to building in ritzier NYC neighbourhoods - I should have cited that instead.
posted by ripley_ at 5:44 PM on February 4, 2015


529 is really only of benefit to those whose incomes are so high that they have literally maxed out contributions to all of their IRAs and all of their 401(k)s.

Or don't qualify, Roths become unavailable once you make over $131,000 [or $193k for married couples] (certainly good income, but far from 1%er).

Unlike Roths, 529s are not capped or limited to more middle class-ish people.

(401ks have no income cap, but contributions are capped so the propotion of your income you can shelter that way is reduced as income goes up)
posted by thefoxgod at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2015


the various defined-contribution retirement plans (even 401(k) tops out at $17,500/year

Actually its much higher than that. In 2015 you can contribute up to $53,000 (each spouse) to a 401(k) plan including after-tax contributions that can later be rolled into a Roth IRA. Each spouse can put an additional $5,500 ($6,500 if over age 50) into their IRAs. Altogether a high income household can put away up to $116,000 each year in tax-advantaged savings before they even begin to think about a 529 plan.

The 529 provides benefits mostly for very high income households.
posted by JackFlash at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2015


Okay, here's the thing, even if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you're still getting good schools, get to live in a great city, a two hour daily commute isn't that out of the ordinary and you state you're living comfortably. Many more people than you are doing all the same routine, but with none of the benefits.

If you don't realize the immense lead you have over most people then you are part of the problem.


Again, unapologetic. I realize, actually, stated that I'm comfortable...please explain to me how I'm part of the problem.

I could move, live someplace that I don't want to live, be miserable and give up. We don't want to do that.

I am not complaining, I just don't see why I should be apologetic or why my family is considered part of the problem. We work hard, we take advantage of what benefits we qualify for. We don't live extravagant lives.
posted by Chuffy at 6:25 PM on February 4, 2015


Roths become unavailable once you make over $131,000.

Not really. Anyone can make a non-tax deductible contribution to a traditional IRA and then convert it to a Roth IRA the next day with no additional tax (with certain pro-rata considerations that may not apply). The Roth IRA income limit was effectively removed by the Bush 2006 tax reforms. The income limits no longer mean anything.
posted by JackFlash at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2015


I cannot even fathom the mindset that can find fault with a college savings plan. Unfuckingbelievable. Tax shelter? Give me a break. Whoever is using these is doing so out of a very reasonable fear that four years of college could bankrupt them or their child, and that they have zero chance of financial aid. Just looking over this thread confirms that mouthbreathers like Salam need almost nothing to instigate infighting in the one voting bloc that still has a prayer of bringing about change. Bravo.
posted by docpops at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


outside of my white, male privilege that is.
posted by Chuffy at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2015


Anyone can make a non-tax deductible contribution to a traditional IRA and then convert it to a Roth IRA the next day with no additional tax

Ah, a fact thats not clear when you just look up income limits and stuff. I had only vaguely heard about this before, despite being someone who probably should be doing that...
posted by thefoxgod at 6:29 PM on February 4, 2015


The results is that the very large majority of the people who are putting money into 529s are upper-middle class people, who are able to shield a lot of their income from taxes in this manner. So if you're putting $30,000 into a 529, the rich guy over there is putting 10 times that in.

So because the wealthy have found another loop hole in the tax system to shield their earnings from taxation the middle-class should suffer? How about fix the loop hole? Oh yeah, that's right, there's no political will to fix ANY loop holes in our tax system.

If you haven't maxed out your Roth IRAs, in most cases you would be better off putting your savings there instead of a 529 because it has all the same tax advantages as the 529 and you can spend the contributions on whatever you need to, not just education.

Did you miss the part about me cashing out my retirement so we could survive the downturn? I would LOVE to max out an IRA but I'd have to be out of debt to actually make that happen.
posted by photoslob at 6:30 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


So because the wealthy have found another loop hole in the tax system to shield their earnings from taxation the middle-class should suffer? How about fix the loop hole? Oh yeah, that's right, there's no political will to fix ANY loop holes in our tax system.

Changing the 529 system would be the way in which the loophole would be fixed, as Obama proposed.
posted by peacheater at 6:38 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, this Salam guy. He's destroying America! Come the revolution, he's gonna be the first one I put against the wall of my brother's vacation home.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did you miss the part about me cashing out my retirement so we could survive the downturn? I would LOVE to max out an IRA but I'd have to be out of debt to actually make that happen.

That's irrelevant to whether you put money into a 529 vs a Roth tomorrow. The lack of a 529 would not prevent you from saving.

Let's say that you put $3000 into an IRA and $3000 into a 529. In the downturn you spent the $3000 from your IRA leaving you with $3000 in your 529.

How is that any different from putting $6000 into an IRA and spending $3000 of it in the downturn. Either way you are left with $3000. The 529 has nothing to do with your ability to save.

The point is that unless you have a very high income, a 529 is pretty useless. There are other equivalent savings vehicles that are better. Why preserve a 529 program that is only of benefit to the rich?
posted by JackFlash at 6:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are 12 million accounts open with an average of $20,000 in each. Close to 10% of accounts are owned by households with annual income below $50,000, and over 70% of accounts are owned by households with annual income below $150,000, according to the College Savings Foundation

Fucking rich assholes with their tax shelters.
posted by docpops at 6:53 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


outside of my white, male privilege that is.

And this is why I loathe the "privilege" argument when leveled at anyone who isn't actually privileged. No, really, Doctors and Dentists aren't. It's so misunderstood, it's flogged to tatters by either side of the political spectrum, the modern day "Political Correctness" - "privilege" as applied to ordinary people will be a bludgeon used to deny the middle class their due by people far more clever at framing phrasing than we are on the ultra-right, by setting us against ourselves.

tl;dr - In which Metafilter learns that tone arguments are actually good arguments with most people outside our bubble, and that marketing and semiotics are a fucking thing that is studied.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:53 PM on February 4, 2015


Actually its much higher than that. In 2015 you can contribute up to $53,000 (each spouse) to a 401(k) plan including after-tax contributions that can later be rolled into a Roth IRA.

ehhh, only in the somewhat unusual case of the Solo 401(k), which you can only do if you're a sole proprietor.

Ah, a fact thats not clear when you just look up income limits and stuff. I had only vaguely heard about this before, despite being someone who probably should be doing that...

oh yeah, the ol' Backdoor Roth IRA. check it out.
posted by indubitable at 7:05 PM on February 4, 2015


Salam's thesis is bullshit, because he doesn't bother define the class he's talking about using income percentiles.

This is a perfect illustration of Americans' general lack of understanding of "social class" and what constitutes it. It's not about income as much as it is certain other things. If you're a professional with a university degree who works for a salary rather than a wage and inhabits a social and cultural milieu largely defined by people like yourself, then you're probably upper middle class. "Middle class" doesn't mean "middle of the income distribution". It refers to the social class intermediate between the upper classes and the working class and poor, which consists of professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and so on) and managers. American politicians have been extremely successful at telling everyone they're middle class, though, to the point where "middle class" has become next to useless as a descriptive socioeconomic term (which was probably the desired effect; class consciousness is a prerequisite for socialism, which never really took off in the USA).

over 70% of accounts are owned by households with annual income below $150,000

$150K a year in household income is the 89th percentile (and 100K is the 81st percentile). If a majority of those 70% are concentrated in that band? Then they represent part of the top 20% of households by income.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are 12 million accounts open with an average of $20,000 in each. Close to 10% of accounts are owned by households with annual income below $50,000, and over 70% of accounts are owned by households with annual income below $150,000, according to the College Savings Foundation

A textbook illustration of how to lie with statistics, courtesy of, no surprise, Forbes Magazine.

Those 10% of accounts owned by households below $50,000 have an average value of less than $3000, saving them nearly zero in taxes. They would be better off putting their savings in an IRA where they wouldn't be ripped off by the outrages fees charged by 529 custodians.

That $20,000 average, again, is misleading. The top 5% have over $100,000 in their accounts and the next 5% over $30,000. Everyone else -- very little.
posted by JackFlash at 7:10 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pseudonymous Cognomen: This is a perfect illustration of Americans' general lack of understanding of "social class" and what constitutes it

No, you (an Salam) are just choosing to emphasize the socio- part of socio-economic, while most people understand that money talks and bullshit walks. A software developer who makes $28k a year isn't middle class, and a self-employed want-to-be novelist who inherited millions from his parents isn't, either.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:15 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


And this is why I loathe the "privilege" argument when leveled at anyone who isn't actually privileged.

Sorry, but you know, if you're white, male, straight, and cisgender you're privileged in quite a number of ways relative to people of colour, women and LGBT. You're probably not going to be threatened with rape for expressing an opinion online, for instance. You're probably not going to be stopped by the police when you're not doing anything. You can probably go into a shop without having the sales staff eyeing you nervously and shadowing you. You can probably walk home at night without too much worry that something's going to happen to you. You can probably walk down a city street without having to worry about random assholes coming up to you and telling you to smile. You can probably send out a resume and not worry that you won't get called back because your name is Tyrone or Shanté. Et cetera. Just because you apparently don't actually understand the concept of "privilege" in a sociological context doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and isn't a real thing.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:16 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Forbes took that stat from the College Savings Foundation. Also, don't discount the psychological value of creating a "holding tank" for money to keep it from being spent on other expenses. It's the primary rationale for setting up a savings account of any sort. I suspect more people would use 529's if more people even used any sort of savings vehicle. Most of the people I work with wouldn't know how to set up a basic IRA if our CFO didn't do it for them.
posted by docpops at 7:18 PM on February 4, 2015


In 2015 you can contribute up to $53,000 (each spouse) to a 401(k) plan including after-tax contributions that can later be rolled into a Roth IRA.

ehhh, only in the somewhat unusual case of the Solo 401(k), which you can only do if you're a sole proprietor.


Nope, the same maximum contribution limits apply to all 401(k) plans. Your employer may have some unique restrictions, but it would not because of tax law.
posted by JackFlash at 7:20 PM on February 4, 2015


No, you (an Salam) are just choosing to emphasize the socio- part of socio-economic, while most people understand that money talks and bullshit walks.

Historically, for thousands of years, class has not been defined by money but by professions or lack thereof - and its societal acceptibility. Yes, the software engineer making 28K is as poor, income wise, as the janitor making 28K, but which one is going to have an easier time of class mobility? Which one is going to have an easier time finding a date in a higher socioeconomic bracket? Which one is more likely to pal around with someone who will ultimately be able to give him a better job?
posted by corb at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


We're not 17th century France here. Yes, social connections matter, but money can buy a lot of social connections.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:37 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


don't discount the psychological value of creating a "holding tank" for money to keep it from being spent on other expenses.

So you are saying that you favor a 529 plan that just happens to save high income households tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and saves low income people near zero, because a "holding tank" is good for their discipline? Could you be any more condescending?

An IRA is no more difficult to set up than a 529, and people are less likely to be ripped off by fees.
posted by JackFlash at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just because you apparently don't actually understand the concept of "privilege" in a sociological context doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and isn't a real thing.

I am acutely aware of my white, male privilege. Written extensively about it. Not gonna lie, being aware of it doesn't mean shit. The people who deny it exists think I'm a loon and the people who do know it exists and are not in the same boat think I'm an asshole, just for being who I am. OK, I acknowledge my privilege. What now? Did that help? I'm sorry I was born white. Did that help? I do the best I can, and here we are, discussing privilege on a web site.
posted by Chuffy at 7:59 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


We're not 17th century France here. Yes, social connections matter, but money can buy a lot of social connections.

Not as many as the advantages conferred by things like being able to afford a "good" university, membership in a fraternity/sorority, membership in country clubs/golf clubs/et cetera. That kind of social support network (even just the alumni/fraternity/sorority thing) is still very largely a thing that's a marker of upper-middle-class status, and having those sorts of connections to draw on is more predicative of success than just having a college degree. (The value in an Ivy League education, for instance, isn't just in having a degree from Harvard or Yale but in the connections one makes while getting it.)
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I cannot even fathom the mindset that can find fault with a college savings plan.

I can find fault with it. I can find lots of fault with it! Spending federal money (in larger tax refunds) to subsidize wealthier people going to college makes no sense. You could spend the same federal money on direct subsidization through tuition reduction that benefits all students instead of better-off ones. Or you could spend the same federal money on direct financial aid to students to benefit the students with greater need. Either makes way more sense than spending it to defray some of the costs of better-off families to the exclusion of worse-off ones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:45 PM on February 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I came up with a phrase yesterday to describe a facet of San Francisco's NIMBY liberalism: "Development Derangement Syndrome". We've had so much opposition to building more housing here because of concerns about "Manhattanization" or similar nonsense that's code for "if you build more houses, my view will be obscured and my property values will go down".

There's more to this than this. From what i've seen and heard, that's a component, but it's also about just not allowing more people. It's a "go home, we're full" thing. More people there would make it uncool, and make it less exclusive, and "ruin the feel". It's not so much about the view as the idea that letting more people in would let more people who don't "get it" in, but also just that increasing the density would innately change it or... something.
posted by emptythought at 9:02 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Either makes way more sense than spending it to defray some of the costs of better-off families to the exclusion of worse-off ones.

You're right, of course. Congress clearly plans to take the millions in tax breaks from 529's and immediately reduce college tuition across the country.
posted by docpops at 9:07 PM on February 4, 2015


Not as many as the advantages conferred by things like being able to afford a "good" university

...which costs money...

membership in a fraternity/sorority

...which, if you're talking about the "elite" social fraternities, sororities, and secret societies, likely means you come from money...

membership in country clubs/golf clubs/et cetera.

...which costs money...

Yes, income and wealth are different things, so boiling class down to just income is admittedly a shorthand that doesn't capture the fact that some people come from wealthy families even when they don't have an independent income stream. Still, for the most part, the things you seem to be trying to pass off as social factors are themselves correlated with money. There are exceptions, of course, but the strong correlation between Gini coefficient and inter-generational earnings elasticity does not appear to be an accident.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:14 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jesus, America. How do you even put on pants in the morning?

You devote an unfathomable amount of energy to pointing fingers at whoever for what's wrong with your country. Maybe just shut up and get on to making it better.
posted by dry white toast at 9:18 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Maybe just shut up and get on to making it better.

Oh, shit, why didn't we think of that?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:19 PM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's some transformative POTUS material there.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:21 PM on February 4, 2015


You're focusing on supply without considering how it interacts with demand. If housing supply increased but prices went up, the logical conclusion is that demand also increased.

Which is why framing it as a simple matter of supply versus demand doesn't work, and why simply increasing housing stock, without regard to what kind of housing is going in, isn't a great solution. Which was my point. Not all housing is equal.

it's going to make them bid up prices for other housing

As ridiculous as the housing market here is, apartments aren't perfectly fungible goods, and not all housing is equal. We haven't and aren't likely to see a lot of foreign speculation focused around buying non-luxury outer borough low-rise apartments and leaving them vacant. Unsurprisingly, Russian oligarchs aren't all that interested in gifting their daughters long-term renovation projects in Bensonhurst.

The condo towers are investment products that don't particularly contribute to the housing stock of the city (and haven't lowered housing prices), have yet to contribute to the city's tax base, and will be hell to maintain if the city ever contracts again (they are, after all, the opposite of adaptable). They're a prime example of why zoning requirements are about far more than precious kale-nibblers shouting "I got mine."

That Glaeser and Gyourko paper dates back to 2003, surveys the fairly different regulatory and economic environment of the 1980s and 1990s, and, as the title would suggest, is concerned only with the ritzier areas of Manhattan.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:58 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whenever i hear the 'income tax isn't regressive' I start fuming.

Mitt Romney paid 14% taxes in 2011. How can you only pay 14% taxes on your income? By having that income be entirely capital gains. But wasn't he president of Bain capital during that period? Didn't he get paid a salary? Clearly, the books were rigged to make his salary look like capital gains. So his salary was $0.

I think that's what ripley meant by his statement If "income" is how you make money, you're not really in "the 1%".

If you take into account these legal loophole shenanigans then you realize how ridiculous these 'income tax as a percentage of income' charts are.

And Romney was the one making this awful talk about how the 47% are slackers not paying their fair share.

What gets me about this article is how this guy is trying distract from the real slackers at the top and how little taxes they are paying by turning the rest against each other. it is fascinating to read the comments here and realize that for many people this tactic is actually working.
posted by eye of newt at 12:08 AM on February 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


Naw, as a poor guy, I'm down with Tonys' take. seen enough money to know better.

"for the most part, the things you seem to be trying to pass off as social factors are themselves correlated with money."
The explanation why is as succinct.
Interesting article. CO.
posted by clavdivs at 1:10 AM on February 5, 2015


Mitt Romney paid 14% taxes in 2011. How can you only pay 14% taxes on your income? By having that income be entirely capital gains.

Here in Hong Kong, income tax tops out at 15%, before any deductions. Having previously lived in Canada, it is a stark difference in both the rates you pay and the obviousness of the inequality that results. Hong Kong ranks as one of the 'free-est' economies in the world, and it's gini coefficient is also equally high.

Such a tax policy is wonderful for people like me in law or finance, but it is no surprise that there are hundreds of thousands of working and middle class Hong Kongers that would love to emigrate to Canada, but not the reverse.
posted by modernnomad at 4:42 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


there won't be enough money... it's going to cost us all money and lessened lifestyles to do it, not just the rich

yes there is (more than ;) enough money and no it's not going to cost us all! i feel like this is turning into a pet peeve of mine :P maybe the simplest way that i've heard it explained:
To be short of money when there's work to get done is like not having enough inches to build a house. We have the materials, the tools, the space, the time, the skills and the intent to build ... but we have no inches today? Why be short of inches? Why be short of money?
the Hipcrime Vocab: Crazy Leftist Policies (from a UK perspective)
The welfare state and the NHS, perfectly affordable when the country was desperately poor after the war are, we are told, mysteriously unaffordable now that the country is infinitely richer. Workers cannot expect proper wages, or indeed wages at all, or proper conditions of tenure, or pensions, or employment rights, because, again it is said, there are millions more workers waiting to do their jobs more cheaply. The state, which has for years done an invaluable job of providing a much-needed safety net for the poor, is again for reasons never once explained going to be healthier when it is starved to a point when it can no longer help anyone. Public broadcasting and public art, which have done so much to enrich tens of millions of lives, will apparently be so much more purposeful when they are slimmed down so they can reach none.
as SRW says: "On 'impossible', 'utopian' policies we have tried successfully before, and then forgotten they are even possible."

also btw, re: housing...
-one out of every three millennials in Silicon Valley lives with their parents
-The Simple Reason Millennials Aren't Moving Out Of Their Parents' Homes: They're Crushed By Debt: "4% inflation would help redistribute wealth from rich old people to struggling young people."
posted by kliuless at 6:11 AM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


eye of newt: Whenever i hear the 'income tax isn't regressive' I start fuming.

Mitt Romney paid 14% taxes in 2011. How can you only pay 14% taxes on your income?


Mitt Romney is one data point. Regressive has a reasonably well-understood meaning that requires looking at the entire distribution, not just the outliers at the top, who I agree we don't tax nearly enough. The simple fact is that if you select a representative sample of people and chart it by income, the rates go up as you go up in income. Yes, there are discontinuities, especially at the top, but it does no good to insist on redefining progressive and regressive to make your point.

The merits of your argument are strong enough on their own. We do need to increase taxes on the wealthy, but we can do so without making easily-debunkable arguments for rhetorical effect.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2015


tonycpsu, to me the 'outliers at the top' are the whole point. You can't just wave your hands and pretend that they don't count.
posted by eye of newt at 8:23 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't just wave your hands and pretend that they don't count.

Yes, that's clearly what I'm doing:

In my ideal world, the top 1% bracket shown in the link I posted would be higher than the next 4% bracket, which would in turn be higher than the next 5% bracket, and on and on.

when you look at all taxes as a percentage of all income (including transfers) the poor do get a break -- not nearly as large a break as I would give them if I were in charge

For fuck's sake, I'm on your side here.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let me back up my previous statement with data; The richest of America’s rich -- the top 0.1 percent with at least $20 million in net wealth -- held 23.5 percent of all U.S. wealth in 2012 after adding in estimates of how much was hidden in offshore tax havens, said Zucman, a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley..

Yes, if you look at the number of people, they are outliers. But if you look at the actual amount of money, it is almost 1/4 of all the money. These are not outliers. Yet I'm pretty sure that none of them are on the progressive income tax chart. That chart is almost completely irrelevant when you look at where a large percentage of money is increasingly concentrated.
posted by eye of newt at 8:45 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now you're just moving the goalposts. I am aware of who has the money.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:48 AM on February 5, 2015


Now you're just moving the goalposts. I am aware of who has the money.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:48 AM on February 5 [+] [!]


Your comments don't seem to demonstrate this at all. You seem extremely interested in getting more money out of people who already give shitloads of their income into the tax system while ignoring what was posted just upthread by eyeofnewt. There is a massive, massive pool of wealth sitting idle that was not acquired through work that is being left untaxed or nearly so.
posted by docpops at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


You seem extremely interested in getting more money out of people who already give shitloads of their income into the tax system

Where? Where do I seem interested in this?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:27 AM on February 5, 2015


yes there is (more than ;) enough money and no it's not going to cost us all!

so you're talking about printing more money - after which, inflation kicks up and we all end up paying more for things, just like i said

as far as eyeofnewt's wealth is concerned - how liquid is that wealth? - can you put it on the market to turn it into money without causing a great downturn in value?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 AM on February 5, 2015


so you're talking about printing more money - after which, inflation kicks up and we all end up paying more for things, just like i said

Is that you, Peter Schiff?

The fed has quintupled its balance sheet, while inflation has remained well below the Fed's target of 2%.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 AM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


but is the money in general circulation among the people or is it just sitting idle in a bank somewhere? or are the banks using it to prop up the stock market and creating new bubbles? - i'm well aware that the government is printing up money - i'm also well aware that you and i aren't getting any of it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:41 AM on February 5, 2015


But, wait, I thought the problem was inflation.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


actually, there are all sorts of problems going on now - and a stock market bubble is a kind of inflation, isn't it? - (and then there's trillions and trillions of dollars in derivatives) - magic money that exists until it doesn't, i guess

in any case, it seems as though we're printing "inches" but not measuring anything with them - it sounds like the worst of both worlds
posted by pyramid termite at 9:54 AM on February 5, 2015


the things you seem to be trying to pass off as social factors are themselves correlated with money.

Not really - they're associated with once having had money. So that 28K guy doing software development that you're insisting isn't privileged - if his parents were wealthy, and he wants to join the country club, they're not going to be looking at him and saying "Whoa, this loser only has 28K," they're going to be saying, "Oh, Jim and Martha's son? Of course, m'boy!" Same thing with the fraternities and sororities. If your grandfather endowed a fraternity on a campus, it doesn't matter if your dad gambled all your money away and you yourself are working a low-wage (but classy) job - you're still getting into that fraternity.

If you're making 28K, but your family has a big home with lots of spare rooms that they let you live in, you are doing markedly better - and can operate at a higher social class - than the guy making 28K who has to cram into a public housing apartment, or have three equally poor roommates in an unfashionable part of town.
posted by corb at 10:00 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


corb: they're associated with once having had money

I acknowledged that social factors matter, but not to the extent that money does. The fact that your counter-argument acknowledges the impact of money on those cultural factors supports my point.

Jim and Martha's son will get a leg up, but his kids likely won't unless he manages to become wealthy himself. And he certainly won't be considered part of a particular social class just because he has a business card with a particular job title on it.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:05 AM on February 5, 2015


And sorry, pyramid, you're changing arguments so quickly that I have no idea what you're on about.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


i'm explaining what's going on - if the money printed goes to the general economy, you get inflation - if it goes to banks and speculators you get bubbles
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 AM on February 5, 2015


i'm explaining what's going on - if the money printed goes to the general economy, you get inflation - if it goes to banks and speculators you get bubbles

Bubbles happen regardless of what the Fed does -- it certainly wasn't increasing the monetary base on a large scale back when the subprime real estate bubble was being inflated.

Meanwhile, stock prices are reported in nominal (non inflation-adjusted) terms, so people see rising stock prices and assume bubble when with all other things being equal, we would expect stock prices to be rising along with the inflation rate. This is especially true in a recovery -- money was drained from the stock market so people could pay their bills and stay in their homes, and now that we're recovering, that money is being redirected back to the stock market.

There's really no evidence of a massive bubble in asset prices right now. Is there gambling in the stock market? Sure. Will some of those prices crash? Certainly. Was it ever thus? Of course.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:21 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


he certainly won't be considered part of a particular social class just because he has a business card with a particular job title on it.

I'm genuinely curious why you believe this? Do you really believe that no jobs have class connotations? That all jobs are socially acceptable? Or for example, that there's no difference between an unemployed person earning 0$ and an intern or 'volunteer staffer' getting 0$?
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know how many times I can acknowledge that the factors you're talking about are relevant, only to be told that they're relevant, before I simply give up and assume you'd rather burn straw men than engage in a substantive argument.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


corb: That all jobs are socially acceptable? Or for example, that there's no difference between an unemployed person earning 0$ and an intern or 'volunteer staffer' getting 0$?

There's a difference, but that difference is still mostly money, as tonycpsu explained above. That intern might be making $0, but their household income is not $0, because someone- probably well-off parents- is bankrolling them.

Yes, all those country club connections you're talking about are important, but they only can happen because someone as access to money either directly or indirectly. Money is the sine qua non of class.
posted by spaltavian at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not really - they're associated with once having had money. So that 28K guy doing software development that you're insisting isn't privileged - if his parents were wealthy, and he wants to join the country club, they're not going to be looking at him and saying "Whoa, this loser only has 28K," they're going to be saying, "Oh, Jim and Martha's son? Of course, m'boy!" Same thing with the fraternities and sororities. If your grandfather endowed a fraternity on a campus, it doesn't matter if your dad gambled all your money away and you yourself are working a low-wage (but classy) job - you're still getting into that fraternity.

Do you really believe that no jobs have class connotations? That all jobs are socially acceptable? Or for example, that there's no difference between an unemployed person earning 0$ and an intern or 'volunteer staffer' getting 0$?

Unless the wealthy parents are also footing his bill for all the dues, donations and other expectations of the country club or fraternity or social set, the impoverished/less wealthy offspring is much more likely to "made the decision" not to participate in that lifestyle. And if you have no funds, the country club will eventually cut you off, the same as the butcher will. "Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations" has been mentioned earlier in this thread.

Unpaid internships are their own separate controversy as these are usually students with parental support ergo the student-aged child is not yet impoverished as there technically is no job to be underpaid at. The only comparison to an underpaid adult is that unpaid internships allow adults to be underpaid.
posted by beaning at 11:00 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know how many times I can acknowledge that the factors you're talking about are relevant, only to be told that they're relevant

It seems like you think they're only relevant with money - that there is no social class in this country if people don't have the money to maintain it. If this is an inaccurate assessment of your views, I apologize.
posted by corb at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2015


The American Conervative: Class Resentment, Class Treason, and Political Consciousness
In other words, you can contextualize the kind of policy criticism Salam is making within a general libertarian critique (government will always be co-opted by those who already have power; here are examples how upper-middle-class professionals use government to shut the gate on the middle class; we need less government so nobody can rig the game that way). Or you can contextualize it within a general left-wing critique (here are examples of how upper-middle-class liberals act to protect their class interests to the detriment of the poor and middle class; we can’t let a left-wing politics be compromised by the need to keep a large and wealthy class on-side just because it makes the right sounds; we need a class-based politics that doesn’t get hijacked by cultural politics). These are both frameworks for talking about how to reduce the political influence of a favored class, and create an opening for new entrants.

But Salam doesn’t make either argument. Instead, he’s says we need to guilt the upper middle class into being a more civically-responsible gentry:
I like this one: the large quotes mean I don't have to click on Slate link.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2015


It seems like you think they're only relevant with money - that there is no social class in this country if people don't have the money to maintain it.

That's a much different way of putting it than your suggestion that I believe "that there's no difference between an unemployed person earning 0$ and an intern or 'volunteer staffer' getting 0$". Of course all things being equal, the well-connected person is going to do better, but many of the social advantages do in fact require money to maintain.

Of course there are some that don't -- I'll always be a white male, so those advantages will remain with me no matter how poor I get -- but when you're talking about things like country clubs and fraternity membership, those things erode over time if the money's not there, and even my advantages as a white male aren't going to get me very far on their own -- just farther than someone who's not a white male.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Family connections might get you into the fraternity or social club, but the manner in which those clubs' members socialize costs a lot of money that someone without disposable income can't participate in, like eating out a lot and going on trips. Your name on the membership list isn't what gets you social support, it's the relationships you cultivate while socializing - which costs substantial money for those who don't have more cash than bills at the end of every month.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2015


I feel this kind of mini-class war. My parents are middle-middle class and I (now an independant adult) am lower-middle class.

The first time another faction of the middle got under my skin was a ways back when I was in college and working for the summer in a coastal resort area. One of my jobs was working the office at a small motel that was converted into individually owned units. I was told to rent the units in order as much as possible (basically unless someone requested a specific unit or floor, rent the next one up in rotation) to make sure all owners got somewhat equal rentals. This one owner, who owned 2 units, used to come in every week and ask me to please push her units, that they have 2 and are having trouble paying for both. After too many of these visits I was just tired of her upper middle woes and told her "I don't feel sorry for you."
posted by WeekendJen at 2:22 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find it strange to target health-care providers with (as OHenryPacey points out) all the overhead they have, and the cost of their education in the first place, and then keeping it up. And then they mostly have limits on their income earning potential, including having gone to work for themselves comparatively late in life. If they get an upper middle class income out of that, more power to them.

The hereditary upper middle class? I totally understand people who first encounter them at school getting a rude shock. They have so many advantages that aren't talked about-- no crippling educational debts; often help buying a home and saving for their own kids' college. Five or ten years out of school you're wondering why you haven't kept up with them. Well, it would be very hard.
posted by BibiRose at 3:38 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems like we've forgotten the word bourgeoise.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


"How about this: you can eliminate 529's when you socialize the public university systems in this country so everyone who wants a college degree can get one without going into $50k worth of debt."

Couple things:

1) 529s refer to a couple of different plans. One allows parents to purchase future in-state tuition at current prices, which I tend to support. The other is the capless tax-exempt savings plan that most people here are talking about.

2) First off, you don't have to go $50k into debt to go to college. If we look at UCLA, and take the highest estimate (on campus residency), it averages about $33k per year. But UCLA students average about $16k in grants each year. That would leave you at $67k for four years (including housing, food, transport, etc.), but you can assume that parents who are in a bracket to benefit from 529s will have some level of savings, and with a job working 10 hours per week (approx. $10k for four years at 2015 Ca. minimum wage at 10 hours per week), along with the additional $10k that Obama was proposing in the AOTC, that's $47k minus whatever savings. Assuming 17 years at current (historically low) interest rates, if you're putting in the $3,000 per year into savings for your kid, you'll be at $54k by the time they're at their freshman year. You'd come out ahead, not be in debt. (Caveats about future college tuition inflation should be obvious, but that's only been about 4% average each of the last 10 years in total, and you can expect some of that to be canceled out by increasing inflation rates in the regular economy.)

And that's ignoring that there are plenty of good schools for far less — CSUN won't cost you anywhere near that amount.

3) Also worth noting: Things like the 529 plans encourage college tuition inflation. If the money's set aside and already has to be spent on education, why not plow it into the best money can buy? And if that raises the ante for everyone else, so much the better with a rivalrous good.
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I am not complaining, I just don't see why I should be apologetic or why my family is considered part of the problem. We work hard, we take advantage of what benefits we qualify for. We don't live extravagant lives."

I don't think you have to be apologetic, but "We work hard, we take advantage of what benefits we qualify for. We don't live extravagant lives" is the same thing that Romney would say. The thing is, though, what benefits you qualify for is a political choice that advantages you over other people, and advantages you over arguably better public policy outcomes. Unfortunately, when you start mentioning things like that, people start thinking it means you should be wearing hair shirts rather than being aware of how policies that benefit you can disadvantage other people, and how they can even actually work against your interests. If you got taxed more, there would likely be more money to put into education budgets so that everyone — including you — would have a better chance at sending their kids to an affordable college. The UC system used to be essentially free for California residents. Cutting taxes for people like you (and people like me, and a good deal more for people above us) has made that impossible to sustain, leaving you having to pay through the nose for college for your kids. Real estate policies that benefit people like you who already own homes have made it essentially impossible for you to afford one. Health care policies that benefit you and people like you have also contributed to the insane price that Americans pay relative to health outcomes.

It's not so much that YOU are part of the problem but the problem is policies that disproportionately benefit you individually in the short run, but are a net drain in the public policy level and on you in the long run. And As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Replace "salary" with "tax rate" and you get to where we are.
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 PM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


I find it strange to target health-care providers with (as OHenryPacey points out) all the overhead they have, and the cost of their education in the first place, and then keeping it up.

Yet industrialized countries around the world -- Canada, UK, Germany, France -- have equal quality healthcare professionals that charge one-half to one-third what U.S. doctors charge and live comfortably.

The U.S. negotiates trade agreements that permit low cost workers around the world to compete with laborers in the U.S. driving down wages, but restrict the foreign competition of highly paid professionals like doctors, lawyers and dentists.
posted by JackFlash at 6:01 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yet industrialized countries around the world -- Canada, UK, Germany, France -- have equal quality healthcare professionals that charge one-half to one-third what U.S. doctors charge and live comfortably.

But the economy of those countries is so different. Now, I think the US system is totally fucked up, for patients and probably for a lot of practitioners too. But within that, I don't begrudge the personal income of the doctors themselves. Or rather, I think those people are a strange symbol of what the author is talking about. Someone doing highly specialized work, on which people depend, and getting a salary for it? Comparing that with people who are making serious money in the financial sector, often to the actual harm of other people, I don't have a problem with doctors.

As an aside, living near a major teaching hospital I've known several doctors who have moved from Canada to the US, specifically to make more money. One of them said, "Getting this degree took six years during which my life was on hold. At this point, I need the money." Although these were mostly academic doctors who were talking about getting a higher salary, not setting up lucrative private practices.
posted by BibiRose at 7:12 AM on February 6, 2015


But the economy of those countries is so different.

How so? Is Canada, where they shop in the same stores, drive the same cars, live in the same sort of houses as the U.S. significantly different. Are the UK, Germany and France so significantly different that you can explain why doctors charge twice or more the fees of U.S. doctors?

Equivalent health care services across the board cost twice as much in the U.S. as the rest of industrialized countries. That's hospitals, medical devices, lab fees, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals and, yes, doctors.

If the U.S. is serious about cutting the cost of healthcare they need to address the reasons for all of these excess charges.
posted by JackFlash at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like looking at the expense of mandatory malpractice insurance?
posted by corb at 11:58 AM on February 6, 2015


Could you be any more right wing talking point?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:04 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like looking at the expense of mandatory malpractice insurance?

Median physician net income is $200,000 after paying malpractice insurance of $11,000. Malpractice insurance does not explain the high fee disparity between countries.
posted by JackFlash at 1:34 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder how this has changed in the past 20 years, especially with regard to attorneys!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:47 PM on February 6, 2015


It's not so much that YOU are part of the problem but the problem is policies that disproportionately benefit you individually in the short run, but are a net drain in the public policy level and on you in the long run. And As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Replace "salary" with "tax rate" and you get to where we are.

I guess it's just a dead horse. I don't see any value in this conversation, really. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I really don't like being compared to Romney, though. My annual salary is less than he spends on horseshoes, and I'm the problem...
posted by Chuffy at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2015


Ain't really the physician's salary though, although student loans and accompanying limiting of the talent pool do help.

In fact, medical costs are largely due to adverse selection, meaning insurance companies and providers fighting administratively. See truecostofhealthcare.org (video)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:18 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"How so? Is Canada, where they shop in the same stores, drive the same cars, live in the same sort of houses as the U.S. significantly different."

Timbits cure cancer, pretty sure.

"I guess it's just a dead horse. I don't see any value in this conversation, really. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I really don't like being compared to Romney, though. My annual salary is less than he spends on horseshoes, and I'm the problem..."

Dude, I tell you you're not the problem so much as policies that benefit you in the short term while harming you in the longterm and you complain that I'm calling you the problem? It's not "damned if you do, damned if you don't," it's "These policies disproportionately benefit people way above your wealth level and disproportionately harm those below it, and being honest about public policy means looking beyond your own short-term self interest."

I mean, fer chrissakes, the extent that you're the problem is directly proportional to your propensity toward letting the word "Romney" distract you from an objective economic appraisal of policies that will end up hurting you through increased costs over the long term while making you think you're coming out ahead in the short term. You're the problem so much as you adopt a blase "damned if you do, damned if you don't" refusal to engage.

And the conversation could be productive, but it requires you to not get all #notalluppermiddleclass in it. That reflexive bourgeois defensiveness ends up hurting you and a lot of other people in the long run. Romney's going to be fine no matter how much college costs and his 529 is a factor in inflating that cost to you. If you want to send your kid to college, you will have far more price sensitivity than he will but you'll be ultimately competing for a similar good and your 529 will not get you anywhere near the benefit that it gets him.

Someone above made the comparison to privilege in other areas, and I think it's moderately useful. For something like sexism, I tend to think that we (dudes) are part of the problem to the extent that we either perpetuate it or don't speak up when it benefits us unfairly. And part of privilege is that it makes it harder for us to see times when it benefits us unfairly — we tend to just think of that as normal.
posted by klangklangston at 10:35 AM on February 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


That reflexive bourgeois defensiveness ends up hurting you and a lot of other people in the long run.

Said aggressive defensiveness was one of the main points behind the original article, and it was nice of Chuffy and docpops to stop by to illustrate it so clearly.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:50 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter - where reflexive bourgeois defensiveness meets reflexive plebeian defensiveness head on.
posted by Chuffy at 5:53 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Sadly no Thomas-Alexandre Dumas   |   Worlds collide for Sci-Fi and LEGO fans Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments