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We are Super Rich.
September 21, 2010 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Earning $250,000 Does Not Make You Rich, Not in My Town. A controversial blog post from a University of Chicago Law professor makes its way around the web as the debates about president Obama's tax plan get louder. "Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich...The problem is, we can’t afford it. Here is why."

A suspicious Berkley Public Policy professor responds. MoJo also weighs in.

The Chicago professor fires back, but ultimately decides to take down his blog (cached link).
posted by windbox (373 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
I could live comfortably for more than 20 years with $250,000.
posted by Memo at 9:26 PM on September 21, 2010 [59 favorites]


I found out about this from a post at Above the law that pissed me off something fierce.

Just because you don't have as much money as you want or think you need doesn't mean you're not rich. Yah, you're not uber wealthy, but you're rich. Deal with it.
posted by Arbac at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2010 [36 favorites]


Yeah, he lost me with the sentence "We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school."

So what you're saying is that you can afford to send your children to private school. Good night, sir.
posted by maryr at 9:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [109 favorites]


Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold...
Without telling us what the combined income actually is, the rest of the figures he tries to shock us with don't really mean anything. There's a big difference between $251K and $500K.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw... In only 4 years they will have burned through 1 mil with nothing to show for it. Pity the wealthy.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [23 favorites]


Even after reading his posting, it is hard to have sympathy here. A family making $250,000 may think that every dollar is as important as it is to someone making $100,000. That extends to the family making $25,000. Let the family that makes $25,000 control the spending of the $250,000 and then I think you'll have a story.
posted by newper at 9:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


DeLong's original post is also good reading: By any standard, they are really rich. But they don't feel rich. They have a cash flow problem.
posted by txsebastien at 9:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [24 favorites]


If you make over $250K and think you can't afford a tax preparer, you're doing it wrong.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:32 PM on September 21, 2010 [42 favorites]


His arguments are not persuasive. He does not understand his audience.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Sorry, if you have (presumably) two cars, a nice house near your work, etc, you are not "just getting by." You are "just getting by" when you've eaten PB&J for more than 60% of your last 10 meals*, you ride the bus, and your voicemail is full of messages from creditors.
* by reason of necessity, not choice. I love PB&J.
posted by sanko at 9:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [56 favorites]


I like how 'caring for our kids education' is equivalent to sending them to private school any more. Kids acting up? Seeming dumb? Ambivalent? Unmotivated? Throw some (more!) money at it and give them the religion while we're at it.

A good education is free for the taking.

Also, they pay nearly half their salaries in federal and state taxes and then don't utilize an accountant why? Seems like a good CPA would pay for themselves, and then some.

Also fucking also, a couple hundred in discretionary spending PER MONTH is low? Expensive taste is expensive, I guess. Damn.
posted by carsonb at 9:36 PM on September 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


Expensive lifestyle is expensive? You don't say!
posted by oinopaponton at 9:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


I (sorta) agree with pkingdesign -- I make decent money and I would actually be quite happy paying a bit more in taxes if I felt that money was going to good services. Let's start with education. I'd easily add 1% to my tax bill if that money would go towards educational services.

If Dingus in the article can't make ends meet on $250,000, he's not being very creative. Yes, any amount of money is "not enough money" if you squander it.
posted by chasing at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Without telling us what the combined income actually is, the rest of the figures he tries to shock us with don't really mean anything. There's a big difference between $251K and $500K.
he tax change he's talking about increase the amount paid on income over $250,000 per year. Which means that they have to be making quite a bit more than $250,000 for it to matter. As others have noted, if you're making more than a quarter million a year and you're not also funneling it straight back into operating costs for a new business, you are rich. Sorry, them's the breaks.
posted by verb at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


GMTA, oino!
posted by carsonb at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2010


I hope his family can find a way to look after the garden and keep the house clean after the tax increase.
posted by doublehappy at 9:40 PM on September 21, 2010 [20 favorites]


So if he's not rich, who would he consider rich? People on $1M a year? People on $5M a year? I can imagine those people writing very, very similar essays. Sure enough, the more money you earn, the easier it is to spend it. And I note that a huge amount of his income is directed to investments; equity on his house? Retirement contributions? Take all that money he is voluntarily investing in himself and add it to his disposable income instead, and a whole different picture comes out. I notice he's not servicing any unsecured debt. And I'm just going to ignore the completely offensive "We're great parents because we send our kids to private school" bullshit...
posted by Jimbob at 9:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


Koran burning, Islam out to get you, socialism, guess what? You can run but you can't hide from your own agenda, GOP. This election's just getting started.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The professor doth protest too much, methinks.

I used to work with someone whose parents lived in Manhattan, and he would describe how they would burn through money out of sheer habit. His favorite example was coffee: Every morning, they would wake up and brew a full pot of coffee. And not Folgers: They bought swanky fresh-ground beans. And every morning, they didn't get past the halfway mark in the pot (because two people can only drink so much coffee over breakfast before leaving for work), so the rest would go right down the sink. Even on the weekend, the coffee would end up going down the sink after breakfast. My coworker calculated that his parents were wasting around $20 a week (or about $1k a year) on coffee alone, because they couldn't be bothered to examine their daily routine.

It's easy to feel like you don't have any money, because it's a slippery slope from something being an indulgence to becoming a habit, to eventually becoming something you feel entitled to, and finally to becoming something it doesn't even occur to you to do without. But that doesn't mean you aren't rich.
posted by belarius at 9:47 PM on September 21, 2010 [61 favorites]


It's also somewhat amusing that he claims to care about his kids so damned much, but speaks with conviction on his apparent desire to make sure the world they enter has either no services, or completely unsustainable public debt.
posted by Jimbob at 9:47 PM on September 21, 2010 [26 favorites]


we are penalized by the tax code because we choose to be married

LOL straight people
posted by hermitosis at 9:48 PM on September 21, 2010 [103 favorites]


Oh, COME ON. Please hold the president responsible for your inability to live within your generous means, why don't you.

Our income isn't anywhere near theirs, but our taxes are often really complicated, and we can afford tax preparers. It costs less than a thousand bucks. What a load of shit.
posted by padraigin at 9:49 PM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the whole "cutting taxes under 200/250k" thing often overlooks that the rate is only rising on marginal income over 200/250. And its a few percent. Most of the people I know that are affected are fine with this. Not all "rich" people are opposed to it, just enough vocal ones.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:49 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I paid $400 for tax prep, and that included my ex-wife's home-based business (which was 90% of the paperwork). It's not some ridiculous luxury, and when you're talking about this kind of money I can't imagine not having a professional at least look my taxes over.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:52 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


But more importantly, what is the theory under which collecting this money in taxes and deciding in Washington how to spend it is superior to our decisions?

It's called democracy, baby.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:56 PM on September 21, 2010 [18 favorites]


This guy and his wife are victims. The villain is the individual (or government entity!) that forced them to have three kids.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:56 PM on September 21, 2010 [20 favorites]


(If my wife and I divorced or were never married, the government would write us a check for tens of thousands of dollars. Talk about perverse incentives.)

Yeah, but in exchange, the government won't threaten to take away your children, keep you from visiting your wife in the hospital, or any other number of other rights that have been taken away from your fellow Americans, you rich, privileged, entitled piece of shit.

Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school.

If you cared so much, you would be happy to pay for public schools with funds that keep the research grants, hospitals, and all the other related entitlement programs going that invariably line your pockets, you rich, privileged, comfortable piece of shit.

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses.

Take the bus or subway and stop watching TV, you rich, privileged, pampered piece of shit.

The (legal) immigrant from Mexico who owns the lawn service we employ will suffer, as will the (legal) immigrant from Poland who cleans our house a few times a month.

Learn to push a lawn mower and pick up after yourself, you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.

The problem with the president’s plan is that the super rich don’t pay taxes – they hide in the Cayman Islands or use fancy investment vehicles to shelter their income.

Stop voting in crooks and doing legal work for corporations and other tax dodgers, you rich, privileged, corrupt piece of shit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:59 PM on September 21, 2010 [172 favorites]


No amount of income will make an obtuse man realize he's rich.

Also, nobody claims to be upper class instead of middle class in the US. Why is that?
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:59 PM on September 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


When I read essays like this, I have to think the guillotines are being sharpened, the lampposts are being readied. I have friends like this, though, who pull in 250K a year and think they're just regular folks who just happen to save a bit better and are a bit more financially savvy than the clerks at Walmart.
posted by maxwelton at 9:59 PM on September 21, 2010 [27 favorites]


I am crying this guy a river. Seriously.

Our family is in a similar financial position to the original author. If not this year, then in the next few years, we'll be looking at the "above $250,000" tax threshold (depends on certain stock values, when we sell, etc).

If we get to the point where we are subject to the tax increase, we will continue to pay our taxes and not whine about it, just like we do now. Which are nowhere near the $100K the professor cites. I will admit we live in a state with no income tax, but significant sales, property and other miscellaneous taxes, and a cost of living comparable to, if not higher than, Chicago's. And we don't have a fancy accountant; my husband does our taxes. Sounds like his planning needs some work. We have two cars, a nice house, I stay at home with our kids (despite the law degree that makes my butt look big, and which we've paid off), and we don't have any debt but our mortgage. We are not yet 40.

We send our school-age kid to private parochial school, and will do the same with our other kids. Not because the public schools here aren't good - they are - but because there are some things like religious education that we want for our kids, and we're willing and able to pay for it. And we still pay school levies and other taxes. Because every child should have a decent education.

This is rambling. I grew up borderline poor/lower-middle-class. My husband grew up pretty solidly middle-middle-class. Compared to where we came from, we know that we are financially in better shape than the vast majority of Americans, and we are so damned grateful for that. We won't be caught whining about paying taxes that help provide the basic services too many people don't have. Now, a bigger defense budget? There, we'll be pissed. But if raising taxes gets more people medical care and safer streets and decent education, by God, we'll deal.

So, STFU, Mr. Professor Dude. Take a look at YOUR priorities, and figure out why you can't make this work so that you're contributing to something other than your discretionary spending.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:01 PM on September 21, 2010 [53 favorites]


Let them eat cupcakes. The ones we get at the French styled market are only $2 each!
posted by notion at 10:03 PM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


"The next time the president comes home to Chicago, he has a standing invitation to come to my house (two blocks from his) and judge for himself whether the Xxxxxxxxxs are as rich as he thinks."

The next time you are in Austin, you have a standing invitation to come by my bungalow (two blocks from a liquor store, a check-cashing place, and someone who has roosters for pets) and judge for yourself how rich you are compared to my broke ass.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:04 PM on September 21, 2010 [66 favorites]


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

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


LOL. These are the assholes who threaten to rule us. Not if I can help it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 PM on September 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm crying crocodile tears for the law professor at the elite university and his physician wife. Oh the humanity!!
posted by Crotalus at 10:07 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: You aren't rich.
posted by showmethecalvino at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2010


Sorry, but seriously: What an asshole. This guy's screed should be reprinted in every newspaper in the country, but I'd wonder if there'd be a revolution if it ever was going to happen. Rich people like him are paying the lowest taxes ever since the early 1900s, and our country's infrastructure is falling apart while he whines about not getting good public services. A pox on that guy and every fiery asshole like him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2010 [26 favorites]


This guy has a serious perception problem. You may not be the richest guy in your neighborhood, but that doesn't make you not rich.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 10:14 PM on September 21, 2010


Nobody thinks they're rich - I'm yet to meet a single person who thinks that. Most people's definition of rich is "Someone earning more money than me".

The only exceptions I've meet are people who have been dirt poor, who are always grateful when they're not. Thankfully, I have been dirt poor myself, so hell yes I'm rich now, and we're on a lot less than him!
posted by smoke at 10:17 PM on September 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


My girlfriend recommends that Dr. Henderson Esq. give up cocaine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:19 PM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


Krugman,"Have You Left No Sense of Decency?": 30 years ago people with high but not super-high incomes generally felt ashamed of themselves for griping — or at least, felt that they would be ridiculed if they gave voice to their gripes. Today, all restraints are off. The fuss over Messrs. Henderson and Stein is the exception that proves the rule: they wouldn’t be providing this spectacle if they didn’t normally swim in social circles where complaining that you only have 9 or 10 times median family income is considered totally acceptable.

Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem.

posted by caddis at 10:20 PM on September 21, 2010 [24 favorites]


The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.
posted by planet at 10:21 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


It doesn't end with this guy, the american upper class is full of this bullshit:

“You should thank God” for bank bailouts, Munger said in a discussion at the University of Michigan on Sept. 14, according to a video posted on the Internet. “Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.”
...
“To say you need tough love sometimes is probably right,” said David Kotok, chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors Inc. He said single mothers are unable to find work and added, “So I think it’s kind of harsh to say, ‘Tough, no help for you.’

posted by peppito at 10:22 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be fair, it is a pretty nice tie.
posted by grouse at 10:25 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Without telling us what the combined income actually is, the rest of the figures he tries to shock us with don't really mean anything. There's a big difference between $251K and $500K.

I recommend reading the article.
posted by John Cohen at 10:25 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This must be one of those ivory tower elite academics everyone keeps telling me I am.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:26 PM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.

You're confused. We only dislike people who have everything, but take it utterly for granted.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:27 PM on September 21, 2010 [38 favorites]


You know what, planet - I don't hate people who have anything. I just don't think it seems right that, by percentage of real income, the family in the article pays less income tax than I do. It doesn't seem just to me to have someone like me paying - by relative comparison - more of the tax base than someone who makes 250 times as much as I do.

Something is horribly wrong in this system, and it has nothing to do with right or left wing. It has to do with just and fair taxation of income and earnings.
posted by strixus at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


I haven't read the article but I don't see how you can argue that it's fair to penalize someone because they chose to get married. Why should an unmarried couple who have kids be taxed differently from a married couple with kids - it's nuts.
posted by zeoslap at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


right before the 2008 election at my old job a friend and i were sitting around, and there was a woman that worked with us who was a staunch republican and thought she was rich because her son apparently was in that bracket, and at one point she had been rich, but somehow her and her husband had lost all their money. Based on her views we thought about and figured out that it would take our whole department, about ten people, a lot of whom were single mothers, to make $250k a year, and we all live in the most expensive city in our state. It really got me thinking how people in my bracket really don't understand money (myself included) and how much more 250k is. A friend of mine makes about three times what i was making there (to the best of my knowledge, exact figures are never discussed) and i consider him rich. Certainly he has nothing he has to worry about financially, and has plenty saved up.

THis guy is saying he's not super rich, but at the same time, in 4 years, his family will have made a million dollars, a feet that would have taken me 40 years (and in all earnestness probably still would, i just have no income at the moment). I get by in the most expensive city in my state, so this person has no shit to talk. Everything he does that cost him money, like the property taxes that go to education he doesn't utilize, is his own fucking fault. Shit i don't have kids because i know i can't afford them. He had a choice, have kids or be filthy fucking rich. He chose kids. IF you don't want to pay taxes go live in the middle of nowhere. Don't complain about the burdens of your life. your taxes still get you roads, traffic lights, street lights, other infrastructure, military and much more.

They closed the department we were in. GM didn't want to pay 250k a year for it, so they moved it to a combination of buenos aires and saginaw michigan (michigan is giving huge tax cuts to anyone who will bring jobs in). I guess GM thought that $250k was a lot of money, especially when they could pay someone else far less to do it(last i heard people in argentina make about $200 a month, and it's considered a great job. No clue what the michganders get paid, but i know they cut our pay ( i had topped out years ago) by almost $2 an hour right after i left). The former rich lady, took a job in the welfare office of all places. Maybe it will change her views, but it's been a year, and for some reason i doubt it has. I went to customer service for a year and then quit to finish school and take an non-paying internship at a film festival, because my life goal is to desperately try and get into an industry with a 50% unemployment rate. Sometimes i feel like i would be fucked either way. Maybe i can become a lawyer and blame all my problems on everyone else as well.

yeah yeah, i know, TL;DR.
posted by djduckie at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


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

This is the right-wing version of the threat to leave for Canada whenever a Republican is elected president.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I read the post at Above the Law. He compares himself to his impoverished buddy who earns a mere 62K a year, and thus is forced to live with random roommates and eat ramen noodles.

Unless the buddy was trying to eke out a feeble existence on the island of Manhattan, there's not really a need for roommates and ramen. What universe do these idiots live in?
posted by jrochest at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


My sister does this. They live in a huge McMansion and also own a house on a lake. She drives an Escalade. She tells me how bad things are for them. They had to lay off the maid and the yard maintence people. They may even have to sell the tanning bed and the hot tub. I can't help it. It makes me laugh. I live in an RV. I drive a 10 year old Chevy Cavalier. I'm not complaining, I'm happy with my life. But, until you take your coffee can full of change to get money to buy groceries, I don't buy it. You aren't hurting.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [53 favorites]


You know, I'm about on track for living on less than $12,000 this year and as such barely pay any taxes. Mr. Professor Man seems to be having a pretty bad time coping with his tax requirements, so I propose a switch of incomes. I'll take the $500,000 a year and its accompanying terrible tax burden, and he can take my $12,000 a year and not have to worry a whit about the government's unfair deductions from his paycheck. It would be a pretty big sacrifice for me but this guy just seems so upset that I'm willing to do it.
posted by schroedinger at 10:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [90 favorites]


Please note that Michael O'Hare teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, not the University of Berkley (which, for legal reasons, "may not conduct business with residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, USA").
posted by clorox at 10:32 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, the guy's second post starts off reasonable, until you see in the comments what exactly he is defending:
Missing the point . . . .

I pay my “gardener,” who just arrived from Mexico, $20 per week to cut my grass etc.

The nanny is a must for two-income couples with kids. Many people have them. Mine is a nice Thai woman who runs it out of her house.

My housecleaner is a dear Polish immigrant who employs dozens just like her. They are much more efficient at this than me, and given we both work and I believe in the principle of comparative advantage regardless, this is again sensible.

As for school, the incompetence of the local schools gives me no choice.

But again, this is not my point. Sure, if my taxes go up, I can fire all these people, but how is society better off?
I had most of these things growing up, and I gotta say...

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by shii at 10:32 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Our income isn't anywhere near theirs, but our taxes are often really complicated, and we can afford tax preparers. It costs less than a thousand bucks. What a load of shit.

I know! Sometimes you can't afford NOT to have a tax preparer. I did some back of the envelope calculations based on the amount of taxes he says he pays ("nearly 100k" to federal and state). And I reckon that either a) his family income is around 300k, or b) he is overpaying on his taxes. I assumed he included payroll taxes in the nearly 100k; the estimated income/estimated tax mistakes goes up quite a bit otherwise.
posted by phoenixy at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Once our outrage runs it's course, maybe we should take the time to be properly terrified of the implications: rich people with salaries aroud $250K who have the same debt to equity ratio and same net cash flow as the family of four trying to get by in $30K. Rich people, living paycheck to paycheck, two months from bankrupcy and having no more financial acumen than your average high school kid. Rich people who are not yet realizing that they've squandered their fortunes on simple - albeit high-end - consumer goods and services.

These rich people are not truly rich because they live poorly.
posted by klarck at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


My household income is in this ballpark. I did not notice the Bush era tax-cut. It did not stimulate me to work harder or spend more. I won't notice the Obama era tax "increase" [sic]. It won't discourage me from working, or spending. Seriously, if you are earning $250k+, and you notice an extra one or two hundred dollars more or less in your paycheck, you are seriously overextended.

As a bleeding heart ~$250k/year liberal, I'm proud and happy to pay every dollar of my taxes.
posted by monotreme at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [40 favorites]


The next time the president comes home to Chicago, he has a standing invitation to come to my house (two blocks from his) and judge for himself whether the Xxxxxxxxxs are as rich as he thinks.

Why are we letting the president live so close to poor people? A little decorum, please!
posted by rh at 10:34 PM on September 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


I have friends like this, though, who pull in 250K a year and think they're just regular folks who just happen to save a bit better and are a bit more financially savvy than the clerks at Walmart.

This is because our biggest problem isn't even the income divide. It's lack of basic fucking empathy.
posted by JHarris at 10:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


Real estate, private school, new cars. Those are the big ticket items. (Well, also children and childcare, plus student loan debt, but one can't do much about those once they exist.) The remaining expenditures add up, but pale in comparison. If people choose real estate, private school, and new cars, then they will not have much left over. Shrug.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.

In general, I don't like making blanket statements about political parties. But if you vote for the (R)s and you elect this woman to be the one with her hand on the big red button in exchange for saving 3.9% in taxes for fiscally irresponsible schmucks like this professor, you really need to re-examine your priorities.

Really.

posted by notion at 10:40 PM on September 21, 2010 [103 favorites]


It's not often you get to read a blog post by someone who has truly, completely, irreversibly lost touch with the common man. I've got relatives like this. Give some people a sniff of money and they lose their fucking minds in an orgy of exciting new wants and needs that are apparently absolutely crucial...to their misery, it seems.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:42 PM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


You know that theory that bike helmets don't actually make you safer, because that safe helmet-wearing feeling makes you subconsciously willing to bike more recklessly, bringing you back to whatever your own safety-level equilibrium is?

Sometimes I think money's like that. Give a guy like this a million per annum free and clear, and I promise you he'll get himself in a situation where a cut to $999,000 will threaten his quality of life.
posted by escabeche at 10:44 PM on September 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's not that hard to see how a married couple with children making a total of $250,000 (in a big city, sending their kids to private school, etc.) would feel like they're just getting by, according to their subjective/relative standards. This is not the great revelation Henderson seems to think it is.

But none of that accounts for his complaining about taxes. Aside from verb's good point about how the tax change in question would barely affect him, there's a more basic problem with his outlook. Oh, I don't fault him for being upset about needing to pay taxes. That's understandable: most people would rather their taxes were lower. But government revenue has to come from somewhere. And if he's struggling, then, a fortiori, those who are making 5- rather than 6-digit salaries are struggling even more, so (all other things being equal) it would make less sense to raise their taxes. So what does he want to happen? After all, everyone knows we're going to have to raise taxes sooner or later. Should we steeply raises taxes on millionaires and no one else? If that's what he wants, he could have made that argument much more directly than by giving this sob story.
posted by John Cohen at 10:47 PM on September 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Should we steeply raises taxes on millionaires and no one else? If that's what he wants, he could have made that argument much more directly than by giving this sob story.

But in the universe this guy lives in, those millionaires probably employ a team of gardeners, not to mention a masseuse, a couple of cooks... they must be contributing even more to small businesses, so they shouldn't be taxed more either! Besides, he's dead certain that one day he is going to be one of those millionaires, because, after all, he deserves to be. So he wouldn't want to suggest a tax increase for them. He's also dead sure he's never going to fall on real hard times, to actually struggle, so he doesn't want any breaks for those on lower income than he is.
posted by Jimbob at 10:51 PM on September 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.

Strawman much lately?

we don't hate anyone with anything. What we hate are people who are very rich but incredibly blind arguing that they are not really rich in order to justify their opposition to removing a tax cut on only their income over $250,000. Especially when the post is full of half-truths, and trying to act like the country doesn't have a revenue crisis. That's what we hate.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:53 PM on September 21, 2010 [23 favorites]


Nobody's talking about tax brackets: Yes, $250,000 is a lot of money, but there are still people who make orders of magnitude more than that who get taxed pretty much the same amount. Why is 373k the top tax bracket? Why not another at 1 million, and then as many more as you need?

Oh, right- because the laws are designed to benefit the super-rich. Those people you talk about, who could truly afford to pay the extra taxes? They're also buying off your representatives to make sure they don't have to.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:53 PM on September 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


Metafilter: an orgy of exciting new wants and needs that are apparently absolutely crucial
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I make $36,000 a year, I live in Chicago, We pay our mortgage and send our daughter to a private Jewish school. We just traded in our two shitbeast cars for something that wasn't a money hole. Our property taxes are enough to give us night-sweats. But we are making it. Just barely but we are.

$250,000? Go fuck a hat. Seriously.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:58 PM on September 21, 2010 [37 favorites]


The truth is, the first linked post is way stranger than Henderson's original one. Sorry, I have to quote at length:

"n fact, most people who make $250K aren’t even sitting there thinking: “Ooh, if I bust my ass and play my cards right, being ‘rich’ is just around the corner for me and my family.” If, God forbid, $250K also represents all you have, being truly rich is probably not even an option for you. You can’t “invest” in anything with the piddling savings you’ve stowed away... You are certainly not rich, but you are terrified of becoming poor.... My wife and I are just under the $250K potential tax threshold — thanks honey! your law degree does not make your ass look fat! — and if things break right for us, we’ll be over it next year (click on these ads, click on them now, you damn freeloaders). But if you think that affords me anything more than a paycheck-to-paycheck monthly scramble, you’re out of your freaking mind."

Is he saying most people who make $250K suck at life? I really don't know how else to interpret this -- especially given that this guy has no children. My family makes substantially less than this. I have two kids. I do not live paycheck to paycheck. I don't worry about being poor. New York rents are expensive, but no more expensive than our current rent plus our monthly expenditures on the kids. I am honestly, sincerely, seriously, 100% in the dark as to where this guy's money is going, and I hope people can explain it to me in thread.
posted by escabeche at 10:59 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty much in this guy's position, and yeah I sweat it a little at the end of the month making sure the money coming in is about equal to that going out. But that's a vastly different thing than financially "struggling." You're going to fire your gardener? Yeah, my guess is he would still choose a better education for his kids in exchange for one less lawn to mow.

I recognize that it's an incredible luxury to own a house walking distance from work in the center of the city, that my life is actually easier because of the housekeeper. Yeah, maybe I feel a little deserving of some nice things for the long years of school, but not *entitled*. I guess this asshole hasn't spent much time talking to the secretary who spends an hour and a half riding the bus to come in and open his mail 5 days a week who has to save for a month to take the kids to a movie.

The thing that kills me is that nearly all of these things he uses to justify his views on tax policy -- failing public schools, doctor bills, student loan payments -- don't exist in places with well funded central governments. Yeah, defund local governments and then complain how they can't deliver public education to your precious children. Prick.

This is the line right here: 250,000 a year. The American Dream (tm) still exists for those of us above it, below it, not so much. Yeah, I can understand wanting to prevent the government from taking more of my money; there's not a lot wiggle room between my mortgage and 2 car payments and having to rent in the outer suburbs and give up cable TV. But I'm a lot more concerned about the gradual whittling away of my overall economic and social security than seeing my pay raise this year go partially away to see Bush's failed economic policy expire.

We're talking about 2% increases in the marginal rate over 250k here. For things like the education and healthcare of millions. I haven't lost my faith in democracy yet, but I swear to god, I don't feel like I can share a country with these assholes much longer.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:59 PM on September 21, 2010 [28 favorites]




Also, I love how charitable giving is not mentioned. For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous.

Well, look. The rich didn't become rich by giving their money away!
posted by grouse at 11:03 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


9. I live where I do because I wanted my kids to grow up in a diverse community and one where ideas are taken very seriously. That said, I would never send my kids to public schools here because they are terrible. If they were safe and competent, we’d go there. They aren’t. That isn’t my fault. It isn’t wrong to want the best for your kids. Oh, and we still pay for the public schools.

Take the money you spent on private schools and throw it at DonorsChoose or somesuch. If this country's private school expenditure was devoted to public schools, we'd be shaming the world with their quality.
posted by kafziel at 11:16 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jimbob wrote: "I can imagine those people writing very, very similar essays. Sure enough, the more money you earn, the easier it is to spend it."

Indeed you could. Sometimes it would be whiny BS like this, and other times it wouldn't be. While I don't think the guy that has to sell one of his planes that's been passively making money for years being leased out as a charter to cover losses in an investment gone sour is in any danger of starving any time soon, he may still feel like he's not on as good financial footing as usual.

That said, it doesn't matter. If you're having a hard time as an actual small businessperson, rather than some self-entitled douche who doesn't understand the concept of a budget, the expiration of the tax cuts isn't going to do a damn thing to you. You pay tax on net income, not gross receipts.

The right has turned into a quivering mass of screaming crybabies, unable to handle the thought of anything happening that they aren't ecstatic about. I'm getting tired of them whining about the ridiculous fantasy world they've locked themselves in.
posted by wierdo at 11:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


... our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning.

Why do I get the impression that it's not the "expansion of government" he's upset about, it's the "financing" part, i.e. paying for it? This is not a tax increase we're talking about after all, it's the elimination of part of a tax cut that occurred at the same time as a "vast expansion of government" in the form of two obscenely expensive foreign wars paid out of a deficit. One which, one way or another, is gonna get paid for by you, me, him and those kids of his whose education he "cares for". Did he squeal about that "vast expansion of government"? Or was he stupid enough to think it wouldn't have to be paid for?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


My dear late wife bought lots of stuff from Saks Fifth Avenue to "make herself feel better", often without my knowledge or permission.

There's nothing quite like going through closets after someone's death to find things like a skirt and top set, in a garment bag, with the price tag for the purchase + alterations still on it. "Six .. hundred .. eighty-three .. dollars? What the FUCK?"

A couple months ago, a year and a half after she passed away, I finally paid off the Saks credit card. I've yet to take it out to the driveway, set it on fire, then put it out by pissing on it, but there are plans afoot.

I've taken great joy in giving the designer clothes (some never worn!!) to people who would never think of shopping at Saks, or never be willing to pay silly overpriced designer prices. More than once now I've heard "You're just going to GIVE this to me? It's worth more than all the other clothes I own!".

I've still got a closet full of purses, at least one closet full of clothes left, and I've not yet started on the shoes... Anybody in Houston wear a size 9.5? Will trade for cookies, hugs, or thank-yous.

Heck yeah. Awesome feeling. I get the stuff out of my house, I make someone's day. I'll keep shopping at Casual Male XL and Target myself.
posted by mrbill at 11:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


I could live comfortably for more than 20 years with $250,000.
Well yeah, maybe in Chile where you are. That's not actually relevant to this discussion at all.

In the USA you don't get $250,000. You get something like half that after taxes. Then factor in that health care is not free in the USA, it's really really expensive, and if someone in your family gets sick and you are not insured you can lose your house and savings and be destitute.
So there's health insurance and you have to live somewhere so either rent or mortgage and propert taxes, and utility bills, and food and pretty soon you've burned through all the money and you're broke, with no extravagance involved.
posted by w0mbat at 11:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


To take a step back from the knee-jerk "warm up the guillotine" responses (which are well earned, on hubris alone), this is an interesting and somewhat sad commentary on fiscal awareness for many, even well educated and high earning people. We're not talking about athletes who suddenly get millions then blow it all on drugs and yachts - it sounds like this guy is someone who thought "I did everything right, I'm a lawyer, my wife is a doctor, where is our perfect life?" And the problem is clearly not their income but their fiscal awareness and frankly, their expectations.

The problem is also student loans, which at this point are a form of self-inflicted indentured servitude. The trick is to not ramp up your lifestyle to what you think your salary dictates, but to "stay a grad student" as long as possible - pay off your debt before heaping more on, save as much as you can, and invest in your own fiscal education. Nothing is handed to you, even when the money is.

It's also worth keeping some historical perspective. As recently as 1980, the top tax bracket paid 70%! And this guy is complaining about 40%.
posted by lubujackson at 11:42 PM on September 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


So many high-income earners are shitheels. I've got way more respect for the likes of Pitt or Bullock, who are giving their money and time generously to help New Orleans, than for this whinging knob of a professor.

Taxation rates need to be restored to what they were in the glory days of Reaganism. Rates that were admittedly stupid low, given what they were during the 50s&60s boom.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's this kind of asshole that give rich people a bad name.
posted by Long Way To Go at 11:47 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to live two blocks from Obama's Chicago home. I'm going to guess, however, that I lived two blocks from him in the opposite direction from this guy. No one's forcing you to live in Kenwood, bro.
posted by phunniemee at 11:50 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh good grief, the median income in Chicago is $38k.

But less than 20% lives below the poverty line.

I think anyone crying poor on six figures should maybe recalibrate.
posted by desuetude at 11:50 PM on September 21, 2010


one of these days, he might stop projecting the poverty of his soul onto his material circumstances
posted by pyramid termite at 11:53 PM on September 21, 2010 [38 favorites]


This makes me think of a debate on marriage and standard of living that played out in the letters column of the Victorian newspaper The Daily Telegraph: I read some of the material in a 3 volume collection of work on "The Woman Question", published back in the 1980's. I can't find any of the stuff online, and I don't have the set of books any longer, but I vividly remember that much of the debate turned on the idea that a young couple had to have a certain standard of living to consider marriage. One could not even conceive of beginning married life without a set number of servants (I think it was three); a piano; new parlor furniture; a carriage; a governess and a nurse, and so on.

The argument made by many correspondents was that since it was increasingly hard for a young man to earn enough money to support such a household, more and more men would opt for celibacy over marriage, the number of marriages would decrease and the birthrate decline, leading to the Fall Of The British Empire. Although some of the letter writers argued that one could be perfectly happy with less, most of them argued, vehemently, that a life lived without a piano was not worth living.
posted by jrochest at 11:55 PM on September 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


I make pretty good money, but it's well less than half of the minimum the jerky blogging prof. identifies, and mine is the sole income in my family. And we have kids, and sometimes it's tough to make ends meet. But you know what? I live in a nice house. We have two bathrooms! We have a cute dog! We save up and take a vacation once a year. I'm doing OK! My kids get stuff on Christmas—but not PONIES for Pete's sake. And we don't feel that they're entitled to ponies, although hey, I'm not anti-pony, it's just not a priority.

Seriously, we should feel sympathy for this family making at least a quarter million a year, because they're lousy at math or they feel entitled to fucking loathsome Coach bags or something? Man, fuck them. I hope people wake up and smell the coffee. These are the people who need tax breaks?
posted by Mister_A at 12:04 AM on September 22, 2010


A significant portion of the population has an overwhelming sense of entitlement, and it's killing our society, the nation, and the planet.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [31 favorites]


QQ. Suck it up.
posted by londonmark at 12:11 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just happened to see this early and watched the whole sorry episode play out on his blog. Twice I tried writing a longish post to engage with his arguments, but it's pointless - this is one of those things where either people get it or they don't. The people who see him as victim have lost all perspective and are beyond persuasion, and preaching to the choir about just how absurd it all is doesn't make me feel any better...largely because his wife is having to deal with the fallout from his self-absorbedness.

But since I haven't seen them elsewhere, bonus links for those who haven't gotten sick of thinking about it yet: resume (which makes his studied helplessness even less comprehensible) works in progress (which beggar belief). Two silver linings in this cloud: he has probably done more to get out the democratic vote than any number of exhortations by Reid and Pelosi; and his academic credibility has probably gone on sabbatical.

The whole episode just depresses me on multiple levels - most of all because any principled discussion on the topics is going to be drowned out by stereotypes to an even greater degree than occurs now.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:13 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


metafilter's own jscalzi has a response here.
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:15 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


w0mbat: In the USA you don't get $250,000. You get something like half that after taxes. Then factor in that health care is not free in the USA, it's really really expensive, and if someone in your family gets sick and you are not insured you can lose your house and savings and be destitute.
So there's health insurance and you have to live somewhere so either rent or mortgage and propert taxes, and utility bills, and food and pretty soon you've burned through all the money and you're broke, with no extravagance involved.


It this is true, than how does the average household survive without being destitute, without lacking health insurance, and without being homeless on 1/5th of that? You can't hand-wave $250,000 away. That's enough for all of the things you mention - in moderation - and then some. A million dollar house, private school for three kids, a gardener, and a maid is not moderation. There's your extravagance right there.

I mean, hell, I'm surviving without real poverty on less than 1/10th of what this guy makes. It can be done!
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:19 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


These are the people who need tax breaks?

Oh, come on. Everyone who's ever played Simcity or Paradox games (like Victoria) knows that you have to keep poor taxes high and rich taxes low to encourage more people to become rich.

*moves the poor taxes slider to 70% and rich taxes slider to 5% - there, that's better.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:29 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


"But more importantly, what is the theory under which collecting this money in taxes and deciding in Washington how to spend it is superior to our decisions?"

Having a civilization?
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:52 AM on September 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


Also, nobody claims to be upper class instead of middle class in the US. Why is that?

Because we Europeans would make fun of them if they did.
posted by atrazine at 12:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


To paraphrase another commenter on a blog somewhere where I read about this, a shorter Professor Todd Henderson: "After spending all of the vast income my family makes, we have nothing left over!"
posted by moonbiter at 1:01 AM on September 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


Wait a second… this guy gets FREE medical care (his wife is a doctor, right?). And his wife gets FREE legal advice (her husband is a lawyer, right?). Either one of those is a high dollar expense that he's totally leaving out of the equation. I would LOVE to have a doctor or a lawyer living in my house. They have both.
posted by readyfreddy at 1:11 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


$250K is more than $20,000 a month. Take that horrid, horrid 40% out and you're still talking about $12,000 a month, cash money. Jesus Christ.
posted by maxwelton at 1:15 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


And now he's pulled the blog post, so he can't even monetize the hate.
posted by chavenet at 1:22 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


You people are fucking inhumane. This poor man is moments away from having to switch from wild, line-caught salmon to organic farmed.

FARMED.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [53 favorites]


Henderson clearly demonstrates that even stupid people can get doctorates and make lots of money. It's a ray of hope to the rest of us.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:50 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


In the UK, the average income is £25,000 pa (about US $40,000?) a fact which I think most people in the UK know. What is less well known is that to be in the top 10% of earners you only need to earn £50,000. The government recently increased tax for "high earners" (a rise of 40% to 50%) but that is for people earnng over £150,000 pa - so well over the £50,000 that makes you a "high earner".
posted by Major Tom at 2:00 AM on September 22, 2010


My income is £50k, pre tax. My husband earns the same. We each pay around £20k in tax. But I never complain: that's what I should pay! I get free healthcare, my kid gets free braces and milk in school, we take public transport everywhere.

I don't have to worry about my elderly British relatives: they get free travel on buses and a fuel allowance for winter heating. My little girl also benefits from free glasses if she needs them.

I consider it my social duty. We have enough to be very happy and comfortable. This professor is a wanker.
posted by katiecat at 2:10 AM on September 22, 2010 [38 favorites]


you rich, privileged, entitled piece of shit.

Man, this backlash on the blue is really bumming me out. I come here to seek refuge from the batshit crazy of the rest of the Internet. But calling someone an entitled piece of shit because he's trying to explain that his income doesn't make him "super wealthy" seems crazy to me. The dude isn't sailing in mega-yachts and bitching about his taxes while collecting millions in Wall St. bonuses. He makes probably somewhere between double and 50% more than most of us, and we're ready to hang him? Everybody has gripes, and everybody focuses on their own gripes, because they are the only gripes they know.

If you and your spouse make 120k a year, you can buy an ok house in some major cities (Seattle, Austin, etc). If you make 250k a year, what's different? Are you rich now? You didn't own the first house (the bank does, and you will pay it down over 30 years.) Maybe you can buy a nicer house, but the reality is, you're not rich. You can't buy a house with cash. Your taxes will eat about 61k of that (without any new tax increases). Your state taxes will eat another 20k. Where did you buy your house? Chicago? Seattle? San Francisco? Somewhere between 30k and 50k go just to mortgage. And how did you get that fancy paycheck? Law school? Med School? Throw another 5k a year to that. What's that? Your wife got a fancy degree too? (that explains all that money) Toss another 5k for loans. Social Security, health insurance, 401k (you want to retire at 65 right?) there's another 30k. Got a pet? Any kids? Feel like paying your utilities? What about a car? Car payment, car insurance? Live outside the metro area? Need two cars?Live in a city with horrible public schools? Need to send your kid to private school so you can stay in the city where your fancy job is?

I'm rambling. But the reality is, the difference between making 60k a year and 250k a year is not having to worry about money. But that's it. 250k a year doesn't buy you a yacht and a life of luxury and early retirement. Because usually, 250k a year means living some place like Manhattan or San Francisco where if you don't want to live in a complete piece of crap, you have to dump a huge portion of your check to pay for your pad. I'm not saying earning 250k a year is something insignificant, because I'm sure its probably awesome, and I'd love to be there one day. But the reality is living in the US is very expensive, especially if you live in a major city, have kids, and a fancy degree. So yeah, this dude has a better savings account than many of us. But I don't feel like it's fair to call him an entitled piece of shit because he is trying to explain that there are several orders of magnitude between him and Bill Gates.

Think about it this way. Bill Gates could, with cold hard cash, buy 106,000 houses at 500k each. This dude? He couldn't pay cash for one.
posted by braksandwich at 2:13 AM on September 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Unless the buddy was trying to eke out a feeble existence on the island of Manhattan, there's not really a need for roommates and ramen. What universe do these idiots live in?

Some people live in a universe that involves student loans.
posted by thisjax at 2:14 AM on September 22, 2010


He makes probably somewhere between double and 50% more than most of us

The median household income in the US is about $46,000 a year, and the similar in the UK. He makes a fuck load more than double or 50% more than most of us.
posted by fullerine at 2:20 AM on September 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, you are awesome
posted by hamida2242 at 2:44 AM on September 22, 2010


If you and your spouse make 120k a year, you can buy an ok house in some major cities (Seattle, Austin, etc). If you make 250k a year, what's different?

Your post illustrates perfectly what's wrong with this wanker. You start with the assumption that $120k is necessary to buy an "ok" house in some major cities (hint: plenty of people get by just fine and raise kids and have pets and buy quite nice houses in major cities for a heck of a lot less than $120k).

Then you go on to hand-wave away an extra $130 THOUSAND per year, by listing a bunch of things that you can already easily afford when making $120k. Even if the government took 80% of that, that's still $26,000 per year more than the already-doing-just-fine and more-than-double-average-income $120k. But you just write it off as the cost of living in a pricey city or having a "nicer house", which is absolutely insane and is exactly why entitled jackasses think they aren't rich.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:49 AM on September 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


I hope everyone remembers this guy the next time they hear talk of letting tax cuts for the rich expire, or talk of raising taxes on the rich.

This is the guy. This is the guy who will be taxed, and more of the rich are like him than not.

The guy who went out of his way to say that not only do servants do his yardwork for him, but went even further out of his way to point out the yardworker was Mexican.
posted by hamida2242 at 2:53 AM on September 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


You know, I'm about on track for living on less than $12,000 this year and as such barely pay any taxes. Mr. Professor Man seems to be having a pretty bad time coping with his tax requirements, so I propose a switch of incomes. I'll take the $500,000 a year and its accompanying terrible tax burden, and he can take my $12,000 a year and not have to worry a whit about the government's unfair deductions from his paycheck. It would be a pretty big sacrifice for me but this guy just seems so upset that I'm willing to do it.

This is a very good post and a very good counter to the argument that "people will just choose to work less if their taxes go up."
posted by hamida2242 at 2:59 AM on September 22, 2010


So yeah, this dude has a better savings account than many of us.

Actually, the amazing thing here is that according to him, he doesn't have one (or doesn't seem to have one), because at the end of the month, there's nothing left over to save up: Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income.

Now, I dislike paying taxes just like the next person, but I really don't think the government is the one to blame in their situation. It seems more like a case of not-completely-rational spending*. There also seems to be a fair bit of cognitive dissonance in his thinking: he doesn't think he and his wife are rich, but they keep spending money as if they were (probably without even realizing this themselves). If this was an AskMe, they'd probably be advised to go over their expenses or maybe consult a financial advisor - surely there's something they can cut back on without having to sell their house (or even their cars).

* Which, unlike what some people here seem to think, even very smart and otherwise rational people are capable of.
posted by daniel_charms at 3:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, if you are making $250K a year, what gets you out of bed every morning isn’t even the desire to become rich. Instead, you’re motivated by the white-knuckle fear that something will go wrong and you’ll be cast back down with the sodomites who struggle valiantly to eke out an existence on $50K or less. You are certainly not rich, but you are terrified of becoming poor.

Cast down with the sodomites?
posted by Houstonian at 3:05 AM on September 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Why do I even bother to read shit like this anymore? Now I'm all covered in blood.
posted by tehloki at 3:40 AM on September 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


At one point in my life, I made a regular practice of stealing toilet paper from public restrooms. I am now comfortably middle class, and I celebrate my good fortune by NEVER BITCHING ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO MAKE ENDS MEET ON A COMFORTABLE SALARY YOU UNGRATEFUL FUCK. Guys, there is food in my refrigerator and I'm typing this on a computer that I own. Being middle class fucking rules.
posted by honeydew at 3:42 AM on September 22, 2010 [35 favorites]


For the last fucking time, it's not a tax increase! The tax *BREAK* that you've been enjoying (and apparently wasting on shiny shit) is expiring just like it was designed to do. Get over it.
posted by milarepa at 3:43 AM on September 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


As the old English joke has it: "The whole family was poor. The mother was poor. The father was poor. The children were poor. Even the butler was poor."
posted by unSane at 3:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [34 favorites]


Another thing: dumping a bunch of your money into retirement investments is not the same as not having that money.

Most people don't get to magic away the butt-load of money you guys do and then pretend it isn't there and that they're "strapped." They're actually strapped because they don't have money to save for retirement in the first place, and they'll likely never retire.

I certainly won't. Doesn't bother me too much, but when I listen to my rich friends tell me they're on the glide path to having $4M saved by 55 "because that's the minimum to get by" I nod and agree...no, wait: HULK SMASH.
posted by maxwelton at 4:01 AM on September 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


out of his way to point out the yardworker was Mexican. But the good kind of Mexican! The legal kind. Just like his Polish nanny.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:03 AM on September 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Upper Middle Class, Rich, Super Rich? It all depends upon how you define them. Regardless of the semantics this guy is in the top 1.5% of earners, which is pretty damn good. How can he fail to recognize how well he is doing? Arrogance? Ignorance? Probably both. One and a half percent seems pretty rarefied but anyone there still has a lot of company and they also mingle with other people already there which makes their incredible income seem more ordinary. It is also not so wealthy that he can shop without ever considering the consequences, but it is so wealthy that he can drop a few hundred on say a new iPad without really thinking about it. One and a half percent seems too common for the Super Rich, but it certainly is doing really, really well, and this guy for whatever reason can not see that. Sad.
posted by caddis at 4:05 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I'm pretty sure that guy who mows your lawn has better money management skills than you and can either absorb the loss or find someone else. So just cut out the whole "Won't someone think of the Mexicans?!" routine. You're not fooling anyone.
posted by milarepa at 4:34 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you and your spouse make 120k a year, you can buy an ok house in some major cities (Seattle, Austin, etc). If you make 250k a year, what's different?

Why, in Hyde Park, does one need to buy "a house"? You can get a very nice condo w/some nifty trimmings in the 200K-300K bracket, which is about half the cost of an equally nice house there. He's employed at the U of C, which means he should get a break on tuition at the Lab School. Speaking of the U of C, there are many hungry graduate students there, and it would probably be less expensive to hire one of them than to hire a professional nanny. I agree that house-cleaning is a problem, speaking as a singleton. But you don't need the housecleaner every week. And so on.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just want to note that most professors make closer to the "sodomites" he mentions after many years of graduate school living on about a third of that (if we're lucky).

represent yo
posted by monkeymadness at 4:55 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's that saying about how your expenses always rises to meet or exceed your level of income, no matter what that is?
posted by crunchland at 4:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So this guy bought a fixer-upper in Kenwood at the top of the market, and then (likely) took on too much additional debt to renovate the thing all in one go. Now he's underwater on it, and upset that he has to pay for other people's educations? Who paid for his? They should ask for their money back.

Also, considering that he is faculty at U of C and his wife is a doctor at the hospital there, they already have pretty gold-plated health benefits. Does he count his contributions as money "stolen" from his $250K per annum?

Not to mention the fact that, if you want to take a more Hobbesian view of things, the money being appropriated from you for others' educations is what is keeping people from the rest of the South Side from coming over and taking all your shit. And it is surprisingly successful at doing so, considering the generally poor quality of Chicago public schools.

It's a good thing I'm no longer living in Hyde Park on less than $15K. A) I now do well (although not nearly as well as this guy) thanks in part to the education I received there, and consider myself to be fortunate to not have to worry about how I'm going to eat anymore; and 2) if I had read this while I was still in grad school, I would have been over at his house with a fucking pitchfork, and I'm certain I could have rounded up a pretty good posse, too.

Seriously, is this guy living in 1815? How on earth will he afford dowries for his daughters?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm a little surprised no one's mentioned one of the comments on the Mother Jones link in the OP. Some anonymous person looked up the good prof's (public info) home-purchase records:

He bought his house for $920k in September 2005, the very top of the market. He took out 3 mortgages to buy it ($736k, $92k, and $82k), financing a total of $910k of the $920k purchase price.

He refinanced all of this with a $1,087,500 mortgage in 2009. Looks like he's borrowed more than the original purchase price and is maxing out the tax code's mortgage interest deduction.


Financed all but $10k of a $920k house, with three mortgages, and then consolidated for more than the total value of the original loans, huh? Still looking for where all your money's going, prof? I think I found it....
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 5:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [55 favorites]


I don't like this guy very much but I'd certainly thank him for all the help he's giving the economy with all that spending. Please, rich people, keep pissing it all away so that store clerks, gardeners, and school teachers can keep eating. Spend spend spend.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


the difference between making 60k a year and 250k a year is not having to worry about money. But that's it.

LOL
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


The fact is that the best estimate is that this guy makes $455k (not $250k) and pays $80k in taxes (total state & fed) (according to Brad Delong's post).

He's clearing about $370,000, putting a chunk away for retirement, and basically spending the rest on luxuries, while bitching that he can't spend even more on luxuries. He's in the top 1% of the U.S., which puts him probably in the top 0.01% of the world. They're rich.

DeLong: And here is the dirty secret: Professor Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx thinks that that is the way things should be because he knows people for whom that is the way it is. That's the bottom line, really.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:21 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not disagreeing with the general sentiment being expressed in the comments here, but am hoping that someone a little more familiar with US economics could answer a question:

Henderson's big gripe seems to be that the "really rich" are not paying their fair share of taxes because they are good at evading taxes. Is there anyway to figure out how much revenue the govt could earn by going after those people as Henderson suggests, and then compare it to the tax revenue gained from taking away tax cuts for people with incomes over $250,000?

I'm not at all interested for the moment in the question of whether Uncle Sam could/would make this attempt, or the reasons for not doing so. I'm just wondering what the numbers might look like.

Anyone, anyone? Or should I post this to AskMe?
posted by bardophile at 5:21 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


He bought his house for $920k in September 2005, the very top of the market. He took out 3 mortgages to buy it ($736k, $92k, and $82k), financing a total of $910k of the $920k purchase price.

He refinanced all of this with a $1,087,500 mortgage in 2009. Looks like he's borrowed more than the original purchase price and is maxing out the tax code's mortgage interest deduction.


Jesus H Christ that is some staggeringly bad financial - and real estate - management. Staggeringly bad living so close to the edge like that. Crikey, he makes me look like Ebenezer Scrooge - and I feel like the Sultan of Brunei - with our two bedroom apartment for roughly half the price and a 15% deposit, which I still thought was on the low side!
posted by smoke at 5:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, Aus dollars were much lower than US at the time, so much less than half, really.
posted by smoke at 5:24 AM on September 22, 2010


I'll bet this poor guy can't even get a table at Dorsia.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:26 AM on September 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


But the reality is, the difference between making 60k a year and 250k a year is not having to worry about money.

If someone doesn't have to worry about money, but they STILL complain about money, that person is an entitled piece of shit.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:30 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Methinks you guys got trolled. I coulda written this, if I had some time and wanted to stir up some class war shit.
posted by fungible at 5:33 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



I think maybe the reason he hasn't hired an accountant is the accountant might tell him that he needs to be paying/witholding payroll taxes for his domestic help, which given his general tax aversion you'd think he'd be making a stink about. Not to mention the question as to whether any of his employees are legal immigrants.

Also, this is the sort of veal calf person that public policy in the U.S. is pitched to, from Reagan on, Republican and Democrat. Are you angry at Prof. Henderson for feeling entitled to the morsels he's be thrown from the really rich table or a generation of the political elite in this country?
posted by ennui.bz at 5:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can only afford to put 10k down on a 900k house, you can't afford a 900k house. This guy's definition of poor is evidently the inability to afford a million dollar house.

If America is ever going to improve, we have to stop listening to, and arguing with, idiots. People have spent months arguing about a community center in NYC. Now they are arguing about trivial tax increases on the insanely rich. There is no meaningful discourse left in the country. The people on the morning news look practically lobotomized. *Wide grin, empty stare*

It feels like stupid people used to be ashamed of being stupid. Now, it's like they wear it as a god damned badge of honor. Something I have learned in my 30 years is that don't underestimate how low Americans can lower the bar. We haven't even come close to the bottom.
posted by milarepa at 5:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


Oh, and Mr. Henderson? Jeremy Bentham called. He said, "Suck it up, you pussy."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


250k doesn't make you rich but it does get your face pressed up against the window of the restaurant where the rich are dining on the delicious souls of the common man. Take a step back Mr. Professor man and look at the reflection.
posted by any major dude at 5:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Truely LOLtastic. Dude is welcome to back in time to a few years ago me making less than 10% of what he does and visit Humboldt Park and ask if he's rich.

Truly funny: he complains about the expense of private school. As a UofC professor his kids get free college (up to $35k/year or something like that) anywhere, and he gets reduced tuition (free or half price, don't remember) at the Lab School. The neighborhood schools in Hyde Park are not in fact jungles. The director of pediatrics's son graduated Kenwood Academy this year.

If his wife is ped onc, it's conceivable that they're paying off outrageous consumer debt from years of living off loans.

If he's still teaching, some UofC undergrad should show up to his office in a monocle and top-hat to commiserate on how after the yacht, horses, and Exeter tuition there's just not that money to go around.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was involved in a food drive for our local food bank last weekend. All I can say is that the low income houses gave the most, and the expensive/rich houses gave almost universally nothing.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Everyone in the US, Todd Henderson included, are a paycheck or two away from homelessness and poverty. Well, when the economy eventually crashes, and Todd Henderson has no money, and I have no money, but Todd Henderson is going to have a really hard time dealing. People like him are unflexible and unwise. He wouldn't be able to survive in any other circumstances because he's traded fitness (in the general 'being able to survive' sense) for the unnecessary lifestyle that his weak mind has uncritically accepted from the rhetoric and mythologies of. I was angry at him, but now I feel sad for him. Todd Henderson is a weak man, like most of the rich.

What an embarrassment to the University of Chicago.
posted by fuq at 5:42 AM on September 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Instead, you’re motivated by the white-knuckle fear that something will go wrong and you’ll be cast back down with the sodomites who struggle valiantly to eke out an existence on $50K or less.

Cast down with the sodomites?


I know, totally wrong, I mean they are usually DINKs right? Sorry, I know this was a loathsome slip, but I couldn't help joking about it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:42 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least he can afford proofreaders...
posted by fuq at 5:55 AM on September 22, 2010


This seems pretty clear-cut. Todd Henderson, presumably an Ivy-league-educated professor at the University of Chicago, wants to be taxed not on his income but on his perceived lifestyle. By his measure, I, who make 1/7th his salary, would be taxed higher because I am more fiscally responsible. Sweet.
posted by muddgirl at 6:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


The problem isn't the gardener and the house cleaner, the problem is the garden and the house big enough to require an extra person just to care for them.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


What was that about living beyond one's means?
posted by Theta States at 6:10 AM on September 22, 2010


I pay a ridiculous premium to live in my 2-1-2 area code, and I live in a hovel so embarrassing that when non-New Yorkers come to visit, they assume I’ve just been robbed.

OH MY GOD NOOOOOO

If you can't afford a decent place in Manhattan on $250k you are a crazy person.

Or maybe he should move to Brooklyn, grab a bottle of local milk, and cry every morning into some organic artisanal granola.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:16 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


crunchland: "What's that saying about how your expenses always rises to meet or exceed your level of income, no matter what that is?"

This is so true. Back in the salad days of doing tech support, when you couldn't swing a dead nerd without hitting hit a job for under 45K, we lived high on the hog. We had a new house, an equity line and a ton of plastic and we used it. We believed it would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, end. When the bottom insidiously fell out on us (we take full responsibility), it was a major fucking wake-up call and a painful one.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:20 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My family was in that income bracket for most of my school-age years. We spent a lot of time around families who were significantly better off than us, and my mother still does.

Being in that situation completely distorts your perception of what's "normal," what "everyone has," what "basic living expenses" are. They genuinely see themselves as barely scraping by, because 1) everyone around them is constantly trying to broadcast how fantastically comfortable and well-off they are, and 2) their neighbors are "really rich" and provide an example they can point to and say, "I'll be THEY'RE not worrying about how much it's going to cost to take the boat out of the water."

This is what wealthy suburbs and densely moneyed Manhattan neighborhoods have done. They've completely disconnected moderately rich people from the reality of their own good fortune.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:20 AM on September 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I make $36,000 a year, I live in Chicago, We pay our mortgage and send our daughter to a private Jewish school.

That, sir, is a trick and I take my hat off to you.

I live in the city, have a great place, a great car, a place to park the latter (people from Chicago, New York and SF understand the glory of that) and a healthy bank and retirement account. I also have three times the gross income you do. My car always works. My kids don't get sick, because I have none. My wife doesn't cost me a thing on my health insurance, because I don't have one.

I have health insurance.

Not long ago, I was worried about the amount of money heading out of the bank account. Mostly, this was because I'd moved, and into a larger place. You, sir, have quickly and utterly corrected that feeling. I don't need a new couch, etc. I really don't need the car, and if there's any sort of trouble, I'm well overwater on it and can duck those costs (and the assorted deeper costs of car ownership.)

And, to be honest? If either one of us is rich in any meaningful way? I think it's you. But in terms of financial security? I'm in great shape.

And Professor Asshole here can move out to Lincoln Square or Logan Square and find out what living is really like. Or, even better, perhaps he can just fucking move to Indiana?
posted by eriko at 6:23 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Semi-related: GDP per capita in Chicago is 12% lower than GDP per capita in Des Moines. Now, granted, that's probably because Chicago is much more economically segregated (it's certainly racially segregated), but it does demonstrate both the total ignorance of the author about the economic makeup of his city and a failure to manage his expectations of what being prosperous means given both the people who actually are poor and the recession we're supposedly all experiencing.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The irony of this all is that given the million dollar mortgage the guy is probably paying the AMT anyway.
posted by JPD at 6:28 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW the problem with this guy isn't that he feels as though he could use more money after taxes - everyone feels that way - its that he doesn't realize that in a decent society above a certain income level you keep your mouth shut about it.
posted by JPD at 6:31 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I take this as a strong, clear warning against lifestyle inflation.

I used to make about $20k per year, and my expenses were about $20k per year. Now I make a lot more than that. My expenses are still around $20k per year. I foresee that amount increasing if I have kids (however much kids cost), if I move to a city with a higher cost of living (a proportional increase to maintain this lifestyle), or if I lose my fucking mind and decide that maxing out my lifestyle is more important than being financially secure and happy with what I have.

If I do inflate my lifestyle -- and it does happen, slowly, even as I work to avoid it -- I know it's a bitch to go back. This man is a fine example of that. And so I work to avoid it.
posted by whatnotever at 6:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


My guess is that the untold story behind his money agita relates to his house. Most likely a stately if crumbling Victorian or Colonial near the uni, he bought it during the real estate go-go years and is now underwater. He's been remodeling, which, with historical homes, can run into high numbers. Even replacing a toilet can cost thousands if the surrounding wood is compromised and needs repair. And renovating molding or panelling? Forget about it.

He doesn't mention home costs, apart from his mortgage, but it's likely eating a sizeable hole into his income. Combined with his misreading of the real estate market, he's shouldering unanticipated costs. Too bad he says "I'm taxed too much" rather than "I made decisions with my dick rather than brain when buying real estate and now I'm f*cked."
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Too many people in this thread are out of their minds:

1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

2. Did you go to medical school or law school? If not, please shut the fuck up. He says that his wife is carrying $250k in student loans, and that he also has loans. This is basically like owning another house that you can never sell. Student loans is the primary mechanism preventing people from the middle class joinging the actually wealthy.

3. He isn't complaining about taxing the rich, he's complaining that rich is being defined down to $250k. He's in the top 1.5% of Americans. 25% of Americans are under 18. That statistic is meaningless.

4. The income tax debate is a red herring a distraction. We will never talk about raising corporate taxes (revenue from which is about 1/5 of what is collected from personal income tax) because corporations own government.

5. The entire point of the essay is that income does not equal wealth. You are not rich is you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets. You are rich if you have zero income and $10M in the bank. Rich = what you have accumulating year after year, assets - liabilities.

6. In France, they tax wealth. Literally they tax you on assets you own. They make almost 10 billion euros a year from this, and france has 1/4th the population and not nearly as many insanely wealthy people as we do. If you want to tax Buffet differently than his secretary, tax 10% of assets. Then he'll pay $4 billion, and she'll pay zero. There's your difference. France spends more on defense than China or Russia, they have strong social welfare programs, healthcare, free top education.

Everything else in this debate is class warfare bullshit. It pits the upper middle class against the middle middle class to prevent anyone from focusing on taxing rich people on their wealth or raising corporate taxes slightly. And please don't feed me the "raising corporate taxes would reduce job creation" horseshit. Profitable companies are laying off workers to be more profitable.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


It's not the breaking of the glass that upsets us. We are upset because we never expected the glass to break. (paraphrasing)

So yes. He's pretty rich. But I'm guessing being rich isn't what he expected it to be. There's no exclusivity at that level. No private jets. No butler. The best you can get in terms of staff is minimum wage. The best you can do for education is a paid-for school that still seems populated by coarse and uncultured kids. The teachers seem only a little better than those he was educated by. His car only seems slightly better than that driven by someone who doesn't work half as hard as he does.

He's rich, but this isn't the rich he was told about when he was a kid. He spends all his money and he gets nothing that he thought he wanted. So he feels like he's been ripped off. He feels poor, and now the Government has classified him as something he believes is not him.

I've little sympathy, but I understand why he thinks the way he thinks. Like the rest of us, he was sold a lie. But for him, that lie costs $250,000 a year.
posted by seanyboy at 6:44 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

There are at least two such parents that I can think of.

For what it's worth, all the third party candidates for governor in my state talk about corporate tax reform quite a bit (also about making "grassoline" out of hemp, but hey, third party candidates, am I right?).
posted by padraigin at 6:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, come on. Everyone who's ever played Simcity or Paradox games (like Victoria) knows that you have to keep poor taxes high and rich taxes low to encourage more people to become rich.

This is why I do what I can to put the Communists in charge when I play Vicky. I can then jack the rich taxes to 100% and build my own damn factories instead of my capitalists (who typically build dozens of glass factories). That and my remaining aristocrats will typically revolt en masse, so I can put their unproductive necks under the blade.
posted by banal evil at 6:48 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel: "If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school."

You do realize, don't you, that the vast majority of parents in the US don't have that option, yes?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:49 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Help me out here: the tax cut "on the wealthy" which is set to expire is on income over 250k, right? They're talking of keeping the tax cuts on the brackets below that. We're talking about *marginal* tax rates.

If we were talking about *total* tax rates, every 1% cut that is expiring would represent 2,500 less in this guy's pocket, assuming he's making 250k. If his household income were 500k, say, each 1% of expiring tax cuts would represent 5,000.

But we're not talking about total tax rates. We're talking about marginal tax rates. So if the household income is 250k, and the tax cut on those making more than 250k expires, then he's not paying one goddamn red cent more. In fact, he's still reaping the benefits of the tax brackets below him. If his household income were 500k, each 1% of expiring cuts would only be seen in his tax rate ABOVE 250k!!!! in other words, 2,500.

If he's whining about a couple percent of his income OVER 250k - and I'm not certain he really understands that's all that's in play here - really? Get da fuck outta heah. 2500 bucks is a beat-to-shit 1998 Honda Accord. It's fifty bucks a week, all year - only two and a half times as in town, as they say.

Is anyone else coming to the conclusion that most people aren't just of average intelligence, but are actually plug-stupid?
posted by notsnot at 6:49 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


6... if our taxes go up (something I’m fairly certain will happen if the president has his way), we will have to cut back on our expenses, and this will put small businesses behind. That was my only point.

This I have to say I agree with.

It's easy to get indignant about people who have incomes that appear ridiculously huge. But for people who earn 6 figures, I think the issue boils down to this: given a random amount, say, $50,000, and the choice of either handing it directly to the notoriously inefficient government in taxes, or spending it in one's own community on goods and services (transactions that provide employment and ALSO are taxed in various ways) -- which action is going to benefit more people?
posted by philokalia at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


notsnot - its actually even worse then that because part of the Obama plan is raising the top end of some tax brackets so while his marginal rate might be going up his average rate will be flat to down - especially for people in the low end of the top bracket.
posted by JPD at 6:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

So no one with kids in America is rich? Fuck you too.

I like having an income tax instead of an asset tax. I'd prefer a sales tax with a subsidy for low income, but I'll take an income tax because it doesn't encourage consumption in our economy which is too subsidized to be efficient any more and doesn't handle externalities well. It also does a better job of taking money from those living large instead of those who are sensible with their money.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


"1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up."

I don't have kids because I can't afford them. It's like you're saying "You can't criticize my BMW! You don't even have a car!"

I don't get people who want the best for their kids and will do anything, ANYTHING for them, even if it means dragging themselves into financial insecurity! ANYTHING for that 1% better opportunity! Because we love our children SO MUCH! So much more than people who send them to public school! But they didn't:

1. Save for private school tuition, in some states there are tax-free funds (yes? no?)
2. Move somewhere with good public schools
3. Move somewhere cheaper
4. Get a job that gives them discounted private education
5. Keep enough liquid cash to pay tuition easily even if their income drops


That's not to knock people who have had kids in less than perfect circumstance. It's to knock people who NEED, NEED! a private school for their kids and the rest of us don't know what the fuck we're talking about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


philokalia - there are reams and reams of data on your point - turns out its wrong.
posted by JPD at 6:58 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


3. He isn't complaining about taxing the rich, he's complaining that rich is being defined down to $250k. He's in the top 1.5% of Americans. 25% of Americans are under 18. That statistic is meaningless.

They usually measure this based on household income. Of course they're not fucking counting babies.

4. The income tax debate is a red herring a distraction. We will never talk about raising corporate taxes (revenue from which is about 1/5 of what is collected from personal income tax) because corporations own government.

This is a completely separate issue. Both individuals and corporations have their tax duties. The fact that corporations are under-taxed does not negate the fact that individuals such as Prof. Henderson are also under-taxed.

5. The entire point of the essay is that income does not equal wealth. You are not rich is you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets. You are rich if you have zero income and $10M in the bank. Rich = what you have accumulating year after year, assets - liabilities.

I would turn this the other way. Henderson claims that he's not a millionaire because he doesn't earn $1 million a year in income. That's completely erroneous - he's a millionaire if the sum of his assets (house, investments, savings, etc) is more than $1 million. It's not President Obama's fault that Henderson can't balance his household budget. Again, the federal government doesn't tax lifestyles, they tax income. The problem is that Henderson thinks that all rich people live a playboy lifestyle. Since he doesn't, he assumes that he's middle class. That's a logical fallacy.
posted by muddgirl at 6:58 AM on September 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


fug wrote:

What an embarrassment to the University of Chicago.


we are talking about the same University of Chicago that Ayn Rand acolyte Milton Friedman basically defined the the term "greed is good", no? You'd think by now they'd be used to it.
posted by any major dude at 6:58 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everything else in this debate is class warfare bullshit.

Granted, because that's how he opened the discourse with his whining about not being wealthy. Government takes what it takes, and we should encourage gov't efficiency, but not try to shovel our share of the burden on the lower income level.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.

What's worst about this comment is knowing how many low income people are duped into supporting right wing candidates under the guise of religion or tradition.

Most left wing candidates "have something" - and sure, there are plenty on the left wing who don't really like the big figures in their party, it's not a particularly unified bunch or anything, but still - bill clinton is estimated at 200 mill, jon stewart at 100 mill, even obama's got 5 mill... So it's not like there's anyone to support who doesn't "have something". The point is, how they respond to having something... If they're going to bitch about paying taxes and act as if it's a burden to deal with their lot in life, it's hardly surprising that people who have real problems are going to think they're being asses.

It is just a classic case of being out of touch, not understanding that the problems you're dealing with, other people would generally consider blessings. As has been said over and over again, there is never enough money: the standard of living will just keep going up. You go to the fancier restaurants or buy the more expensive suits and suddenly it's all gone. But of course you could live on less.
posted by mdn at 6:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You do realize, don't you, that the vast majority of parents in the US don't have that option, yes?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:49 AM on September 22


I understand that. My point is more general. The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance. If they can't afford private school, it they'll spend on a tutor. If they can't afford a tutor, they'll spend on an educational video, if they can't afford that, etc. etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:01 AM on September 22, 2010


The entire point of the essay is that income does not equal wealth. You are not rich is you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets. You are rich if you have zero income and $10M in the bank. Rich = what you have accumulating year after year, assets - liabilities.

What? That makes no sense. By that definition you can make sure you're not rich just by being a profligate spender.

In France, they tax wealth. Literally they tax you on assets you own.

In the US we tax capital gains, which is basically a tax on the realized increased value of assets. (it's not high enough, and the capital gains tax should be more progressive and have more brackets, but still). It's not exactly the same as a direct tax on assets, but it's similar.

He isn't complaining about taxing the rich, he's complaining that rich is being defined down to $250k. He's in the top 1.5% of Americans. 25% of Americans are under 18. That statistic is meaningless.

It isn't meaningless. $250,000/year is the top 1.5% of American households, not Americans.
posted by jedicus at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

Really? Because I have the opportunity to send my child to private school versus our local Chicago Public School. And we're choosing our local Public School. And it has nothing to do with the cost of private school, because we could afford it. I teach for one of the other large, expensive Chicago-based universities, in their nationally-ranked School of Education. Why do you say that private schools are always "better"? I think that there are a lot of things completely wrong with private school educations in this city.
posted by jeanmari at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


3. He isn't complaining about taxing the rich, he's complaining that rich is being defined down to $250k. He's in the top 1.5% of Americans. 25% of Americans are under 18. That statistic is meaningless.


I think that stat is being defined in terms of households, not individuals. Brad DeLong discusses this in his entry on the topic: "Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year--the Xxxxxxxxxs make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year--the Xxxxxxxxx's make 4.5 times that. The Xxxxxxxxx's are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year. By any standard, they are really rich."

posted by banal evil at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2010


Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

It costs money to raise poor kids in America too. It's too bad some people feel that giving their own kids a 10% better education is more important than helping their community give every child the opportunity to succeed. Paying for private school is fine, but don't complain about also having to pay for public school, because it exists for a reason even if you have the luxury of sending your kids somewhere better.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:03 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


If that real estate information about his house is accurate, then I think that seems to be the single greatest cause of his problems—he bought way more house than he can afford.
posted by chinston at 7:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance. If they can't afford private school, it they'll spend on a tutor. If they can't afford a tutor, they'll spend on an educational video, if they can't afford that, etc. etc.

The professor himself shows that this isn't true. They could save a fortune on a smaller house and spend more on their kids. They could cut back on domestic servants and spend more on their kids. Etc, etc.

Here's a two-word rebuttal to your claim: Disney World. For what a typical family spends for a vacation at Disney World they could pay for a tutor, and I guarantee you they don't all already have them. Parents will happily spend (a lot of) discretionary income on things other than their children's education.
posted by jedicus at 7:07 AM on September 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


In the US we tax capital gains, which is basically a tax on the realized increased value of assets. (it's not high enough, and the capital gains tax should be more progressive and have more brackets, but still). It's not exactly the same as a direct tax on assets, but it's similar.

Similar like a sock is similar to a hat. Which is to say, not very much at all. Gains are just income, and, if you're wealthy enough, you won't recognize any of the built-in gain in your assets, but rather hold them until you die--when they'll get a step-up in basis in the hands of the beneficiaries under your will. Since they'll have a fair market basis in those assets, they can immediately sell them without paying any tax.

Though I agree with you that the rates aren't high enough. We pay too little in taxes in this country--and get too little in return. I am afraid I have no solutions to either problem, but I would much rather live in a country where I would be taxed a lot and get a lot.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:08 AM on September 22, 2010


Mr. Henderson's CV suggests an education robust enough to enable him make a correct and logical sentence, but even with the incentive of a public forum, he doesn't:

Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school.

Um, let's try that again:

Since we care [about] the education of our three children, this means we also have [we elected] to pay to send them to private school.

I think that if he were to take the care to write complete and logical sentences, rather than complain about the financial burden of an income of only $250K, his children's education would be better served. As if is, if I were one of his children, I'd probably conclude that (a) I was a resented expense; (b) correct and logical writing was unimportant.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 7:09 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]



Most left wing candidates "have something" - and sure, there are plenty on the left wing who don't really like the big figures in their party, it's not a particularly unified bunch or anything, but still - bill clinton is estimated at 200 mill, jon stewart at 100 mill, even obama's got 5 mill... So it's not like there's anyone to support who doesn't "have something". The point is, how they respond to having something... If they're going to bitch about paying taxes and act as if it's a burden to deal with their lot in life, it's hardly surprising that people who have real problems are going to think they're being asses.


The point is that none of the people who have something are advocating any tax structure that involves tapping into that "something." How about a 10% tax on all assets for those people with over $750M in assets? The Forbes 400 would then pay $120+ billion. And the crazy thing is that they won't miss it. This professor is clearly saying to you that he will miss the additional money he'll pay in taxes. Why assume that he's lying or he's a bad guy? You don't need his money. The Forbes 400 has $1.25 trillion in assets. Go after that, and leave this idiot alone.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:09 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


How much do I have to pay to get cast down with the Sodomites?
posted by hermitosis at 7:09 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance.

This proves way too much. Because many parents also want to give their kids every chance . . . to grow up with parents who don't have to declare bankruptcy. The demand for education may be somewhat more inelastic than other goods/investments, but come on—the demand curve still slopes downward.
posted by chinston at 7:10 AM on September 22, 2010


Pastabagel,

1. He might not have had to spend this money had it not been for the complete collapse of education funding reform resulting from a) active projects to undermine desegregation and b) Regan-era policies based on the ideology that the rich shouldn't have to pay taxes.

2. If you (like myself) are carrying significant student debt, why the fuck are you buying a house you can't afford? Hyde Park has some pretty decent rental housing stock. In fact, why are you paying over $900K to live in Hyde Park? Are you a fucking masochist?

3. If he's complaining about "rich" being defined down to $250K then, by the standards of most Americans, he's basically complaining that he can't afford cheese to go with his whine. I believe his household is actually in the top 1.5% of income-earners.

4. Agreed. Absolutely.

5. Income does not equal wealth. However, Henderson is complaining that he doesn't have any wealth because of his combined expenses and tax liability. In fact, he doesn't have any wealth because of choices he made (or at least that's how people of his ideological stripe tend to characterize the situation of the poor when they complain about things like quality of life). He doesn't have any wealth because he made a stupid real estate investment at a time when he shouldn't have.

6. We can debate the relative merits of taxing assets v. taxing income. However, the problem in the US is that there is currently a strong political culture (and one that is particularly over-represented in government) that argues that people should be taxed on neither.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:12 AM on September 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


"Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year--the Xxxxxxxxxs make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year--the Xxxxxxxxx's make 4.5 times that. The Xxxxxxxxx's are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year. By any standard, they are really rich."

Okay I stand corrected, but I'll point out that by coincidence, The percentage of Americans making over $250k also happens to be somewhere between 1-2%, so I've seen it reported that way.

By nevertheless, going by household makes no sense. A single person in an apartment is a household, and a family of 6 is a household. If the tax system is going to key off of household, then it needs to consider the cost structure of households (which it sort of does through exemptions, etc). But the tax debate does not consider this.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:16 AM on September 22, 2010


Naw, let's have the tax debate be like the welfare debate, if you have a problem with taxes, have fewer or no kids, stop wasting your food stamps on cheetos, and get a goddamn job.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:17 AM on September 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


The reason I took the very unusual step of deleting [the post and comments] is because my wife, who did not approve of my original post and disagrees vehemently with my opinion, did not consent to the publication of personal details about our family.

I feel really sorry for his wife.
posted by Killick at 7:18 AM on September 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


Gains are just income, and, if you're wealthy enough, you won't recognize any of the built-in gain in your assets, but rather hold them until you die--when they'll get a step-up in basis in the hands of the beneficiaries under your will. Since they'll have a fair market basis in those assets, they can immediately sell them without paying any tax.

That's why we have (or perhaps had) an estate tax, and why we should have a much, much stronger one, both in terms of the structure and in terms of reach (e.g., we should make it harder to play games with trusts).
posted by jedicus at 7:21 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


What I don't get is this. The guy pays $X to the gardener. He also puts some money away for retirement. Evidently he prefers paying $X for gardening to saving that $X for retirement.

Now let's say the taxes on his income over $250K go back to 2000 levels, about 4%; if he makes $300K, that's a cost to him of $2K/yr.

Now according to him, he's going to take that $2K out of what he spends on the gardener. But why wouldn't he save $2K less instead? In other words, why does he expect the change in the top marginal tax rate to flip his preferences between gardening and saving?
posted by escabeche at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's my story compared to Professor Henderson. I make about 35K a year and I live in a 3 bedroom townhouse. I don't have a pension because the company I used to work for converted our pensions to an Employee Owned (what a misnomer!) Stock Option Plan--a leveraged buyout to keep evil Canadians from buying our company. Then, once all that pension money was converted to stock, the company was involved in the huge asbestos litigations, which drove the value of the company stock from roughly $80 a share at peak (before any of us could legally sell any) to under $1 at the time we could sell it. So, I was among the thousands downsized at nearly 50--going from an income around 100k to a third of that. Going from having accumulated over $250k in my retirement fund to about $30K, that I foolishly squandered on living expenses while out of work. I went back to school at 49 with the concomitant student loans. My own kids were still in college--one just starting and I couldn't contribute much at all other than advice to their college educations (sorry guys).

But you know what? I consider myself rich. I have two great sons. My job isn't exactly my dream job, but not because of the nature of the job, but because I can envision doing so much more. I work with a lot of people who literally have nothing. People who ask me to help them fill out their SNAP (used to be food stamps) applications. I help provide educational, social and nutritional sustenance to about 40 school age kids every day. Little of this, except in the most abstract way is being provided through anyone's taxes. the low-to-moderate income community I live in is a cooperative, and we pay for this ourselves--and I guaran-damn-tee NONE of us approaches the Henderson's income.

I'll probably work until I can no longer. I hope that universal health care and social security are still there when I need them, because both my sons are roughly in my own income bracket--and one of them--who shall remain nameless--has always threatened that I need to be nice to him because he will pick out my "old-age" home.

I'll repeat it and shout it. I am rich. I am rich in ways that money can't count. Oh, I'd love to have a cushion, but I think my wealth will outlive me in every one of the kids who has a better life because of what our community provides.

I hate to end this in a sour note, but fuck Henderson.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [27 favorites]


The articles actually make me support higher taxation even more.

Not out of rage, but out of logic.

"Expenses" rise to meet income. You "just get by" whether you're below the poverty line or making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If the super rich get even more taxed, they will figure out how to survive.

If you aren't intelligent enough to figure out how to pare back the landscaper or the cleaning lady, then you need more...shall we say...motivation?
posted by jefficator at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I feel really sorry for his wife.

No kidding. What a nightmare. You know a great way to save some of your cash, sir? Don't piss off your wife. Divorce is expensive.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:25 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull:

If we are going to argue about the choices some individual made, you should consider that anyone can argue about this for any individual. The point is not that he's an idiot (if what you say about his house is true, he is), the point is that he's telling you that if you raise his taxes, he's going to cut back somewhere else. Even if that cut back is on fancy hats, then the fancy hat guy is going to feel the pinch. Him paying more to the government literally means him paying less to somebody else because he told you he's paying nearly all of it out.

The only points on which no one has really argued are raising taxes on corporations, and taxing assets. There appears to be no disagreement on doing those things (maybe some disagreement on the mechanics and tweaking the rates). No philosophical/rational disagreement on taxing assets over 750 million dollars or raising corporate taxes slightly.

So why don't we do the things that nearly everyone already agrees with? Why aren't we even talking about doing something like this?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The absolute best thing that could happen to America would be for private school to become an unaffordable luxury.

I've heard this said before but can't cite the source: If Bill Gates' kids had to go to public school, there would be no problems with public schools.
posted by jefficator at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I feel really sorry for his wife.

Yes, how ever will she show her face at the Aberthwaites' fortnightly ball now?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's why we have (or perhaps had) an estate tax, and why we should have a much, much stronger one, both in terms of the structure and in terms of reach (e.g., we should make it harder to play games with trusts).

Agreed. Realistically, the system should tax the donee by treating the gift as income, and not the donor. The gift is, as they say, an undeniable accession to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the donee has complete dominion and control.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2010


beelzbubba: "I'll repeat it and shout it. I am rich. I am rich in ways that money can't count. Oh, I'd love to have a cushion, but I think my wealth will outlive me in every one of the kids who has a better life because of what our community provides."

May whatever god you do or do not believe in bless you, beelzbubba. I mean that.
posted by notsnot at 7:31 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, this essay is obviously comical because no one in this thread makes that much money. But there are an awful lot of us with household incomes of 50, 60, 70k who are completely oblivious how lucky we are, and how many people would gladly trade places with us. I admit feeling sorry for myself sometimes (no car, seems like everyone else has one) but I have a nice safe place to live, computers and books and a TV for entertainment, and an OK emergency fund, all of which I have to remind myself I'm thankful for.
posted by miyabo at 7:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the subject of Student Loans. I really had no idea how fucked students are in the USA. You need to sort that out immediately. It's a disgrace.
posted by seanyboy at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also:

I don’t need lectures about the poor, huddled masses who make less money than I do. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner; my maternal grandfather arrived penniless from Lebanon.

I fucking love this kind of thing. Don't tell me I'm privileged, my ancestors worked really hard!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:40 AM on September 22, 2010 [36 favorites]


Sorry, Pastabagel, but I don't think this is 'class warfare bullshit'. I think it's people recognizing an ass when they see one.

We don't make anywhere near what this guy does, but we live in Florida where the cost of living is much less, and I'd say we're upper middle class here. We are parents. We live on one income. Our house may be 14 years old now but we've paid off the mortgage and it suits our needs just fine. The cars (yes, we have two also) are both paid for as well. We pay off our bills each month, we give to charity, and we still have some left over at the end of each month to save because our needs are modest. The money we save will go to send our kids to college. It is not difficult to live within our means. My husband works very hard and puts in long hours, but we are well aware of how fortunate we are.

This guy financed a house he couldn't afford and chooses to invest in the stock market instead of paying off his existing debt. And by the way, my sister has a law degree from Harvard and her doctor husband is a Harvard grad as well, so I do know about student loans. They lived within their means, and they paid them off. I agree with you that parents want the best education for their kids*, but the private school is just a very small part of the equation here. He's griping even while he is personally living a lifestyle beyond his means (I'm referring not to his tax predicament but to his ridiculous mortgage situation, which is entirely his own doing).

It wouldn't matter if he made three times what he did, he'd STILL be griping, because he is a financial disaster and doesn't take responsibility for his own actions. He bought a house he couldn't afford and dabbles in the stock market rather than paying off his debts.

It's not about the taxes. It's not about wanting better education for his kids. It's not about those student loans.

The guy is just an ass, period.

*We chose to live on one income so that I could stay home and volunteer at the public school rather than send the kids off to private school and turn their care over to a nanny, but that's a choice we were financially able to make.
posted by misha at 7:41 AM on September 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


OK, this essay is obviously comical because no one in this thread makes that much money. No - its that no one in this thread who makes the kind of money agrees with this guy.
posted by JPD at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I understand that. My point is more general. The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance. If they can't afford private school, it they'll spend on a tutor. If they can't afford a tutor, they'll spend on an educational video, if they can't afford that, etc. etc.

This is part of the problem. In America, we equate spending with better education. Baby Einstein all the way up to Dalton, this culture looks at education as something you throw money at; we shirk the responsibility by paying someone or something else to do it for us. How many of us actually have anything meaningful to do with our own children's education after they turn 5 or 6? Good schools are an asset, but schools should supplement the education we are giving our children, not the other way around.

And frankly, if you can afford a million dollar house, you can afford a cheaper place in an area with great public schools. Why not spend two hours a night bonding and educating your children when you can pay 30k a year and not have to think about it? Private schools provide a nice education, but they're really dick waving opportunities for the parents and a fast track to future networking for the kids. Education used to about becoming educated, now it's valued as just a stepping stone to securing a high paying position if it is valued at all. It's something that you throw money at in hope to get more money later and it's part of the reason the country is falling apart.
posted by milarepa at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Escabeche, maybe his marginal hour is worth X, his gardener charges Y, and the tax change makes X less than Y? That's the only way I can make sense of it.
posted by miyabo at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2010


sanko: "Sorry, if you have (presumably) two cars, a nice house near your work, etc, you are not "just getting by." You are "just getting by" when you've eaten PB&J for more than 60% of your last 10 meals*, you ride the bus, and your voicemail is full of messages from creditors.
* by reason of necessity, not choice. I love PB&J.
"

This made me think of the The Coup song "Underdogs"...
(it makes me tear up everytime I hear it).

Also - I have been getting server 500 errors on youtube at work ALL THE TIME LATELY. And supposedly it's a youtube issue, but it never happens at home. Why?

Finally:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
-Anatole France
posted by symbioid at 7:50 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Henderson's big gripe seems to be that the "really rich" are not paying their fair share of taxes because they are good at evading taxes. Is there anyway to figure out how much revenue the govt could earn by going after those people as Henderson suggests, and then compare it to the tax revenue gained from taking away tax cuts for people with incomes over $250,000?

Check this out. I'm sure you answer is somewhere else on the website, but the important thing to realize is that the marginal tax rates have gone down since 1980 for people in the top 1% of income earners. Even so, their income has nearly tripled when adjusted for inflation, while all other quintiles of income have remained relatively flat. So they pull this trick of saying, "The richest Americans are paying more taxes than anyone else in this country!" Which is true, but they never like to add, "Because we've tripled our income and bought two more vacation homes and a boat!" So, in a way Henderson has a point, but he is pointing fingers when he should be re-prioritizing his finances.

For some real rational perspective on income inequality, look no further than Warren Buffet. In that testimony to Congress, he pretty much destroys all of the silly arguments that the wealthy trot out in their attempt to get the middle class to vote against their own interests. There's an even older clip on Charlie Rose where he talks about working in the 60s when the highest tax rate was at 90%, and said, "If anything, we all worked harder." I wish I could find it right now.

For even better perspective, just consider that the top tax rate under Reagan was 50% without any loopholes. I don't think anyone was afraid of socialism back then. Reagan increased military spending and gradually dropped income taxes, and by the end of his Presidency the top rate was down to 28% and the deficit was higher. Then we hit a recession and Bush raised taxes it (and lost his second term for that now dead brand of conservatism.) Clinton raised it again to 39.6%, reduced military spending, and shockingly! the deficit went down. Bush waged two wars and dropped taxes, and shockingly! the deficit went up.

The issue of entitlement exists across the board, even at the very top and the very bottom. The difference is that the wealthy think they are entitled to everything they want, and the bottom thinks they are entitled to everything they need. We can argue about which one is morally superior, but I know which one is better for the economy at large. Unfortunately, there is little rational argument on finding a balance between incentive and tax burden. It has devolved into nonsensical statements about taxes being a violation of rights, or how anyone who has lots of money is evil.

(Go ahead and haul out the Marx quote and pretend that modern socialism equals totalitarian Stalinist communism. It won't surprise me in the slightest.)
posted by notion at 7:54 AM on September 22, 2010 [30 favorites]


Topical story from the BBC today - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11382591

Basically, £50,000 isn't enough to live on in the UK, but £100,000 is dangerously excessive.

I must confess - I earn over £500,000, and I can't make ends meet.
posted by Major Tom at 7:56 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


miyabo: I skipped a lot of comments to say much the same thing. Posts like this make me glad I'm not rich, and grateful to have what I have. Imagine the psychic pain of always looking up and yearning. You could go through a whole life that way without ever once being happy.
posted by rusty at 7:56 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if that cut back is on fancy hats, then the fancy hat guy is going to feel the pinch.

I used to hear this argument a lot from the political right; so much so, in fact, that even people on the left were beginning to believe it for sheer repetition.

So what if he has to cut back on fancy hats because he has to pay the government? What's the government going to do with that money? Throw it in to a hole? No, they're going to spend it on roads and schools and tanks and welfare cheques.

So yes, fancy hat guy looses out, but road building guy wins.

Furthermore, if you're interested in helping your own economy, the government is far more likely to spend that money inside the country than Prof Henderson is. Not that I'm happy about that, mind... the government should cut Henderson's taxes so that he can buy more imports from my country instead of using it to boost the American economy!
posted by Dreadnought at 7:56 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


The only points on which no one has really argued are raising taxes on corporations, and taxing assets. There appears to be no disagreement on doing those things (maybe some disagreement on the mechanics and tweaking the rates). No philosophical/rational disagreement on taxing assets over 750 million dollars or raising corporate taxes slightly.


I'll restate more reasonably that I have a problem with taxing assets instead of income. It encourages consumption, and we still have a lot of subsidies and areas of our economy where externalities like pollution are poorly factored.

But it doesn't really matter what tax system we choose, corporate, asset, income, LVT, sales. At the end of the day, the people with the assets and income will be fighting more successfully to pay less of it, because they have the time and power to do so, meanwhile those at the bottom will continue to pay. All government policy fundamentally redistributes wealth up or down, and class warfare is inevitable.

This is why I agree with the point in his rebuttal about how we should concentrate to some degree on government efficiency. That's a fight where we can all win.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2010


You've got to give credit to the Bush reign: having the tax cuts expire now was like casting a timed grenade into the Dems presidency.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 AM on September 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


Fuck Todd Henderson and his 'only a few hundred dollars per month.' Clean up your own piss, asshole.
posted by mike_bling at 8:10 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Warren Buffett. For the longest time I thought "hey, so what if rich people spend their money on stupid things, it all goes to other people anyway, and into the economy."

I didn't even think about it, actually, I just accepted it as fact. Until I read a great essay by him.

The gist of it is that he could spend his money on whatever he wanted--on hundreds of people painting pictures of him over and over--but then those people wouldn't be doing things that actually matter. He would, essentially, be wasting their time, intelligence, and effort on his vanity.

And that's what is happening when rich people funnel their money to idiocy. They're wasting other people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


Well, I enjoyed this article (hence the post, though respectfully disagreeing with a lot of his views) because it seems like he was offering a more sensible semi-conservative/libertarian voice on the internet for once and I think it's a damn shame that he got shouted down so much that he felt the need to take down all of his writing because of the flame wars, judgment and even threats that he's sparked.

I think it's important to realize that when someone tries to calmly explain how the end of the Bush tax cuts might negatively effect their family, it is not code for "fuck all yall, tryina git mine!" no matter how much we wish it were the case so that we could mock and vilify them to our hearts content (and with the same voice and rhetoric as the hysterical right-wing loons we all hate so much - "OH MUST BE NICE RICHBOY HOW BOUT FIRING YOUR NANNY AND MOVING OUT OF THE CITY AND BEING MORE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE").

I totally agree with Pastabagel that he is not as frustrated about taxes as much as he is offended by the government trying to tell him he is rich and in turn must have it really easy.
posted by windbox at 8:12 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't about taxes. This about this guy not liking the negative sides of the choices he's made.

After a whole lot of discussion during the first eighteen months of our marriage, my husband and I concluded that not only did we want children, it was important to us to have someone at home with them most of the time. So we knew we would be sacrificing two full time incomes.

Since I have more education than my husband, our plan was for me to work full time, and him to stay home. But he beat me to the punch by getting a job with good benefits first. So I stay at home, which is probably for the best, since my boobs seem to only want to work with an actual baby rather than a breast pump.

Anyway, the hubs makes $31K per year. He also gets pretty fabulous health insurance, for which we pay $80 per month. In addition to his salary, his employer puts 15% of whatever he makes in a 401(k). And everyone in our family of five gets free tuition for the university where he works.

So our real income is a lot higher than, say, a waitress with no bennies who makes $30K per year. I fully acknowledge that.

But I'm willing to be that our benefits are outstripped by the good professor's.

During the first eighteen months of our marriage, we made the decision to move to a place with a low COL. We are remote. We aren't within walking distance of the Shedd Aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry. So, yes, there are trade offs. But we can afford to live here, and that makes this worth doing.

I don't have the option of private school here. If the public school doesn't work out for my little ones, our option is homeschooling. Honestly, for what dude is paying for private school and a nanny, he could probably hire a full time governess with an education degree, Jane Eyre style.

We bought our house for $31K. Not coincidentally, the same amount that my husband makes every year. Why? Because that is what we are comfortable with, debt wise. We got a 15 year note in 2008. We have 9 years and 4 months left on our mortgage.

I try to fit in extras for my kids. We take swimming ($32 for 6 weeks for 2 of them), horseback riding ($10 per week per kid), and we do a lot of stuff through the library. My sister in law and mom send boxes of clothes with regularity, which helps a lot.

We have been pondering my husband going down to a 9 month, $24K position. We had my accountant sister in law run the numbers (who charges us $70 for tax prep, woot woot), and after the tax changes for us, it would mean a real reduction of about 10% of our income. I think we can make it work.

What I'm getting at here is this: CHOICES. The good professor's problem is that he is unhappy with the consequences of the choices he's made. Shrug. If he wants to move, he could. His wife is a doctor, they can work anywhere. Shit, they're giving land away in Kansas. He could quit his job, pull his kids out of private school, fire the gardener/housekeeper/nanny and do that stuff himself, sell the house, pay off their debt, live really simply for 2-5 years, and move someplace with a low COL, where his wife would still make over six figures.

I can hear this dude now. "But I don't WAAANT that. I love the city, the stimulation of my work, what it gives my children..."

His problem is that he doesn't love paying for it.

Tough cookies.
posted by Leta at 8:15 AM on September 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


Without telling us what the combined income actually is, the rest of the figures he tries to shock us with don't really mean anything. There's a big difference between $251K and $500K.
Someone did the math based on their total tax bill and estimated that their income was about $400k.
He makes probably somewhere between double and 50% more than most of us, and we're ready to hang him? Everybody has gripes, and everybody focuses on their own gripes, because they are the only gripes they know.
It's more like 6-10 times as much. You think the average mefite makes between $200 and $300k?

I love the final paragraph of his "I'm leaving blogging forever!!!" post
A final note: I am especially saddened that my post was misconstrued as being about anything other than the impact that tax increases will have on people at the lower end of the high-income bracket. Agree or disagree, certainly questions like this need to be part of the equation. I understand the suffering of the world and the good fortune I have. The debate is not, or should not, be about whether we should try to improve the well being of everyone in our neighborhoods, our country, and around the world, but how..
That's exactly what happened, dude. You explained how it would affect you, and people read what you wrote and decided you were a self-entitled a-hole and that taxing you 3.9% more on income over $250k would be awesome.
1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.
Cry me a river.
posted by delmoi at 8:20 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


@jpd -- I'd love to see that data.

Anecdote contra: Today, for instance, I, a modest 5-figure earner, am going to have a landscaper take out a bunch of dead shrubs and put in some new ones, and do some other planting -- heavy work that I cannot do myself, but that would certainly be considered a "luxury" purchase by many. This will cost me a few hundred dollars of discretionary money. By making this transaction, I get a real, visible, enjoyable benefit -- a nicer looking yard. So do my neighbors, who no longer have to look at dead shrubs.

I'm contributing to the income of the landscaper and his crew, who all pay taxes (and who are not immigrants either legal or illegal -- no incomer has a southern accent like these guys do!). I'm doing my small bit to keep the neighborhood desirable, and property values high. There's a lot of reciprocity here, and a lot of value accruing to various people in my community. While these benefits might be hard to quantify, I am certain that my $300 spent on landscaping is accomplishing more than $300 sent directly to the IRS, which would have to trickle down through layers and layers of distant bureaucracy (which all has to be paid for!) before benefiting a single non-bureaucrat. Moreover, the chances that said nonbureaucrat provides any benefit to my well-being or my community are quite small.

I do not begrudge reasonable taxation. But I place a high value on the satisfaction I get from seeing the money I have worked for actually DO something. I would buy something locally to enable a local merchant to pay his own doctor bill, rather than send money to DC (and pay higher insurance premiums on top of it!) to ensure that the local merchant gets a free physical once a year and that distant bureaucrats and insurance companies get their cut as well. Do your data, jpd, take that into account?
posted by philokalia at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2010


The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance. If they can't afford private school, it they'll spend on a tutor. If they can't afford a tutor, they'll spend on an educational video, if they can't afford that, etc. etc.

If this were true, kids in the US would be significantly better educated overall.

It's pretty damn important to throw money at a child's education from pre-school on up if the goal is to attend the most prestigious university in order to make the most prestigious connections.

If the goal is ensuring that the child has a good enough education to go to college at all, parents have to throw some money around, either in the form of the taxes that fund a decent school system, or money out-of-pocket to compensate for the weaknesses of the school system. There is a lot of variation in how expensive this needs to be, depending on whether the parents go the route of private schools, parochial schools, charter/magnet schools, tutors, or alternate learning opportunities.

And, of course, not to be too Mr. Rogers about it, but investing time, attention, and protection is more important. Someone has to read to the kids, get books in their hands, and make sure they get enough to eat so that they can pay attention in school.
posted by desuetude at 8:24 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is like Penelope Trunk claiming she was living on the edge of poverty in NYC with an income of $200,000 (2nd bold point in the post). And then going into her $150 haircuts. And spending $300/month to park a car to get away from the city on the weekends. I think some people need to check their definitions of "poverty," if not their priorities.
posted by litnerd at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2010


It's called democracy, baby.

Its actually called Republic and functions like a kleptocracy.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:32 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]




The gist of it is that he could spend his money on whatever he wanted--on hundreds of people painting pictures of him over and over--but then those people wouldn't be doing things that actually matter. He would, essentially, be wasting their time, intelligence, and effort on his vanity.

More realistically, the problem for the larger economy is that when you give rich people money they are less likely to spend it. Even if they do spend it, they are more likely to trade in collectibles, fine art, and real estate, which doesn't help the economy. It's basically just pushing the price for those items higher for a millionaire's game of hot potato.

Buying an antique quarter million dollar car does not create as many jobs as buying twelve new $20,000 cars. Buying an existing single ten million dollar estate does not create as many jobs as buying sixty five $150,000 homes. The issue is knocking some of the top .1% of income back down into the real economy.
posted by notion at 8:33 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them.

Or ya could nut up and tell the kids "no".

In the bad old days, telling kids "no" was called parenting.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



@jpd -- I'd love to see that data.

Sure just google "does supply side economics work" they'll be plenty there.
posted by JPD at 8:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


His wife is a doctor, they can work anywhere.

I don't know that that's necessarily true- she treats children with cancer, she probably needs to be near if not in a hospital where children with hospital are treated.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


braksandwich wrote: "But the reality is living in the US is very expensive, especially if you live in a major city, have kids, and a fancy degree."

"Doctor..it hurts when I do this"

"Don't do that."

Nobody is forcing the guy to live in a large city with a high cost of living. Nobody is forcing this guy to spend $20,000 a year per child on private school. The guy socks away about 80% (not counting home equity) of the money me and my SO make pre tax, and she has a pretty darn good job, income wise. (me, not so much, but I do it to myself)
posted by wierdo at 8:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife and I make over $200,000 combined. We live in an expensive part of the world and have an expensive house, so that $200K doesn't go as far as you might think. These, however, are self-inflicted problems. We could (and did) live in a much cheaper house and chose to sell it and move up. We could move to a less expensive area, but we like it here.

I don't believe that being rich means that you have a big room filled with money that you roll around in, Scrooge McDuck style, or that your month to month finances can't be tight (because, we don't and they can be), but it does mean that any money problems you have are almost always due to circumstances under your control. Which, for us, they sure as hell are.

I'm in favor of taxing the rich more. I consider myself to be part of the elite crowd and, while I don't exactly look forward to paying more in taxes (and I really don't want to pay for a big military and no national health care), I think it's my obligation to do so.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is why I do what I can to put the Communists in charge when I play Vicky. I can then jack the rich taxes to 100% and build my own damn factories instead of my capitalists (who typically build dozens of glass factories). That and my remaining aristocrats will typically revolt en masse, so I can put their unproductive necks under the blade.

I guess this mostly comes down to differences in play style. I tend to prefer a more hands-off style of play, letting things just happen, watching my capitalists build railroads and cursing as they build yet another useless fabric factory when what I really need is a steamer shipyard, occasionally steamrolling an Asian or African country in a colonial war, but mostly just watching how (the rest of) Europe embroils itself in yet another glorious clusterfuck over some German minor.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This doesn't have much to do with anything, but I wonder if he and his wife both drive to work every day. Based on a rough guess of where he lives, it's at least a 20 minute walk to campus, going at a fast clip. At least 30 crossing the Midway to the law school. Sure, there's a bus that runs there (the 172, I wonder if it's still free for students and faculty?), but it's always crowded. And man, if it's snowing?

I wonder if he's one of the people I'd always hear complaining about finding parking when I'd come clamoring into a building, tattered and wet from walking to campus because the bus was too full to let me on and it was too early for their gardeners to have shown up to scoop the sidewalks.
posted by phunniemee at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I simply do not understand why more of you are not wracked by sympathy for your Natural Superiors. They're better than you, and thus their travails are more important than yours. Feel for them! Weep for them!

Their lives have meaning, and yours do not. The only meaningful thing any of you can do, aside from labor in the Slurry Processing Units, is to sympathize with those who are better than you. This is the whole point of our entertainment conglomerates, and it is a mandatory function of your lives.

So get with the fricking program or I will have to send in the Cranial Removal Drones again. I am not kidding around. Remember what happened to Subdistrict Seven? Yeah, that's in your futures if I don't start seeing better Nielsen numbers from you guys.
posted by aramaic at 8:47 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you make 250k a year, what's different? Are you rich now? You didn't own the first house (the bank does, and you will pay it down over 30 years.) Maybe you can buy a nicer house...

See, that's it right there. Many couples who make 250K a year think that they are entitled and/or required to own a million-dollar-plus property. You ain't! If my income doubles (ha!) I'm staying right where I am and maybe buying a new bike. Because I like my neighborhood and BECAUSE I'M NOT A FUCKING IDIOT.
posted by Mister_A at 8:47 AM on September 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


I simply do not understand why more of you are not wracked by sympathy for your Natural Superiors.

They are probably superior to me in a lot of ways! Meaning, they are obviously very skilled at certain necessary professions that I certainly am not qualified for. Which is great.

If anything, they should be pissed that to be a doctor who helps kids with cancer you have to take out such huge, crazy loans.

Good doctors have such an obvious benefit for society that it's amazing how we let even the most brilliant potential physicians rack up 6-figure debt.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he's so rich, how come he ain't smart?
posted by dickasso at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did pastabagel just pull You wouldn't understand, you're not a parent. on us?

Because I love it when parents do that. I really love it.
posted by seanyboy at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sorry. The correct terminology is "Speaking as a parent"
“I don’t know anything about Afghanistan, but I know it’s full of terrorists, speaking as a mother.” So what is this "speaking as a mother" then? Is that a euphemism for "talking out of my arse"? "Suspending rational thought for a moment"? As a rational human being, Al-Qaeda are a loose association of psychopathic zealots who could be rounded up with a sustained police investigation. But speaking as a parent, they’re all eight foot tall, they’ve got lasers under their moustaches, a huge eye in their foreheads and the only way to kill them is to NUKE every country that hasn’t sent us a Christmas card in the the last 20 years!! Speaking as a mother.
posted by seanyboy at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


People, stop with the "$250k thing". People making $250,001 are going to pay a whole four cents more in taxes. People making around $300k are going to pay $2000 or so more in taxes. You have to be making a lot more to really notice it.

And as other people pointed out, given how much he pays in taxes, he probably makes about $400k.
The point is that none of the people who have something are advocating any tax structure that involves tapping into that "something." How about a 10% tax on all assets for those people with over $750M in assets? The Forbes 400 would then pay $120+ billion.
I'd be all for it, but why start at $750m? Seems $1m - excluding housing up to maybe $2m, and allowing for the deduction of property taxes seems more reasonable. Also 10% seems kind of high. Maybe a bracket system makes more sense.
I'll restate more reasonably that I have a problem with taxing assets instead of income. It encourages consumption
That's what we want. When you consume, that helps people who make the stuff you consume. When you don't, you don't help anyone (except yourself, since you get a little extra security and theoretical freedom)

Yes, consuming products that harm the environment are bad, which is why externalities need to be priced in by means of a carbon tax or cap 'n' trade.
This is why I agree with the point in his rebuttal about how we should concentrate to some degree on government efficiency. That's a fight where we can all win.
The idea that we could somehow solve our budget problems by making the government more 'efficient' is absurd. Most of the money we spend is checks for Medicare and social security. You can't reduce those things by making them more "efficient". I think if Medicare tried to reduce payments for things, which would reduce the amount of money his wife made as a doctor, you'd see plenty of similar bitching from the guy. He's totally myopic.
It's pretty damn important to throw money at a child's education from pre-school on up if the goal is to attend the most prestigious university in order to make the most prestigious connections.
Yeah, the point of this stuff isn't to get a good education, it's to make sure they know the right people. Think about kids who go to Exter and slack off vs. go to a public school and work really hard the public school kid will probably learn a lot more, and the Exter kid will probably make orders of magnitude more money.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is like Penelope Trunk claiming she was living on the edge of poverty in NYC with an income of $200,000

Holy shit, I didn't believe someone could say something so asinine, but there we are:

when I say something like when I was making $200,000 I was at the edge of poverty in NYC, people (who have never lived in NYC) tell me I'm crazy.

Trunk is crazy, and also a bad person!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


A $1,000,000 mortgage, at 5% interest(historically low, I might add), means you will be paying $50,000 per year in interest, before putting any money towards reducing the original loan amount itself. Ahem.

And as an aside, 46% of Federal revenue comes from income taxes, 36% from payroll taxes, 12% from corporate taxes, and the remainder is a variety of additional sources.

Payroll taxes are not paid on income over $106,800.

And Americans currently spend, as a percentage of GDP, twice as much on healthcare than any other country in the world.

Sorry, I just like numbers.
posted by dglynn at 9:18 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]



> Too many people in this thread are out of their minds:

1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.


I agree that there are a lot of people a bit out of their minds; the level of anger is amazing.

About private school: I and my wife are products of private school. We're not all that impressed with public schools in our area, so we decided to homeschool. This is a course of action not available to everyone. BUT--just as some choose to spend their money on gardeners and private school, we decided to forgo the second income and have one parent stay at home and teach. We are lucky enough to be able to get by on one income in an expensive area.

It's our choice to live in an expensive area. It's our choice to have a dead lawn because we can't afford landscapers and I haven't had the time to get something in that takes less water. It's our choice to have four kids. It's our choice to drive a 25-year-old rusting heap of a car. It's our choice to own a house.

None of these things are non-negotiable; they are all the result of decisions. As is private school, new kids, and household help. I am not going to get upset about someone else's decisions, and when they complain about the results of their decisions I am not going to get upset about that, either.

I completely "get" the desire for the best education possible for the kids. But, in life compromises need to be made. Many people would not consider driving a rusty car, or having a dead front yard. I don't like it myself, not one bit. But I *really* don't like overextending, and I don't what happens when I can't pay the bills because of an unanticipated expense. So, we maintain reserves.

Finally, it seems to me that there remains a middle ground between badly-performing public schools and private schools, and that ground is additional education performed by the family. Again, this is not always an option. Also, it does not alleviate the all the public school problems (like violence/bullying). But if public school isn't cutting it, there's nothing to say that you can't take matters into your own hands and do a little extra work with your kids on the side. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than private school.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:18 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Haha, commenters on the first link are accusing everyone who thinks the rich should pay taxes of being Marxists. "Why don't earn your own money instead of taking it from this law prof" as such bullshit.

It's like these people think that everything they have, they have because they're super special and smart and intelligent and hardworking. That their wealth may be a function of advantages they didn't earn doesn't even occur to these people.

It reminds me of when I was in high school and some of my debate teammates would actually identify as Social Darwinists. Most of these kids had never even had a part-time job, and yet they were concerned about the Evil Socialist Government taking too much of the huge paychecks they just knew they'd one day be earning as investment bankers or whatever-the-fuck. The worst of them supported a flat lump-sum tax. When I said that was unfair, they'd say the alternative was unfair for "punishing" people for doing well in our "meritocracy". I suggested that this wasn't a meritocracy, seeing as they had lots of advantages from their parents making $250,000+ per year (much like our beloved professor). Their reply? "But parents should be allowed to buy their children whatever advantages with their money."

LOL, I know. I don't miss high school.
posted by randomname25 at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree that there are a lot of people a bit out of their minds; the level of anger is amazing.

I agree that I am quite angry.

Here's a simple decision that Prof. Henderson and his wife could make to save some money: He should quit his job.

(1) Their income would fall, probably pretty dramatically, so their total tax rate would be much lower, plus they would start to benefit from being married (married couples on one income are taxed essentially as if each of them is making 1/2),
(2) They would not need to hire a nanny or a gardener,
(3) They could pull their kids out of private school and home school them instead,
(4) He would not be tempted to put a ridiculous amount of money each year in a tax-deferred savings plan,
(4) etc. etc. etc.

Quitting his job and still being able to live a comfortable life is not an option that most Americans can take advantage of. Henderson has choices. That's a privilege. Yes, I get angry when people rant about the burden of their privileges.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


posted by Pastabagel at 6:38 AM on September 22: 1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.


You know what? How about you shut the fuck up instead? My parents could have sent my siblings and I to private schools. They didn't. Instead, they sent us to public schools which weren't the best in the world, lobbied the hell out of every PTA meeting, visited the school and volunteered with every possible day off, tutored and taught when possible. Hell, my mother even came and helped out in the school cafeteria, working the slop line more than a few times, all because the school could make better food when they were less under-staffed.

Why? When looking at the dollar value of their time, private school would have been cheaper. They worked their fingers to the figurative bone doing all this work. But you know what? My parents taught us kids that when you see someone trapped in a muddy ditch, you don't fucking step over them. You get in the goddamned ditch and help everyone get out. Because we are all the same people, the muddy and the dry. Just because I had my parent's hands to help me over the ditch doesn't mean everyone will.

So take your 10% benefit and shove it up your up-the-fuck-shutting ass and think of what lessons you're teaching your kids.
posted by introp at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [75 favorites]


I really don't understand the short sightedness of the anti-tax rich. Plenty of public works filter their benefits back to you whether you directly partake in them or not. Public health is a curb against epidemics. Public transportation frees you from traffic. Creating jobs, helping immigrants and supporting anti-poverty programming prevents riots a la the 2005-2007 riots in France. Strong, holistic and properly distributed public education and family support can prevent generations of bored chavs and hoodlums from bothering you if your, I dunno, Bentley breaks down in the wrong part of town. Safe food, public safety and other regulations should be a no brainer unless you hire a personal food taster and fire department and you don't live anywhere near other houses or brush.

In the Portland, Oregon area, plenty of the well-to-do utilize the Portland airport and Timberline Lodge, which were both WPA projects.

The problem with trickle down is expecting the 1% to magically rise the tide. If you really want a rising tide to bouy all ships, you've got to spread things around intelligently. The invisable hand of the market is okay at doing that for the tangible and immediate stuff like homewares and bicycles but it could never tackle pandemic flu or even swill milk.

That's where benign bureaucracies come into play. Like all large institutions, they vary in effectiveness and intelligence. The bad ones are a result of electing leaders based on their marketing skills instead of electing leaders based on their leadership skills.
posted by Skwirl at 9:43 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


basically what it boils down to is "please don't tax me, i wont be able to afford to send my 3 kids to their expensive private school". well maybe they can apply for a scholarship, then.
posted by mano at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2010


eriko: "I make $36,000 a year, I live in Chicago, We pay our mortgage and send our daughter to a private Jewish school.

That, sir, is a trick and I take my hat off to you.
"

You are too kind but I'll take it.

As the saying goes, if I knew then what I know now, I'd be even richer.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are not rich if you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets

If you make $1 million a year, you are, de facto, rich. If you then spend $950k a year, you are both rich and an idiot.

And if you make $250k a year and can't make a comfortable living in NYC, you are Elie Mystal.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The entire point of the essay is that income does not equal wealth. You are not rich is you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets. You are rich if you have zero income and $10M in the bank. Rich = what you have accumulating year after year, assets - liabilities.

The entire point of the shitstorm is that if you are spending 95% of a $1 million dollar salary every month, that is your own damn fault and how dare you try to blame it on taxes?
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Right you are, skwirl; and beyond that, I think a good argument could actually be made that wealthy or high income people benefit more from public services and projects. It's certainly true for things like police, fire, security apparatus—people who have stuff worth stealing benefit more from having armed disincentives to thievery. Likewise, families that own 3 cars benefit more from public works like highway and road building and maintenance, traffic safety thingies, etc. compared with people who take the bus or walk every where. It really is very short-sighted and selfish to take this "any taxes is bad taxes" approach.

And now, to the issue of trickle-down economics: The thing to remember is that, by and large, substantial changes in employment in the US are not driven by people paying salaries or hourly wages from their own taxable income. Corporate and public payrolls are where the big shifts can occur, in both directions. It's preposterous to lament the loss of income to the gardener when an increase in taxes to the wealthiest Americans could well drive sorely needed infrastructure projects that actually, you know, pay living wages for their workers. This angle is a red herring.

You know what would encourage corporate hiring? Universal healthcare. Employees become a lot cheaper on the debit sheet, but take home as much as before. How do you pay for it? I have an idea...

And by the way, one could make a case that universal healthcare would benefit the wealthy—especially the investment class. They may pay more income tax, but investment income falls under different rules. Wealthy people tend to have investments. If some of these investments are in companies that are making more money because their healthcare expenses are lower, investors win!

The key issue here is that many wealthy and/or high income people don't think they use public services to any significant degree, but in reality, they are as heavily reliant on public sector services as the poorest of the poor. The services they rely on, however, are not things like food stamps, where there is an obvious transfer of value in play. The wealthy rely heavily on infrastructure and law enforcement and the judicial system and all that sort of thing that you never notice until it stops working.
posted by Mister_A at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Here's something else. Assuming he's a full professor at U of C and not a lecturer, he's levaing out some pretty important facts.
Check out faculty perks at U of C:

1) The University pays undergraduate tuition for dependent children of eligible employees at any accredited college or university in the United States OR any academically recognized foreign college or university that offers and undergraduate program leading to a bachelor’s degree ( for a total of 8 semesters/12 quarters and assuming it does not exceed U of C's tuition at that time. Also no room/board, etc)

So, I'm sorry, assuming you plan to stay at the university until your children are college age(why wouldn't you?), this means you dont have to do something every other parent has to do and fears.

2) All that private school nonsense? -- The University pays 50% of the tuition at the University of Chicago Laboratory School for the Dependent Child of employees in eligible positions.

Not saying that's not still a lot of money. But still. Shut. Up.

3) And lastly . . .

The Employer Assisted Housing Program makes it easier and more affordable for you to buy a new or existing home or condominium near Hyde Park and the neighboring communities. If you are eligible, you will have access to a five-year forgivable loan of $7,500
posted by mcostanzo at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


So he's bitching about having to pay less taxes than during the Clinton era because he isn't smart enough to hire tax help and it might reduce the lifestyle he freely admits he can barely afford?

I won't knock him for choosing private school; I don't know anything about Hyde Park public schools, but if I had the means, I would seriously consider sending my children to the best schooling money could buy.

It would be a bummer for his nanny, house cleaner and landscaper to be out of work.

But maybe, just maybe, he should live within his means? There is no law of the universe saying a dual lawyer/doctor income household should be entitled to live a certain lifestyle. They can only spend what they can afford.
posted by wires at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone who mentioned choices. This isn't about the tax bracket, it's that this guy chose to have three kids, chose to buy an expensive home, employ people to care for aforementioned house and children, chose to take school loans, etc.

Not to say he didn't have the right to do that. But he shouldn't be whining about it now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:27 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I played polo while making $36,000 a year. Yes, with horses.

I don't totally understand the complaint about giant student loans when you are making that much money. OK, so you have $100,000 in student loans, that is indeed huge, but if you are making that much or more a year how does it take you more than 3 or 4 years to pay that off? I understand there's a certain amount of "keeping up" you have to do for professional reasons, but I'm also fairly sure that several of the people I know who earn in that range have no idea that I make a fraction of what they do.

I don't mind rich people having lots of things, at all. Just when they whine about not having even more.
posted by sepviva at 10:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I played polo while making $36,000 a year. Yes, with horses.

i'm poor and have to make do with baby monkeys on pigs
posted by pyramid termite at 10:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.

Being frightened of liberal policies, or attitudes, is not an acceptable rationale for either having put Sarah Palin on the 2008 ticket or conceding her stealth candidacy for 2012. Palin offers only demagoguery and ressentiment - which admittedly seem to be working out just fine for her for the moment. The only feasible alternative is sound conservative policy, which, after all, shouldn't be a contradiction in terms. Prof. Henderson lists (half-heartedly) several conservative policy ideas he supports, but he does not go so far as to identify himself as either a conservative or a Republican. My guess is than he avoids those brands because they have become toxically associated with Sarah Palin and her Teabagging ilk.

As for the professor's blog posts' overall tone, I'm reminded of the exchange in Six Degrees of Separation between the budding con man and his preppie mark about the latter's wealthy peer group. "Is these all rich people?" "No. Hand to mouth on a higher plateau."
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


the point is that he's telling you that if you raise his taxes, he's going to cut back somewhere else. Even if that cut back is on fancy hats, then the fancy hat guy is going to feel the pinch.

By this logic, he shouldn't be required to pay any taxes at all, and then we'd all be living the high life.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:45 AM on September 22, 2010


he is offended by the government trying to tell him he is rich and in turn must have it really easy.

This is the kind of rhetorical slippage the makes this guys argument, and those of his defenders, so loathsome. Suggesting that someone can pay more taxes is not the same as suggesting that they must have it "really easy." If you have to be intellectually disingenuous, as Henderson is repeatedly, then your argument just isn't that strong.
posted by OmieWise at 10:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]



The comments in this thread illustrate why I'll never leave the right wing, no many how Palins we're forced to suffer through. It's just frightening imagining having you people in control, having your hatred of anyone who has anything dictate policy.


You can't honestly say the country is better off now then in 1999.
posted by milarepa at 10:47 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the exchange in Six Degrees of Separation between the budding con man and his preppie mark about the latter's wealthy peer group. "Is these all rich people?" "No. Hand to mouth on a higher plateau."
Indeed. The mouth just gets bigger, and the hand turns invisible.
posted by verb at 10:51 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well this thread is tl;dr although it's really good stuff. I think everyone is right on in saying that this guys lives like a poor personal in terms of his cash flow albeit he saves a lot for retirement.

My gripe is private school. He probably spends $100K annually on private school which, for the most part, has no statistically significant improvement over a public school in a rich neighbourhood. he's pissing away a quarter of his gross income on a pure luxury expense (or to avoid selling coupon books maybe).

Send your kids to public school - last I check not a single Nobel prize winner attended a private school.
posted by GuyZero at 10:52 AM on September 22, 2010


I would seriously consider sending my children to the best schooling money could buy.

Spending money is way down on the list of things that affect a child's education outcome. You'd be better off getting a college degree if you don't have one or simply buying a shitload of books and then reading them to you children. Those two things will have a much bigger impact on your child's education achievement than paying money.

There are public elementary schools in Cupertino, CA that have API test scores (that's the California standardized tests that get written by every student, every year) - and this is school-wide - of 980 out of 1000. That is, the school average is 98%. I realize there's more to school than standardized test scores, but if you want to quantify the benefit of spending $40K per kid it's going to be pretty tough.

BTW, this guy is prett bad at money management for someone who makes so much.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, Pastabagel, I'm totally surprised and I guess I should have read the thread completely first - my bad.

1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

No, you STFU. I have two kids and would never waste money sending them to private school. For the 75K+ it would cost me annually I can find much better things to do to improve their educational outcomes. Besides, i could always spend the extra $75K on buying a house in a better school district and get a nicer house into the bargain.
posted by GuyZero at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Urk, I guess it's probably more like 30-40K annually for two kids around here. For those who are going to split hairs. But my point stands.
posted by GuyZero at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tom Wolfe did it better.

Going broke on a million dollars a year.
posted by OldReliable at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. This prick makes 40× what I do and he's bitching? I want to give him a tour of my life.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


...
you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.
...
you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.
...
you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.
...
you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.


Sweet. This is like something out of Lorca. I am picturing Blazecock spitting in Todd Henderson's face and bellowing "I denounce you!"
posted by Beardman at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.

So what's your point? I don't have anywhere near enough money after taxes to put my kids in a $50,000 / year private school. If he doesn't have enough money after taxes (and all his other expenses) to pay the $50,000 / year tuition (or whatever it costs), then, just like me and millions of other Americans, he can't afford that school.

Are you arguing that because he's so close to being able to afford something that is completely out of reach for most people, he deserves a special break on his taxes?
posted by straight at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Send your kids to public school - last I check not a single Nobel prize winner attended a private school.

That's not accurate. Here are a couple of counter-examples that came up after a quick search (these are American examples; there are a lot more from other countries, but I figured those weren't necessarily comparable).

Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1946: "She went to private schools as a young girl"

Douglass North, Economics 1993:
I went to elementary school in Ottawa, and then to a private secondary school. When we moved back to the United States in 1933, I went to private schools in New York City and on Long Island, and then completed my high school education at the [private] Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Robert B. Laughlin, Physics 1998:
My mother, who was professional schoolteacher, was particularly concerned about our formal education and even went so far as to start a private school together with some other parents so that our intellectual needs would be met. They acquired an old two-room schoolhouse out in the country among the walnut groves at the foot of Venice Hill, added some indoor plumbing, and hired a small faculty to teach us a broad curriculum that included such things as Latin and French.
So it looks like privately educated Nobel winners are not uncommon.
posted by jedicus at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the 75K+ it would cost me annually I can find much better things to do to improve their educational outcomes.

One example: invest the cost of private school tuition in a tax-advantaged college savings program. I suspect it would be far more economically advantageous for a child to be able to graduate from college debt-free than to have the educational leg-up of private school, even if going to private school enabled the child to attend a better college.
posted by jedicus at 11:25 AM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


last I check not a single Nobel prize winner attended a private school.

Off the top of my head, Barack Obama and Al Gore.
posted by naoko at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a mother (ha!), Pastabagel's 100% comment is BS. I deny my kid opportunities ALL THE TIME, because I think it's bad parenting to cater to her every whim and desire. She's in private preschool right now because she's 6 weeks too young for the public preschool, but that will change next year; she plays outside in the afternoons with the other neighborhood kids rather than having martial arts classes or ballet classes or soccer classes or lord-knows-what because I think the unstructured playtime is good for her.

This isn't to say that I never give her extra opportunities, because of course I do, but it is just absolute unmitigated bullshit to say that 100% of all parents will give their child everything they can or even can't afford. Some of us, instead, are teaching our children that resources aren't infinite, that people and families have to make choices about how we spend our money and our time, and that sometimes, we don't always get what we want.
posted by KathrynT at 11:34 AM on September 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


One example: invest the cost of private school tuition in a tax-advantaged college savings program. I suspect it would be far more economically advantageous for a child to be able to graduate from college debt-free than to have the educational leg-up of private school, even if going to private school enabled the child to attend a better college.

So even if we reset to $40K I don't have that kind of free cash in the budget, but yes, I agree completely. Having said that, if you had $40K free cash, post-tax, every year to pay for private school, I can only assume you'd have that cash flow for college as well and $40K annually is probably sufficient to put a single kid through college.

But other than that, yes, you'll get a better educational outcome improvement on spending money on college versus elementary & high school.

Finally, even rich kids can be dumb and private schools alone don't guarantee admission into what I'd consider a "good" school. Dumb rich kids get in places that are generically considered "good" but I am personally biased towards programs with purely merit-based entrance requirements. You should attend the "hardest" program you can afford to.
posted by GuyZero at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


last I check not a single Nobel prize winner attended a private school.

Off the top of my head, Barack Obama and Al Gore.


Any loser can win the Peace prize. (kidding).

OK, perhaps to rephrase my point - there are a lot of Nobel prize winners that did not attend private primary or secondary schools. It is far from a pre-requisite to success.
posted by GuyZero at 11:37 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you guys know that no matter what kind of change you make to the tax structure, there is almost always going to be some household sitting right on the border, who banks on the fact that they can have their exact current circumstance, who is going to have to modify their way of life slightly?

AMAZING.

My "solution" has been to spend "below my means" on an item or two in case something catastrophic comes up. Living well means being able to absorb whatever bullshit pops up -- car accident, medical incident, house issues -- or slight changes in the system, without a major change in the flow of life.

In my opinion, if one thing like this throws your life into turmoil,

Whether or not this tax change is fair is another issue. Justifying your complaint that tax changes are unfair because it disrupts your ability to barely skate by on your current expenditures when you're spending on luxury good and services? That's where our complaints lie.
posted by mikeh at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I forgot to finish my statement:

In my opinion, if one thing like this throws your life into turmoil, you're budgeting wrong.
posted by mikeh at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


But other than that, yes, you'll get a better educational outcome improvement on spending money on college versus elementary & high school.

I can only assume that you live somewhere the public schools could be considered "decent" if this statement is true for you.
posted by madajb at 12:01 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to defend him, but just to speculate: this guy and his wife have nearly $500,000 in student loans. Holy shit. Combine that with $100,000 of their $250,000 going to taxes. Maybe he really is sort of straining his budget enough that he should be considered "upper middle class" but not flat-out rich. Not to discount the good points others are making about private school, hired help, etc.
posted by naju at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Combine that with $100,000 of their $250,000 going to taxes.

Approx. $100,000 of their 400k is going to taxes.
posted by muddgirl at 12:15 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Free-Marketeer Refuses to Hire Tax Help, Complains About Cost of His Taxes.

Interesting.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:16 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like the argument is "Hey poor people! We live above our means, too!"

Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school.

Oh shit. I care about the education of my child, too, but my household makes about a sixth of what they make. We have to go into massive debt right now!
posted by maus at 12:17 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's making $400k? I didn't read all the way through the massive thread yet. Fuck, he really led me to believe that he was making far less. Nevermind.
posted by naju at 12:19 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


So my understanding here is that taxes are a Marxist/Socialist/Communist idea and a very much anti-freedom concept that you are slowly purging from your country, right?
posted by Theta States at 12:24 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, we are all very rich, Theta States. My butler has a maid for chrissakes.
posted by Mister_A at 12:34 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's making $400k? I didn't read all the way through the massive thread yet. Fuck, he really led me to believe that he was making far less. Nevermind.

Really, his whole rant was one massive confusion about taxation and basic home economics. He states that he makes "a little over" $250k, but then he states that he pays $100k a year in taxes. Those two number just don't match up - the highest marginal tax bracket is 35%, and most of his income is taxed at a lower rate than that. He should be writing off his mortgage and quite possibly the interest on their student loans.

Perhaps he's confusing "gross income" with "taxable income"? Perhaps he makes $250k and his wife pulls in $150k? Perhaps he's really bad at doing his taxes?
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a point of information, the tuition for my daughter's parochial school education this year is just under $5,000. That's our out-of-pocket. Because we are members of one of the parishes that supports the school, the parish subsidizes her education by about an additional $1,500/year. The actual cost of her education this year, per the school, is just shy of $9,000. We do a lot of fund-raising to make up the gap. Families like ours, who are in a better position, do more for the fund-raising efforts or make a larger donation to the school's Annual Fund.

We pay significantly more than that for our son's 3-day-a-week preschool program, which is a not-for-profit cooperative. Part of the program's mission is to maintain an economically diverse membership; we have families that get subsidies from the city or the state, and the program covers the rest of the costs, again with substantial fund-raising and support from member families who can afford to provide that support.

All of these costs, including our financial contributions beyond tuition, are a FAR cry less than the insane amounts of money some of these people are paying for private school tuition. I guess that's another reason why we don't poor-mouth like the good professor - because we find ways to make the things that matter to us happen while being financially reasonable.

I spend a LOT of my time supporting both of these schools; more for the pre-school because the support base there is smaller. This is one of the benefits of me not working outside the home right now. A long time ago I worked for a man who taught me the philosophy that it is possible to do good while doing well. For our family, my husband does well (financially) and we turn that around to doing good (for society/the world) with my time and effort.

Again, rambling. But I wanted to put it out there that there are people right here on MetaFilter who are financially "upper class" who don't suck, who do get it, and who are committed to being responsible with our good fortune and sharing it as much as we can, in a variety of ways.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:36 PM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


He should be writing off his mortgage and quite possibly the interest on their student loans.

No way he can write off student loan interest at that income level. The phaseout on the deduction ends at $75,000 in modified adjusted gross income ($150,000 for a married couple filing jointly). I don't think there's any way for him and his wife to get their MAGI down that far from ~$450,000.
posted by jedicus at 12:39 PM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don’t need lectures about the poor, huddled masses who make less money than I do. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner; my maternal grandfather arrived penniless from Lebanon.

I fucking love this kind of thing. Don't tell me I'm privileged, my ancestors worked really hard!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:40 AM on September 22 [13 favorites +] [!]


Well, the fact that he's become wealthy (or upper-middle class or whatever) when his family was working class to poor (taking his description on faith) is evidence of socioeconomic mobility in American society. Yes, he didn't personally earn things that were earned by people before he was born or reached adulthood, which he benefited from. That's a truism. But one of the main incentives for people to be productive workers and earn money is that they can pass down their earnings to future generations.

I understand the "privilege!" accusation that's so ubiquitous on this website, but if you were to somehow eliminate all such "privilege," it's quite possible there'd be more rather than less poverty in the world. It's easy and perhaps even invigorating to lament the fact that our society contains "privilege" (in the special sense in which you're using it, i.e. that someone who earns money is allowed to pass on that money to other family members), but it's a pipe dream to think we could eradicate it without creating massive negative unintended consequences.

(This is all tangential to the main thrust of Henderson's commentary, which, as I said, I don't find very convincing.)
posted by John Cohen at 12:41 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa! Hey you wanna do my taxes, jedicus? It's always interesting with me.
posted by Mister_A at 12:41 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks jedicus - obviously I have a lot of experience doing taxes at the $70k and under level, and little experience above that.
posted by muddgirl at 12:47 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand the "privilege!" accusation that's so ubiquitous on this website, but if you were to somehow eliminate all such "privilege," it's quite possible there'd be more rather than less poverty in the world.

You've convinced me!

No, not really. Fact of the matter is that inequality in a society is universally connected with greater poverty and less productivity. Perhaps some sort of draconian leveling program could have the effect of lowering everyone's standard of living, but a simple reduction in the gap between rich and poor through, oh, I don't know, progressive taxation or something, is hardly that.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:14 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about some of the people on here who say they live on 12k/year. If my wife lost her job, I'd be paying almost that much in health insurance costs. If you live on 12k/year, do you not have health insurance, do you not live in the US, or do you get insurance from somewhere and not consider it part of your income?

GuyZero, I plan on sending my kids to public school when they're old enough, but there's plenty of nobel prize winners who went to private secondary schools. Not sure why you think there isn't.
posted by Crash at 1:18 PM on September 22, 2010


Guyzero, ignore my comment, I see it's been addressed. They really should add a preview button on here.
posted by Crash at 1:19 PM on September 22, 2010


When I lived on 12k per year, I did not have health insurance, no.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:23 PM on September 22, 2010


Pastabagel: "I understand that. My point is more general. The vast majority of parents, i.e. 100% of them, will spend whatever they have to to give their kids every chance. If they can't afford private school, it they'll spend on a tutor. If they can't afford a tutor, they'll spend on an educational video, if they can't afford that, etc. etc."

You don't get to write something off as non-wealth just because it's money you spent.

If you have a school where you can send your kids and not worry about their ability to get a 4 or higher on their AP test or get into a non-public institution with admissions standards, then you are either wealthy (by US standards) or your kids go to a high-performing charter school or the relatively rare high-performing urban charter school. If you can send your kids to school period, you're wealthy by the world's standard.

I had all of those things. I am wealthy. I have privilege. I try to be grateful.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:55 PM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can only assume that you live somewhere the public schools could be considered "decent" if this statement is true for you.

If you can afford private school I assume you live in a sufficiently good neighbourhood where the public schools are at least acceptable if not pretty good. I guess in the bay area there are some people who buy a less expensive house near a bad school so they can afford to send their kids to private school, but per my other comment, you're better off putting your private school tuition into moving to a neighbourhood with better public schools.

It seems to me that private schools vs uniformly bad public schools is a false dichotomy. I've never been anywhere in North America where there wasn't at least one decent public school.
posted by GuyZero at 1:56 PM on September 22, 2010


If you can afford private school I assume you live in a sufficiently good neighbourhood where the public schools are at least acceptable if not pretty good. I'm not so sure you can make this blanket statement for people who live in big cities. Maybe at the elementary level it holds, but above that in NYC at least this isn't really true.
posted by JPD at 2:00 PM on September 22, 2010


but per my other comment, you're better off putting your private school tuition into moving to a neighbourhood with better public schools.


Actually this is something I've looked at a bunch in the NY 'burbs. The market is surprisingly efficient, whereby the price differential for a nice home in a really shitty school district = PV of private school tuition adjusted for property taxes. This holds at the elementary level as well in NYC proper. NYC does have several very good public high schools but they are all magnet schools - so if your kid can't get into Stuy or Hunter what are you going to do? You move to the burbs or if you are wealthy enough you suck it up and pay for private school.
posted by JPD at 2:05 PM on September 22, 2010


Maybe at the elementary level it holds, but above that in NYC at least this isn't really true.

True, after that you have to ensure that your child is sufficiently educated and well-behaved before you can gain access to the better schools. The horror!
posted by milarepa at 2:09 PM on September 22, 2010


Yeah, when I was under $15K, I had no health insurance. Unless you count "get misdiagnosed with an STD at the student walk-in clinic."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:11 PM on September 22, 2010


Pastabagel: Everything else in this debate is class warfare bullshit.

Henderson: "After all, we can afford it, and the world we are now living in has that familiar Marxian tone of those who need take and those who can afford it pay."

Of course, nothing that Henderson says is remotely anything like "class warfare bullshit."
posted by blucevalo at 2:11 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Approx. $100,000 of their 400k is going to taxes.

This calculation seems to be guesswork, but if it's true, zounds. They're paying 15% less than if they were living in Ontario on that income (29% federal; 11% Ontario).

The lesson I take from this fpp, aside from how personally people take money issues, is that income doesn’t solely tell the story. My brother made an offhand comment recently about how we’re surely flush – professional jobs, no kids – and the conclusion he drew was that buying a car (transit strike – I could not get to work, mid-winter) couldn’t have been that big a deal. Well, excuse me. My spouse is still well sunk into student debt. I was almost out of mine, which meant going under again. We own no house. We owned no vehicles. Our choices, when possible, have been to live within our means. We were grateful that we had the credit to get a car, of course, but our hand was forced on that particular choice. We still bus to work every day.
Now this guy, different situation (and many voluntary choices), but the sanctimony of “you’re not hurting till all you eat is PB&J” is a little much.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:14 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk, that's a pretty sweeping generalization. My siblings and I grew up very middle class, and went to public school, and never had a problem on AP tests.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


True, after that you have to ensure that your child is sufficiently educated and well-behaved before you can gain access to the better schools. The horror!


So I assume you believe it is a foregone conclusion your child is so brilliant he'll pass the test for one of the science schools? I mean my wife and I have been 99th percentile plus in every standardized test we've ever taken, and she herself went to one of the magnet schools - but the odds are not low that our child (assuming we ever have one) will not get into Stuyvesant or Hunter or Bronx Sci? What do you do then put them on the E for an hour to go to Townsend Harris? Or do I suck it up and spend 50k a year to send to the Ethical Culture or something like that? Or do I move out to Nassau County or Westchester? There are no guarantees in life
posted by JPD at 2:17 PM on September 22, 2010


I think part of the problem is many people in that income bracket DO think they're 'rich' in a sort of "aww, it's just a BMW, top of the line, no big deal. Not as nice as my boss' car."

I was sitting in a very nice restaurant with a buddy of mine who keeps asking me why I drive 2nd hand (most folks like to say 'used') car, why I never go on 'vacation' (apparently hunting is not a vacation) or get a cleaning person in once a week, blah blah blah.

(I've never had a new car in my life. I know people who did cocaine, asked me if I wanted some, etc. If I had the money to buy cocaine, I would use it to pay bills or put it in the bank.)

And another friend of mine comes driving up in his Enzo and it's funny to watch him STFU.
He's a nice guy, but we have radically different points of view on how to live.

I don't think I'm enlightened or anything, I just don't want a lot of things. Books maybe. Something I noticed a while back - whatever you have, how much of it you have, not only owns you, but can be taken from you.
There's nothing you can put in your hand that can't be taken from it.
Whenever I have extra cash or time to spend I typically learn how to do something new. I take some classes, go volunteer, etc. Or spend more time with the kids.
Skills, relationships - those tend to be the only things that last. And ultimately they're typically the things we derive the most satisfaction from.

It's weird how everyone knows this, but they still get their wives a rock that can choke a horse or go into debt just to edge out some woman down the street.

And really, many studies show that parent interaction is the most important thing in determining a child's educational success.
Seems like people are willing to fork over an extra $20-50K a year just to avoid spending an hour a night helping a kid with homework.

You couldn't give me $50,000 more a year and tell me I could only see my kids for brief periods or just on the weekends. Things don't mean all that much.
And yet, here's a guy trying to convince himself and others that he's just GOT to have them.

But time? Yeah, that's important.
And the weird thing is, poor folks have no time (commuting to multiple jobs, etc) or have far too much (which is sort of mentally paralyzing because it's non-productive, apparently by social environmental design), and the truly rich have all the time in the world, but don't want to use it for anything actually valuable. Just stuff acquisition and status competition.

And lamenting being put upon, as though making other folks believe it's real will somehow make for a meaningful life.

My buddy with the Ferrari is pretty well adjusted. Grew up wealthy (you could land a plane in his foyer) and doesn't really care for things (other than cars), he dresses off the rack, etc. But you have that kind of money, you're an institution.
My other buddy seems to be chasing that without trying to seem like he is.

But there's no such thing as 'fuck you' money. Wealth is the last thing that's going to free your ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:18 PM on September 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


This calculation seems to be guesswork, but if it's true, zounds. They're paying 15% less than if they were living in Ontario on that income (29% federal; 11% Ontario).

I always forget about state income tax, but it looks like the Illinois income tax is a flat 3%.
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on September 22, 2010


Actually this is something I've looked at a bunch in the NY 'burbs. The market is surprisingly efficient, whereby the price differential for a nice home in a really shitty school district = PV of private school tuition adjusted for property taxes. This holds at the elementary level as well in NYC proper. NYC does have several very good public high schools but they are all magnet schools - so if your kid can't get into Stuy or Hunter what are you going to do? You move to the burbs or if you are wealthy enough you suck it up and pay for private school.

Yeah, I ended up in the bay area 'burbs not because I love the nightlife which consists of TV and going to bed early but because it's the most cost-effective way to get my kids into good schools. Magnet schools aren't all bad but they do mess with the much simpler game of pay-to-play with schools & real estate prices. I think San Francisco has the same issue with elementary schools since it's a city-wide board.

I haven't run the numbers to the PV level of detail but in silicon valley the market is definitely not perfectly efficient - you can find a range of prices (all high, but some less so) for a given target school ranking. Also, and perhaps this is just personal preference, but ultimately a school merely needs to be "good enough". if the school-wide API score is 980 is that going to have a huge difference in outcome for my individual kids versus a school where the score is 870? You'd be hard-pressed to see a diference in those two schools. Buying a house in a nice neighbourhood doesn't guarantee you getting your kids into the nice school around the corner. it's good in a broad societal sense, it's not so good for bossy parents who want what they want.

The same is true for a lot of goods - is a $40K car really much better than a $25K car? Both are in a different world than what real poor people deal with buying a $1,000 car and hoping it holds together. A $750K house isn't that different from a $1.1M house. Both of which are infinitely better than living somewhere that's actually bad. These are the decisions this guy is making and it seems that at every turn he's choosing to spend money and then complaining about a couple thousand in taxes.
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I assume you believe it is a foregone conclusion your child is so brilliant he'll pass the test for one of the science schools? I mean my wife and I have been 99th percentile plus in every standardized test we've ever taken, and she herself went to one of the magnet schools - but the odds are not low that our child (assuming we ever have one) will not get into Stuyvesant or Hunter or Bronx Sci? What do you do then put them on the E for an hour to go to Townsend Harris? Or do I suck it up and spend 50k a year to send to the Ethical Culture or something like that? Or do I move out to Nassau County or Westchester? There are no guarantees in life

I was being a little facetious. Of course there are no guarantees in life. However, unlike you, I have actually raised a child in NYC. She just started her first year of High School last week. There are a lot of good schools to choose from and the world won't end if a child doesn't get into Stuy or Hunter. That's the same sort of "the sky is falling" attitude that I see with the super wealthy here fretting about how their child didn't get into that competitive preschool. The process is a bureaucratic nightmare and somewhat of a crap shoot, but for the most part it is a meritocracy. You don't just buy access for your kids by living in a nice neighborhood.
posted by milarepa at 2:35 PM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


My parents taught us kids that when you see someone trapped in a muddy ditch, you don't fucking step over them. You get in the goddamned ditch and help everyone get out. Because we are all the same people, the muddy and the dry. Just because I had my parent's hands to help me over the ditch doesn't mean everyone will.

A-to-the-men.
posted by jeanmari at 2:37 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Too many people in this thread are out of their minds:

1. Private school for kids: if you don't have kids, please shut the fuck up. It costs all of your money to raise kids in America. If you make $50k or $500k, they will take all your money, because you will not cut back on opportunities for them. If private school is 10% better than public school, there isn't a parent out there that will spend 100% more for the better school.


This is bullshit. I can't make a statement about his priorities because I don't have kids. Wrongo! Anyone can have kids, but it is a choice. The fact that you have to pay for more stuff because you have kids is your choice. It does not reduce the fact that you, as a citizen must help pay for the government that protects your kids, spends millions making sure that your kids toys, drugs, and food are all safe and pays for them to be healthy through research grants. Telling me I can't make an argument because I am not in your position is terrible argumentation.

2. Did you go to medical school or law school? If not, please shut the fuck up. He says that his wife is carrying $250k in student loans, and that he also has loans. This is basically like owning another house that you can never sell. Student loans is the primary mechanism preventing people from the middle class joinging the actually wealthy.

Well, turns out I did go to law school and I owe a shitload in loans. But guess what! That was also my choice. His tax burden should not be reduced because he made choices that did not pan out for him. Regardless of how much loan debt he has or how much his kids cost, the cost of the government must be paid from somewhere. We as citizens must pay the price. Since the poor can barely pay, and the rich have all the money, and also benefit the most from the way the society is set up, they should pay the most. These aren't high tax rates by historical or international standards. And again, it is totally wrong to argue that people cannot state an argument becasue they are not in the same situation. This is a free country and just because everyone is not rich or doesn't have kids or a law degree does not mean that they are somehow not entitled to particpate in the political discussion on this very important issue.

3. He isn't complaining about taxing the rich, he's complaining that rich is being defined down to $250k. He's in the top 1.5% of Americans. 25% of Americans are under 18. That statistic is meaningless.

Guess what. "The rich" are not defined as making $250,000. The government is proposing to raise the rates a very small bit on income over $250,000. On all his income below that point, he will pay the same he always has. The only person who called themselves the "super rich" in this debate is the gentleman who wrote the blog post. Take out rich if you please. The question at hand is "Should we let the tax cuts for marginal income over $250,000 expire? The answer is a resounding yes. The American people say yes, and the math says yes. This needs to happen.

4. The income tax debate is a red herring a distraction. We will never talk about raising corporate taxes (revenue from which is about 1/5 of what is collected from personal income tax) because corporations own government.

No it is not. I happen to think that corporate taxes should go up. But that does not mean that private income taxes, which constitute a larger share of the economy, should not also go up. We are talking about Clinton rates here. Like it or not, we have a huge deficit and it needs to be paid for. The money has got to come from somewhere.

5. The entire point of the essay is that income does not equal wealth. You are not rich is you make $1 million a year if you spend $950k on things that aren't assets. You are rich if you have zero income and $10M in the bank. Rich = what you have accumulating year after year, assets - liabilities.

Again, this has nothing to do with how rich anyone is. The point of the essay was that the gentleman did not want to pay extra on his marginal income above $250,000. The gentleman's reasoning was that he was not "rich" therefore he should not have to pay. He wanted to excluded because a whole host of lifestyle choices he made had put him in a situation which he did not like, given the fact that he had made those choices. Tough shit.

6. In France, they tax wealth. Literally they tax you on assets you own. They make almost 10 billion euros a year from this, and france has 1/4th the population and not nearly as many insanely wealthy people as we do. If you want to tax Buffet differently than his secretary, tax 10% of assets. Then he'll pay $4 billion, and she'll pay zero. There's your difference. France spends more on defense than China or Russia, they have strong social welfare programs, healthcare, free top education.

This would result in persons like the gentleman in question paying more tax, not less, as he owns stock according to his own account.

Everything else in this debate is class warfare bullshit. It pits the upper middle class against the middle middle class to prevent anyone from focusing on taxing rich people on their wealth or raising corporate taxes slightly. And please don't feed me the "raising corporate taxes would reduce job creation" horseshit. Profitable companies are laying off workers to be more profitable.

If you have an argument to make against specific points persons have made, I suggest you do it. But dismissing the arguments of several hundred posters by describing them as "class warfare bullshit" isn't going to win any arguments.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:37 PM on September 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


I haven't run the numbers to the PV level of detail but in silicon valley the market is definitely not perfectly efficient - you can find a range of prices (all high, but some less so) for a given target school ranking. Also, and perhaps this is just personal preference, but ultimately a school merely needs to be "good enough". if the school-wide API score is 980 is that going to have a huge difference in outcome for my individual kids versus a school where the score is 870? You'd be hard-pressed to see a diference in those two schools. Oh I totally agree - my examples are really based on comparing a truly dreadful schools district with "good" ones.

There are a lot of good schools to choose from and the world won't end if a child doesn't get into Stuy or Hunter. That are public? do tell ? what hidden gems are there out there? We really really really want to stay in the city and have no desire to send kids to private school for non-financial reasons.
posted by JPD at 2:41 PM on September 22, 2010


Approx. $100,000 of their 400k is going to taxes.

This calculation seems to be guesswork, but if it's true, zounds. They're paying 15% less than if they were living in Ontario on that income (29% federal; 11% Ontario).

The lesson I take from this fpp, aside from how personally people take money issues, is that income doesn’t solely tell the story. My brother made an offhand comment recently about how we’re surely flush – professional jobs, no kids – and the conclusion he drew was that buying a car (transit strike – I could not get to work, mid-winter) couldn’t have been that big a deal. Well, excuse me. My spouse is still well sunk into student debt. I was almost out of mine, which meant going under again. We own no house. We owned no vehicles. Our choices, when possible, have been to live within our means. We were grateful that we had the credit to get a car, of course, but our hand was forced on that particular choice. We still bus to work every day.
Now this guy, different situation (and many voluntary choices), but the sanctimony of “you’re not hurting till all you eat is PB&J” is a little much.


We have a deficit. The nation needs the funds. We can no longer afford to have income above $250k have the tax cut Bush gave it. It was a mistake to begin with. Someone must pay more. If we tax the poor, we aren't getting much money and will destroy the economy becasue they consume the most goods and services.

Remember, it was this fool who tried to reframe the debate that he should not pay more on his income over $250k, not us. So it is rather rich to be called out for saying that "you're not hurting till all you eat is PB&J" Because for tax purposes, its true.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:42 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


e we are talking about the same University of Chicago that Ayn Rand acolyte Milton Friedman basically defined the the term "greed is good", no? You'd think by now they'd be used to it.

Yes, the same one that Studs Terkel, Kurt Vonnegut, and Carl Sagan went to. I'm just being a internet-jerk about this. Poor people tend to have strong feelings of resentment toward rich people. Rich people don't realize this because they can chose their social group to a greater extend than a poor person, and so they are sheltered and clueless. This problem of empathy actually creates a less safe world for rich people.
posted by fuq at 2:47 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My buddy with the Ferrari is pretty well adjusted. Grew up wealthy (you could land a plane in his foyer) and doesn't really care for things (other than cars), he dresses off the rack, etc. But you have that kind of money, you're an institution.
My other buddy seems to be chasing that without trying to seem like he is.


Well noted. The second fellow is not really rich, though, he's high income, which is a different kettle of fish. Much like the professor and the wife. High income versus high net worth.

Your first friend is old money, which is interesting money, but not as much fun as new money, which has it and spends it stupid. But having cashed out of the dotcom startup, they at least have it to spend.

Our professor, your second friend - they don't have it to spend, but spend it anyway. Insane, as you say, but common enough, and common among a certain level of wall streeters who think easy come easy go easy come back a second time.

In that sense, the prof will never be rich. But he's stupid to put it out there in public.

Perhaps he's really bad at doing his taxes?

Certainly he is. He uses TurboTax. Might as well go to H&R block.

I suspect it would be far more economically advantageous for a child to be able to graduate from college debt-free than to have the educational leg-up of private school, even if going to private school enabled the child to attend a better college.

Well you might think so, and yet, there is another possibility. Perhaps things have changed since I was a young snipe, but for many, the getting-into-Harvard part of prep school mattered less than who-you-networked-with part of prep school. That's where the life long connections were made. Besides fear of having to send his kids to school with civilians, it is just possible that our professor thinks somewhat along these lines.

Any update on whether this mindset still holds would be welcome
posted by IndigoJones at 2:47 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


That are public? do tell ? what hidden gems are there out there? We really really really want to stay in the city and have no desire to send kids to private school for non-financial reasons.


Academically, Bard and Millennium, off the top of my head. Bard combines college work with high school so you graduate with an associates. Very innovative. Millennium is more community orientated, but very competitive and practically brand new. I heard Beacon is good, too. La Guardia, obviously, if your child wants to perform. There's actually quite a few.

In New York you get some choice of high schools. It's actually pretty wonderful. The thing to realize is that The Best School, is not always the best school for your child. A lot of burnt out, miserable kids come out of Stuy. The trick is to hunt for the best school for your child and pursue like crazy.
posted by milarepa at 2:54 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ugh and from all the typos I had in this thread, you'd think I was educated in a barn.
posted by milarepa at 2:57 PM on September 22, 2010


In France, they tax wealth. Literally they tax you on assets you own. They make almost 10 billion euros a year from this, and france has 1/4th the population and not nearly as many insanely wealthy people as we do. If you want to tax Buffet differently than his secretary, tax 10% of assets. Then he'll pay $4 billion, and she'll pay zero. There's your difference. France spends more on defense than China or Russia, they have strong social welfare programs, healthcare, free top education.

Well, yes, but. That ten billion is out of a budget of nearly 300. And their debt as a percentage of GDP is pretty high, so it's not like they're paying for all this good stuff up front.

Thing is, the French have learned long ago the arts of hiding wealth, so it's kind of unprovable one way or the other how many insanely rich French there are. There's a reason Switzerland is right next door. And Liechtenstein. (Interesting days as they begin to wilt under public scrutiny, but still.)

It's also the reason they instituted the frankly regressive VAT tax. It was one way they could theoretically get a snatch at much money at all.

By the way, the wealth tax is the maguffin in the excellent French comedy The Dinner Game, on which the (I understand) utterly atrocious American comedy Dinner for Schucks is based.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:00 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


you're better off putting your private school tuition into moving to a neighbourhood with better public schools.

Around here, it doesn't work that way,
There are no "neighborhoods" (good or bad), there's just the school district which encompasses the entire town.
posted by madajb at 3:12 PM on September 22, 2010


yeah but the problem is all of those schools are magnets no?
posted by JPD at 3:12 PM on September 22, 2010


yeah but the problem is all of those schools are magnets no?

There are no zoned high schools in nyc. There are specialized, screened, semi-screened and unscreened or something like that. If your child is well-behaved and does well in school, chances are he or she will get into a specialized or screened school. If your child misbehaves and does not do well in school, you've got bigger problems.
posted by milarepa at 3:21 PM on September 22, 2010


I'm feeling upset that his taxes are going to go down.
posted by lphoenix at 3:39 PM on September 22, 2010


Is anyone else fantasizing about Suze Orman tearing this dear professor a new one when he calls in for "Can I Afford It"?
posted by partylarry at 3:44 PM on September 22, 2010


So it is rather rich to be called out for saying that "you're not hurting till all you eat is PB&J" Because for tax purposes, its true.

No, this is like hard cases making bad law, except it's unsympathetic cases (pleading for sympathy, true enough) making for typical MeFi overreaching generalizations. For tax purposes, it is not true. That this particular guy could and should be paying more taxes doesn't make it true.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:03 PM on September 22, 2010


But, you know, I forget where I am.* Pick your side and stick to it, right?

* That tends to happen when I choose the "professional white background".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:05 PM on September 22, 2010


I'm curious about some of the people on here who say they live on 12k/year. If my wife lost her job, I'd be paying almost that much in health insurance costs. If you live on 12k/year, do you not have health insurance, do you not live in the US, or do you get insurance from somewhere and not consider it part of your income?

10,800 a year here. For me, Medicaid and Medicare (since I'm disabled). So I guess you could say I get insurance from somewhere and don't consider it part of my income. Same goes for food stamps. I guess I really am living high on the hog now that I think about it, if I include those other things as income.

Maybe I'm feeling philosophical today, but the fact that I only get about 11000 a year is not what bothers me. Moreso that things will never get much better for me since I am disabled. And since I'm only 29 (and have been living on disability since I was 22), the fact that I will always be very poor no matter what I do is more of a drag than remembering that I am poor at any given moment. But then again, it helps me to know that at any given moment I'm doing okay (I could be without any health care at all, like so many other people who have little money) and I have survived this long so I can keep doing it.
posted by Danila at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


I agree that this whiner's taxes are too high, but not because I buy his argument. Imagine if he got to spend his quarter million tax free. He'd hire more house cleaners, lawn care services, private schools, etc. His money would get sent right back into the local community, and presto, we'd get some of that employment we keep trying to produce but scratch our heads about when wages are taken by bureaucrats and sent to banks and the military and nothing changes.
posted by simms2k at 5:49 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


simms2: if he had no taxes, he wouldn't have a quarter of a millions dollars. He might not even have a job -- even a private university gets thousands of dollars of public money.

You want to know what an economy really looks like when the rich don't pay taxes? Look to the 16th century in Britain. A growing economy, increased consumption by the middle and upper class at the same time as widespred unemployment and (when food prices went up, due to a bad harvest) mass starvation. And their response? local taxes, to support poor relief. Because the free market just didn't work to feed everyone, even as agriculture was being improved.
posted by jb at 6:01 PM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "l33tpolicywonk, that's a pretty sweeping generalization. My siblings and I grew up very middle class, and went to public school, and never had a problem on AP tests."

Generalization rephrased: if you have time on a weekday to be on Metafilter, you're wealthy enough to not complain about how hard you have it. Sorry.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:04 PM on September 22, 2010


Oh, I suppose Somalia is a more contemporary example. The economy works so well there, where the rich are free to spend their money however they feel.

Funny thing, though, they keep emmigrating to other places that have taxes.
posted by jb at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


What distresses me is that this fellow seems to be quite a shoddy thinker, and he's a professor of law. Just as a small example, he says:
I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning.
What vast expansion? Where does that come from? It seems like he's schooling himself in public affairs by watching Fox News.

And he's paid a swack of money (which he appears to spend as though he's on shore leave) to turn out our next generation of lawyers.
posted by Trochanter at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Generalization rephrased: if you have time on a weekday to be on Metafilter, you're wealthy enough to not complain about how hard you have it. Sorry.

Or you...don't have a job.

I don't have it hard, but I know people who have computers and internet who certainly could complain.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:37 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have it hard, but I know people who have computers and internet who certainly could complain.

Per the original topic of the thread, anyone can complain, but don't expect other people to agree with you every time.
posted by GuyZero at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, people don't have to agree with you, but I do think people should listen and hear. That's my biggest problem with the professor - he is so isolated from the circumstances and perspectives of the many, many people below his socioeconomic level. He has been incredibly short-sighted and demonstrated a lack of empathy on a basic level. He can't listen to what they're saying, he can't even hear because the income gap is so huge. The plight of millions doesn't register above a whisper.

This sort of inhumanity has definitely gotten worse with each passing year. It's not that everything was sunshine and rainbows back in olden days, far from it, but I do think there were more social bonds and more stability in social institutions. As flawed as these institutions have been and are, they break down and people started to cling to "got mine, screw you". Shoot, Professor Henderson isn't even saying "screw you" because he doesn't even seem to realize that there is anybody else. Just faceless masses. Yeah he mentions the gardener and the maid, but if they were real people to him there's no way he would have written these posts. Whatever their complaints, he would never hear them.
posted by Danila at 7:58 PM on September 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


If his kids attend the private University of Chicago Lab schools, and he's a U of C professor, then they probably get a significant break in tuition costs. What an ass this guy is.
posted by anniecat at 8:20 PM on September 22, 2010




I'm curious about some of the people on here who say they live on 12k/year. If my wife lost her job, I'd be paying almost that much in health insurance costs. If you live on 12k/year, do you not have health insurance, do you not live in the US, or do you get insurance from somewhere and not consider it part of your income?

I don't have health insurance. I qualify for a Pennsylvania State women's health program that is sort of like health insurance, because I can get regular health checkups and whatnot, but I hope to God I never have a health emergency. In January I'll get to be on my mom's insurance for a few months, at least until I turn 26 in May.

As for having a computer, I actually haven't had a decently working computer for a year-and-a-half. During that time period I'd use the library, a friend's computer, for about two months I had a ten-year-old desktop I dug out of my parents' basement and ran Linux on that until it died, and before this computer I was using a friend's old, broken laptop with a broken battery and overheated about every hour or so of use, going longer if I sat it on an ice pack. Doing anything more taxing than playing YouTube videos would kill it. It also made this high whining noise like an airplane, but that didn't bother me so much. My current laptop is a $300 deal I bought when I finally admitted to myself aforementioned overheating laptop wasn't going to cut it for school. If you think I'm living the high life with other gadgets, my cell phone is a basic plan and I got the phone for free with my contract, and my MP3 player is a 1GB flash drive thing I received God knows how long ago that's no longer sold and is held together by scotch tape.

Internet I can afford because it's included in my rent. I'm paying $250/month, all utilities included, a sweet deal that was possible because my friends let me sleep on their couch a week after my sublet was up while I continued to look for places I could afford, the apartment is in house that's undergoing badly-needed renovations and my floor will be the last to get fixed up, the place is still dealing with a flea infestation, and the neighborhood is one where I drive to the coffee shop five blocks away if I think I'm going to be coming back in the dark. I'm not a shrinking violet about bad neighborhoods but when I walked back last time a woman ran across the street at me and followed me for three blocks trying to grab my cellphone and screaming for me to call 911 because people were chasing us.

Food, I qualify for food stamps. This is extremely helpful.

I could be a hell of a lot worse off, oh yes, I look around my neighborhood and I'm reminded of that. I mean, I qualified for the student loans to get this laptop, and I've got the advantages of being raised in an upper-middle-class household. But knowing there are people worse off than me doesn't make it easier to listen to a guy who makes fifty times my income complain about his comparative poverty.
posted by schroedinger at 8:45 PM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, to clarify: I do not resent people who make more than me simply because they make more than me. I am not of the opinion that everyone should be poor and making the same amount, though I do think the extreme and growing wealth gap in the US is not a good thing.

What makes me angry is seeing people who make way, way more than me and never bother to learn how to use it. One of my most well-off friends is getting a second job because he "doesn't have enough money" and it drives me nuts as he totally does have enough money, he just doesn't have enough for the car he wants, every new gadget and movie he buys, and going out to eat every night. This dude is the same way, I mean, with $500,000 I have retirement accounts like you would not believe, not housekeepers and giant houses and silly things that will fuck you over if something goes south financially.
posted by schroedinger at 9:02 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Divorce is expensive.

But soooo worth it.
posted by dobbs at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


$250K/year is a great income but that does not make you wealthy. It's exceedingly simple to spend through that kind of money in an expensive American city without ever buying a Coach bag. The point is, it's income, it is turned off as soon as you start working. So lowering the boom on people who have incomes of $250K a year is the wrong move. They spend most if that income and stimulate the economy in the process. It's the people who are wealthy who need to be taxed.
posted by borges at 9:42 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


So lowering the boom on people who have incomes of $250K a year is the wrong move.

Lowering the boom on people who have incomes of $250K a year? My, that does sound serious when you put it like that. Do explain how much additional tax, in dollars, a person making $250K/year will pay, would you?

Okay, let's assume you meant over $250K. Let's say $300K. What will the actual increased -- or I should say, "restored" since this is a tax cut of not very long standing we're talking about -- tax burden of someone making $300K be, in actual dollars?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:17 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's exceedingly simple to spend through that kind of money in an expensive American city without ever buying a Coach bag.

You've got to think it would be pretty easy to not burn through it too, though.

However, I agree that the government should probably be shooting a little higher up the food chain than this guy. As BuddhaInABucket said earlier:
Nobody's talking about tax brackets: Yes, $250,000 is a lot of money, but there are still people who make orders of magnitude more than that who get taxed pretty much the same amount. Why is 373k the top tax bracket? Why not another at 1 million, and then as many more as you need?

posted by Trochanter at 10:20 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


...pick up after yourself, you rich, privileged, lazy piece of shit.

In all fairness, it's not just rich privileged lazy pieces of shit who occasionally hire cleaners to come in. I don't do too badly (I earn a 5 figure salary!) but I'm hardly wealthy, and I've hired cleaners to come in on occasion. I'd just like to say that every so often I hear people badmouthing those who hire cleaners to (literally) do their dirty work and the truth is, for people like me, who do not have the capacity to see dirt and mess, cleaners are a godsend.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:04 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taxes need to go exponential as income rises because interest earned does the same, not to mention power and influence, as well as reliance on the greater infrastructure.

Regarding the latter, the roads, libraries, and water mains over on the other side of the country have little influence on my ability to earn and enjoy. But for the wealthy powerholders that infrastructure is vital to their interests; it deeply influences their business' bottom lines.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:07 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It pits the upper middle class against the middle middle class

This might irk some people but I think the "upper middle class" is a mythological entity. It just doesn't exist. Either you are poor, you are middle class, or you are rich.

I think "upper middle class" is really just code for "I make 6 figures, but the first figure is less than 3". And I know, it can sometimes feel hard to raise a family on that kind of money. My household income puts me pretty squarely in "middle class" but I know that it would be difficult to live the way we're living now if we had children. We would have to cut a fair amount of corners and we might even "feel" poor. I can see how, in that circumstance, I could be making $100k a year and still feel strained. However, it's always humbling and sobering to remember there are plenty of people who are raising children on less than I am making right now, and also manage to avoid griping constantly about it or even seeing themselves as struggling.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm curious about some of the people on here who say they live on 12k/year. If my wife lost her job, I'd be paying almost that much in health insurance costs. If you live on 12k/year, do you not have health insurance, do you not live in the US, or do you get insurance from somewhere and not consider it part of your income?

I'm at ~12k right now. No healthcare. No kids. Until very recently though, I was living on around 8k a year. The trick is to learn not to buy anything. Also, while I was 8k, I got 180 a month from SNAP, so that was really helpful.

Now I pay about 550 in rent, maybe 200 in debt payments and utilities. Me and my friends all actually feel like we made it now. I have a little bit of spare cash. I live a pretty nice apartment now in a nice chunk of the city. I'm not starving all the time anymore. We have inside jobs that don't involve food. It's really kind of pleasant to pare your shit down to exactly what you need and realize that you have a little bit left over each month.

That said, I'm not in NYC of SF. Living there on 12k would be a fucking nightmare.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:17 AM on September 23, 2010


For those saying that Prof Henderson and family have to live in Chicago because of their jobs, there are law schools and pediatric oncology wards in most cities in the country, and few medium sized cities are nearly as expensive as Chicago.

Here in Durham we have what I've heard is the highest concentration of doctors in the country, including a pretty good cancer center, as well as a pretty good law school. I understand they cure cancer and have a law school in the next town over, as well. In my neighborhood, the Hendersons could get a perfectly nice 3-bedroom house for around $200,000 and they could both walk to work. If they wanted 4 bedrooms, so each kid could have their own, they'd might have to go to a more suburban area, might pay as much as $300,000, and have to drive more.

And there are plenty of other places with reasonable cost of living that also have cancer centers and law schools, like Atlanta, Austin, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, etc. Most of those places have feasible public transportation and perfectly fine public schools.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:45 AM on September 23, 2010


I'm curious about some of the people on here who say they live on 12k/year. If my wife lost her job, I'd be paying almost that much in health insurance costs. If you live on 12k/year, do you not have health insurance, do you not live in the US, or do you get insurance from somewhere and not consider it part of your income?

More anecdata. I have a friend who's 45, divorced, single mom to three kids ages 9 to 14. (She also has a fourth child who is profoundly disabled teen that lives with his dad, since he's too large, physically, for her to care for herself.) Since the kids that live with her are still school aged, she works part-time. She earns about $18K/year and has no insurance from her job. As part of the divorce settlement she and her kids are still covered on her ex-husband's insurance. She also gets child support from him which keeps her family afloat. Between the child support and the insurance she still feels significantly at his mercy.

I know she'd love to be more independent, get a better-paying job, etc, etc, but balancing the time demands and multiple responsibilities is excruciating as it is. She is hopeful that as her kids get older and more independent, she will be able to get a better-paying gig with insurance, but for now that appears to be an unobtainable arrangement, not for lack of trying to be sure.
posted by Sublimity at 9:36 AM on September 23, 2010


More generally, in response to the OP. This argument was pretty popular a few years ago--I remember the introduction of the idea of HENRYs: High Earners, Not Rich Yet. A quick Google search seems to show this term has gotten a lot of use...

I think it was that Fortune article I just linked to where I realized that the family that was profiled was saving $40K/year in retirement savings--coincidentally, just about as much as the median household income in the US at the time--that these people had Just No Clue.

I'm *really* glad the subject has come up again and people are starting to put it together. Especially the discussion of marginal tax rates, which people always seem to have a really hard time understanding.
posted by Sublimity at 9:44 AM on September 23, 2010


Chicago does not have an unreasonable cost of living. One of my favorite things about the city is that you have a lot of good choices when it comes to finding a place to live. This guy has chosen to live in a very, very expensive area. He is living in the same neighborhood as Barack Obama and Louis Farrakhan. He is living above his means. Even in the much less expensive neighborhood right next door (and closer to his work), housing is still more expensive than you can get other places.

Chicago is huge. There are a lot of really great neighborhoods, and it's a much more drivable city than someplace like New York. I moved from Hyde Park to Pilsen a few years ago. My rent went down $150 a month, I had a much nicer apartment, and I didn't have to wake up to drunk homeless people fighting in the alley behind my house anymore (something which happened at least once a week, even in the winter, in the last place I lived in HP (two blocks away from Obama's house)). I just recently moved from Pilsen to Irving Park, my rent went down another $125 a month, I have free and copious street parking, a beautiful park right behind my house, and adorable children riding tricycles down the lovely tree-lined streets. If I were in a position to purchase a home, I would certainly consider a number of other options before looking into one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.

So yeah, this guy has maybe made some very poor decisions when deciding where to live. But let's not blame Chicago. As was pointed out above, the median income in Chicago is something like $38,000. I've lived in Chicago for 6 years, having moved here from Georgia, and it's still a constant struggle trying to convince my family that Chicago does not cater only to the super-wealthy.
posted by phunniemee at 10:20 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Generalization rephrased: if you have time on a weekday to be on Metafilter, you're wealthy enough to not complain about how hard you have it. Sorry.

Yeah, sitting here with my cousin, lounging around on his lazy ass on a weekday after goofing off running into burning buildings and rolling hose for the past few days. Get a real job ya hippie!
posted by Smedleyman at 12:09 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


goofing off running into burning buildings and rolling hose for the past few days.

"Rolling hose"? Sometimes I just don't understand all the pimps-n-gangsters jargon anymore.
posted by grubi at 2:32 PM on September 23, 2010


Generalization rephrased: if you have time on a weekday to be on Metafilter, you're wealthy enough to not complain about how hard you have it. Sorry.

You don't know anyone on the dole, do you?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2010


The Wall Street Journal offers the professor some financial advice. I'd love to see the look on his face when he cracks open his morning paper!
posted by Houstonian at 4:23 AM on September 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Perfect.
posted by crunchland at 5:22 AM on September 24, 2010


You can't buy a house with cash.

This presumes that the person wants to buy within a single year, using only their current income.

I know someone with a law degree who, individually, makes about $250 k a year. He just turned 30. And although he shells out for some fancy things (Brooks Brothers suits, etc.), he has already saved enough money to buy a New York City apartment in cash.

So, yeah. It can be done.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:40 AM on September 24, 2010


You just know this guy will reopen his blog with a post about how he has bought a new, more modest house then walked away from his existing mortgage posting the keys to the mortgage holder. It's the only thing left to add more hate.
posted by bystander at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the WSJ: "It's too easy to pelt Mr. Henderson with rotten eggs, as so many have now done."

You'd think so, but here we are. Also salmonella. Which is sort of a bonus.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2010


The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer. The proposal by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

I do believe that if this were seriously proposed in the US that Mr. Henderson's head would indeed explode.
posted by caddis at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2010


bystander wrote: "You just know this guy will reopen his blog with a post about how he has bought a new, more modest house then walked away from his existing mortgage posting the keys to the mortgage holder. It's the only thing left to add more hate."

Why would that upset anyone?
posted by wierdo at 1:02 PM on September 24, 2010


Bill Maher's rant about rich people who feel vilified about their tax stance


Choice bit:

Ben whines in his article about how he's worked for every dollar he has -- if by work you mean saying the word "Bueller" in a movie 25 years ago. Which doesn't bother me in the slightest, it's just that at a time when people in America are desperate and you're raking in the bucks promoting some sleazy Free Credit Score dot-com... maybe you shouldn't be asking us for sympathy. Instead, you should be down on your knees thanking God and/or Ronald Reagan that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.

It's funny because it's true.
posted by anniecat at 8:43 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's funny because Bill Maher is as useless to society as Ben Stein is.
posted by crunchland at 8:44 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have read enough of this thread to be amazed. I've always had much respect for Mefites, as a group. You've disappointed me.

Anyone remember the expression "divide and conquer"? Any of you smart folks actually recall that? Can you set aside your emotions long enough to tap back into your substantial intellects to imagine where I'm going with this?

This guy, you all scream, is "rich". There's one in the spotlight! He don't look right to me! Get him up against the wall!

Puh-lease, Mary. Give it a rest. If you folks have gotten so desperate for a taste of the blood of the rich that you're happy to rip to shreds the first upper-middle class worker that comes along, then maybe now I finally understand why the Democratic Party is in such a sorry, wimpy state.

Without getting out the pitchforks and torches, and without the bother of storming the castle, we've been tossed a bone, and are now going to be content to satisfy our blood lust on this dry little morsel. Oh, the OUTRAGE!

CLUE: This family isn't that different from your family. They too work for a living. They too have bosses to whom they must answer. How have you people managed to forget this?

Oh, rip these people to shreds! Vent your anger! Blow your wad! Don't worry, you'll neither see nor hear that sigh of relief from the real upper-class rich folks who have, once again, managed to fool the plebs by tossing them a slave in a fancy robe. LOL!

But see, that's just the way things work. The numbers, they hypnotise. Oh! Top 1%! Rich! Actually, the truth is, the dollar being what it is today, there ought to be one hell of a lot more people making that kind of money. That's what's wrong with your perception here.

The problem isn't that this guy is "rich". The problem is that y'all are too fucking poor. It's exactly like me, in my young days, having a gargantuan hate-on for the UAW, because those fuckers were RICH, compared to me. THEY made "all the money". The problem wasn't the UAW, the problem was the lack of a union for myself.

So you rip this guy to shreds, even if only in words. So every person remotely like him reads this shit, and hoo boy, they sure are inspired to jump on our political band wagon, eh? Yea, right. Now they understand, if they don't vote Republican, the poor folks are going to eat them for dinner.

There are a hell of a lot more people making fat salaries in this range than there are uber rich. Duh. There interests ought to be far more aligned with those of far less means than with the real rich. Except when one of them is sacrificed to the masses as a bone, just to remind them of how much worse off they could be.
posted by Goofyy at 11:51 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't work for a living, because I can't find a job, so I suppose that's why I forgot to feel sorry for them?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 PM on September 24, 2010


Goofyy, I hardly think that wanting to see the marginal tax rate go up ever so slightly for the over $400,000 crowd is the equivalent of tarring, feathering and sending out of town on a rail.

Sure, we could cry "above average wages for everyone", but the reality is that if this guy isn't rich, no one is. That's not a reason for stigma, but his aw shucks I'm struggling was a mistake worthy of being called out. Sure he's at the bottom of an Internet dog pile for about 15 minutes, but only the truly deranged will remember his specific case after that.

The personal threats were deplorable, but have little to do with Metafilter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:24 AM on September 25, 2010


No, BrotherCaine, it most definitely is not the truth that, "if this guy isn't rich, no one is". That's just plain lame rhetoric. And I'm not talking about people calling this guy out for his own lame mistakes. I'm talking about declaring a human being to be a "piece of shit".

See, you're missing my entire point, because you can't get over how much this guy makes. The numbers, they hypnotise. I've said "Wake Up!", and snapped my fingers, but you're still dazed and confused. I'm sure the Rupert Murdochs of the world are greatly amused. I can hear Warren Buffet shaking his head all the way in Switzerland.

The problem isn't that the professor is rich and selfish. The problem is that everyone else has grown too much to accept being more poor than they ought.
posted by Goofyy at 3:15 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem, as I see it, is that the high-income earners don't want to pay back a fair share of their income to the public infrastructures that have allowed them to become and continue to be high-income earners.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've said "Wake Up!", and snapped my fingers, but you're still dazed and confused.

Man, I hate it when that doesn't work.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:17 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny because Bill Maher is as useless to society as Ben Stein is.

I'm not a fan of Maher, but he's not nearly as pernicious as Stein.
posted by homunculus at 9:32 AM on September 25, 2010


Er, Goofyy, don't know if you realize this but there exist a limited number of resources in the world. Not everybody can have an "above average salary"--then the average wouldn't be the average Not everybody can make $250,000 a year and live in a big fancy house and drive big fancy cars because there aren't enough resources in the world to make this so. When I eat an apple, it's an apple somebody else is not eating. Income redistribution through taxation is an acknowledgment of that fact.
posted by schroedinger at 10:32 AM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


crunchland wrote: "It's funny because Bill Maher is as useless to society as Ben Stein is."

Yeah, I think Maher gets that, as did Seth McFarlane who was sitting next to him at the time.

And since we're talking about what Bill Maher said on Real Time, I was amazed at how much Breitbart and whatsherface kept telling baldfaced lies last night. Usually they (meaning the wingers) dissemble and tell a few little zingers, but last night was completely fucking wow. Multiple outright lies on every topic they discussed. They truly have run out of steam.
posted by wierdo at 1:13 PM on September 25, 2010


Eh, that's Breitbart's thing, though. He's much less polemical than most GOP pols, much less propagandistic than say Limbaugh and Coulter, and much more just outright baldfaced lies.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Multiple outright lies on every topic they discussed.

Dog bites man! Film at 11!

The problem isn't that this guy is "rich".

The problem is that this guy, and a lot of guys who are actually poor, have been propagandized into happily carrying water for the actual rich who own the country. Now he is actually looking out for his own interests (in a very short term sense) when he promotes policies that favor the wealthy, since he makes enough money that he could actually become wealthy within a reasonably short time (were he smart enough not to squander it), but the rest of the po' folk who are mad as hell about how much millionaires are being forced to pay in taxes have no chance whatsoever of ever being one of the beneficiaries of their own rage. They are completely oblivious to the fact that the reason they are Taxed Enough Already is because the people who are funding their little get-togethers are barely taxed at all, and starving all the people their hate has been aimed at to death would have a negligible effect on the federal budget.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:42 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I ran some numbers earlier using Tax Policy Center's calculator. The result was that high income people will actually be better off under Obama's proposal than they will be if the Bush cuts are just allowed to expire. So this whole "they're going to pay the same as they did under Clinton" is not true. They'll still be paying less, just not quite as much less.
posted by wierdo at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2010


I've said "Wake Up!", and snapped my fingers, but you're still dazed and confused.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE1!!!!!!!!

I can hear Warren Buffet shaking his head all the way in Switzerland.

You can hear silent physical movements?! You are rich in many ways friend.

The problem isn't that the professor is rich and selfish. The problem is that everyone else has grown too much to accept being more poor than they ought.

You must live somewhere boring and lame. Sure I could move to a place like where you live, and enjoy a high, vapid, materialistic standard of living, but I'd rather live in one of the most important cities in the world and have something to do. You're only poor if can't get what you want.
posted by fuq at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2010


You must live somewhere boring and lame.

You must need to get out more.
posted by unSane at 7:14 PM on September 26, 2010


I actually know Henderson and he's a really nice guy. It's depressing how personal this whole thing became. I think the guy was actually courageous (if not foolhardy) for disclosing so much about his own personal financial picture to make a point. The point was not well put, but that's never stopped anyone with a blog before.
posted by Mid at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


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