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January 10, 2020 3:50 AM   Subscribe

 
Although 59 percent of low-income Americans say the wealthy should pay more taxes, just over a third of the top 1 percent say the same.

The second number seems very high, the first number absurdly low.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:56 AM on January 10 [14 favorites]


“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we
are. They are different.”
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Rich Boy"

‘You know, the rich are different from you and me.’ --F. Scott Fitzgerald
‘Yes. They've got more money.’ --Ernest Hemingway
posted by chavenet at 4:04 AM on January 10 [22 favorites]


Among the 1 percent, for instance, 97 percent say that they’ve already obtained the “American Dream” — the definition of which was left to the respondent — or are actively working toward it. Among low-income adults, by contrast, 4 in 10 say the American Dream is completely out of reach.

I think the American Dream is pretty clearly defined in the collective consciousness based on these results. Or at the very least the means by which one can obtain the American Dream.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:49 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The question is sorta how long the rest of us are willing to continue to let them be so satisfied with those lives.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:51 AM on January 10 [44 favorites]


The answer is unfortunately written in blood.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:55 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Could someone explain how the "American" dream is different from dreams of people of other countries?
posted by amtho at 5:06 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


In other news, water is wet...

I'm surprised that only 59% of low-income folks think the rich should pay more in taxes. It's a testament to how effective the long con is in terms of persuading the working class that everything is as it should be. And it's your fault if you're poor or broke, and if you're in the middle it's only because you haven't earned it yet, baby. Keep striving, you'll get there - and when you do, you wouldn't want to be taxed more, would you?

I'm not in the 1% but I'm perfectly satisfied with what I have, my only concerns are whether I can sustain it (e.g., not end up going into debt due to medical bills someday, or get laid off and have a huge reduction in income) and that other people don't have enough. I wouldn't mind having super-rich people in society if everybody else had enough.
posted by jzb at 5:09 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


CNN will give it 5 seconds. "Scientists are reporting that people able to fulfill nearly any whim almost instantaneously feel pretty good about themselves, while those who are struggling to eat and stay dry may harbour some dissatisfaction. In stock market news..."
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:17 AM on January 10 [13 favorites]


"Money does not but happiness" right?

SMH can you imagine what a high maintenance bastard the person must be who thought that one up?
posted by MiraK at 5:17 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Although 59 percent of low-income Americans say the wealthy should pay more taxes, just over a third of the top 1 percent say the same.

The second number seems very high, the first number absurdly low.


I think the phrase you’re looking for involves “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I am also keeping my Fridays free in case Scarlett Johansson wants a back rub.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I dunno, I'll be honest - I think being rich warps people, having power warps people, pronounced hierarchy warps people. I think that although the primary reason for getting rid of significant income inequality is to provide comfort, security and dignity to all people, another reason is that being rich hurts people.

It cuts you off very profoundly from the life of your own society, it surrounds you with grovellers, liars and yes-men, it lets you confuse your mere ability to issue orders with talent and capacity. "Living the American Dream"! Yes, but what a dream!

I'll tell you what, I certainly don't dream of having servants and workers who are afraid to tell me no, I certainly don't dream of being able to command any luxury while being unsure how to clean a floor or mend a tear, I certainly don't dream of walking through the world with everyone but my fellow rich people tremendously impressed with and afraid of....my bank account.

More than that - when you're very rich, you know that most of your money comes from organizing and sustaining the most extreme human suffering, the physical agony of workers in cotton mills and mines, the cancers and diseases from toxic waste, the murders of indigenous people to steal their land for mining and clear-cutting, the wasted lives of people who have to work in the dullest and most soul-killing occupations. There's no way to make a great fortune without these things. And then every day you have to get up and ignore the actual condition of the world and lie to yourself that you deserve what you have and that other people either aren't really suffering or deserve to suffer. What a horrible way to spend your time on earth!

If a dream, then a fever dream arising from disease.
posted by Frowner at 5:27 AM on January 10 [92 favorites]


There is an interesting new Pew Research Center study on views about economic inequality.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:33 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Pew Research Center study

The lede twists on this one...(1) Many agree inequality is a problem, but don't think it's a BIG problem...(2) They rank health care costs as the #1 issue.

There's a lot of dissonance baked into this result.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:43 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


The way that I explain to other people what being in the 1% is like is by saying that it's what people imagine living in a utopia would feel like. And entire underlying set of basic life needs -- access to food, shelter, education, medical care and political participation -- are not only taken care of but assumed, and most of the basic material wants, the things that are not necessary but add to the overall ease and pleasure of one's life experience, are easily achievable if not already accessible (and moreover, you have time for them). It's not that one has achieved a perfect state of being, or that one does not continue to have problems or issues. You can be unhappy or dissatisfied in a utopia. It does mean those problems or issues will rarely if ever result in one losing one's house, or going hungry, and so on.

What is hard to explain to anyone not living in that unevenly distributed utopia is how significantly not having to worry gets baked into one's worldview. I grew up poor and know better than most the range of economic life experience in the United States, and I think about it and write about it regularly. And even I can go weeks at a time without thinking about what an immense privilege it is not to wonder if I can afford to fill my tank, or buy anything in the grocery store I feel like buying, or get a cavity filled (even if I've maxed out my "dental coverage"), or send a payment to my kid's college, and not even blink at the cost. Someone who is born into that utopia has never had to exercise the muscles of worry that literally everyone in the world does. It doesn't inherently make them bad people, any more than having to exercise those muscles makes you a good person. It does mean their relationship to the world is materially different.

It's not at all difficult to understand why the 1% are more satisfied with their lives, but it is important to note that it isn't just about the money. It's about the gestalt of the 1% -- of living that utopian existence where an entire trache of worry simply doesn't exist for you. For a fair number of the 1% it's difficult for them to see what to them has never existed, and therefore fundamentally isn't real to them, or for anyone they know and care about.
posted by jscalzi at 6:02 AM on January 10 [118 favorites]


I think the American (and any other society's for that matter) Dream should be closer to an idea I learned studying Buddhism.

Namely, you go through life and every time you think something is "yours" or that you "earned" it, look at it directly and ask yourself whether you had anything to do with the making of it. You earned that enormous house? Who built it? Who cut the wood, wired it, made the windows? Was it you? Then it isn't yours. It's an interdependent coalition of people who have temporarily achieved "enormous houseness."

Do this with the road you travel on, the subway you ride, the food you eat - in fact, with everything in your entire existence. See how long you can keep this up and still think you're better than anyone else.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:15 AM on January 10 [31 favorites]


There was an enlightening moment when I was on study abroad in undergrad - I was only able to go because of a combination of scrabbling for cash on mine and my parents' part and being the recipient of one of the few "merit" scholarships awarded by SLACs to transfer students.

One day I was invited to join some of the others for lunch out - in fact this invitation was extended by the first boy I hooked up with. I said thanks, but I couldn't afford it.

His oh so innocent reply? "Well why don't you ask your parents for more money?"

I did not try to bridge that gap.
posted by PMdixon at 6:16 AM on January 10 [18 favorites]



It's not at all difficult to understand why the 1% are more satisfied with their lives, but it is important to note that it isn't just about the money. It's about the gestalt of the 1% -- of living that utopian existence where an entire trache of worry simply doesn't exist for you. For a fair number of the 1% it's difficult for them to see what to them has never existed, and therefore fundamentally isn't real to them, or for anyone they know and care about.


But what differentiates having wealth from socialism is that you don't have to take the majority of other people into account. If I have secure and dignified housing, food security, access to medical care and guaranteed political participation in a just society, I still have to take others' wishes into account - people aren't going to be extra nice to me because I pay their salaries or because I may buy something expensive or because I have extra clout with politicians and police. It's not just freedom from worry, it's "freedom" from treating others as equals - and maybe you don't notice that you're not treating them as equals because you don't realize the deference you're getting, but that if anything makes it a more horrible fate.
posted by Frowner at 6:18 AM on January 10 [29 favorites]


I dunno, I'll be honest - I think being rich warps people, having power warps people, pronounced hierarchy warps people. I think that although the primary reason for getting rid of significant income inequality is to provide comfort, security and dignity to all people, another reason is that being rich hurts people.

My one little bit of schadenfreudey joy is that rich people sometimes get fucked over by the medical system. The human body is a homeostatic marvel that often heals itself if given the chance. Rich people never have to give their bodies a chance and thus fall prey to all kinds of iatrogenic illnesses. They are often over-treated and medicated to death or near death by charlenton doctors, experimental treatments or doctor shopping. Munchausens by finance!

It is a miniscule joy in an ocean of inequality but it is there like a bit of floating plastic I can cling to when I need a rest.
posted by srboisvert at 6:33 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Frowner:

It appears you think we're arguing?
posted by jscalzi at 6:35 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


even if I've maxed out my "dental coverage"

I recognize the privilege in saying this, but fuck am I glad I left the US.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:35 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Could someone explain how the "American" dream is different from dreams of people of other countries?

It's a formative American way of disassociating ourselves from white supremacy. We can't be a racist nation, because anyone can make it here.
posted by Automocar at 6:44 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


We're not quite 1% but pretty close. And yes, we do feel quite satisfied with our lives overall, though day-to-day happiness varies - hard to feel entirely happy when your toddler wakes you up three times in the middle of the night, or you're vomiting several times a day due to morning sickness, or someone close to you dies. But these are the normal problems that enter into everyone's lives and to the extent that we can use money to mitigate them we do - we have enough space to take turns with toddler wake-ups, we have easy-to-access healthcare (and doctors that take me seriously) and I can take a day off work if I need to for the morning sickness, and we could conceivably hop on a plane for a funeral or to see someone close to us just before they die.

I was going to insert something about living in a high COL area and the crazy costs of childcare and housing making us feel less well-off then we are - but the article is right - even with all of that, we are not worried about any particular grocery bill. Our concerns with housing are around commute length and size of the house, and not about whether we're going to make a rent or mortgage payment. Probably the last time we worried about those kinds of things was in grad school, but we also had fewer responsibilities at that time.
posted by peacheater at 6:52 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Not just white supremacy; it's British classism and Calvinism and racism all rolled up into one shit-filled donut.

Those who succeed do so because they deserve to; those who do not are not worthy. It is one of the most destructive and yet pervasive memes of our civilization.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:57 AM on January 10 [18 favorites]


I find it annoying that the 1% are more satisfied with their lives than the rest of us, but I also recognise that it would be even more annoying if they weren't.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:57 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


It appears you think we're arguing?

The way I read your comment was, "The very rich are satisfied with their lives because wealth means they don't have to worry about material security and comfort, tout court", and I responded by saying that there are additional enjoyments from wealth that come from the freedom to trample on other people, that these are bad satisfactions and that while we can provide freedom from material worry in a just/socialist/whatever society, we can't provide everyone with the ability to mutually trample.

Your comment read to me like you were saying that to understand the happiness of the rich we don't need to look any farther than their freedom from material anxiety.
posted by Frowner at 6:58 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Warning: digression

Could someone explain how the "American" dream is different from dreams of people of other countries?

As an American-Canadian I have spent some time thinking about this. I would summarize it as a mythology where "anyone" (= those who "deserve" it) can become rich at any time, and therefore, each individual has to maximize their readiness to seize The Moment Of Opportunity by having grit, unrelenting optimism, and working hard. In the past I have seen this as largely optimistic/hopeful, but in the last 10 years (and really, harkening to Reagan) I have come to see a much more mean-spirited side of it which is that if you are not prosperous then you are suspect and there's a lot of energy given to making sure "undeserving" people don't "cheat" in any possible way, ever, god forbid one single dollar of food stamps goes towards root beer and not lentils, and being uncheerful and unproductive removes your eligibility to dream of say, secure housing.

One of the best shows I've ever watched to express this is Undercover Boss. There is also a Canadian version, and comparing the two (I haven't formally but now I kind of want to) is interesting. (Both are on YouTube.)

In the American version the show format generally goes like this:

- boss goes undercover and works the front lines of his business; often his (rarely, her) family gathers around to laugh at what he looks like and wonder how he will cope
- boss is shocked to find it's hard work to work in the front lines and makes mistakes that are laughable. Boss also uncovers the need for training!
- boss almost inevitably meets a front-line worker whose life is a huge struggle and yet is The Best Worker, always cheerful, always scrubbing things down despite huge family or medical issues. Boss makes a huge display of compassion and expresses human commonality, often cries.
- a variation in many of the shows is boss meets a lazy or angry worker and visibly struggles not to fire them on the spot
- after returning to headquarters, boss reams senior management for the need for, generally, TRAINING and COMMUNICATION. (Not health care or better budgets for labour, for example.)
- the three workers the boss has worked with are flown in for the big reveal that "Ed" is THE BOSS OH MY GOD. Then the boss rains down rewards on the Good Worker(s) - a trip, a college fund, a car, and expresses that there is a great future for this person with the company, even a promotion. The Good Worker sobs and expresses their eternal loyalty.
- the bad worker is reprimanded and offered training
- the whole company gathers to watch footage of the boss "messing up" and laughs together The End

The Canadian version tries to be similar but there is a definite, if quiet, difference in both the workers' attitudes and also the situations they find themselves in (or don't). I may be misremembering but I also think the CEOs are not quite as earnestly shocked.

I can't think of an episode I've seen where the boss comes back and says "We're not paying people enough to live on" or "let's create medical leave and increasing spending on health care" or says "the front line is really hard, let's hire a few extra people."

This is the American Dream - that anyone in the front line who has struggled for years and not complained will be suddenly knighted. That your cheerful Calvinism will eventually distinguish you. I have relatives who worked in this expectation all their lives living below the poverty line in retirement because the moment never came and health issues arose at critical times...one of whom put in more than 20 years in the USPS.

In Canada, we walk the line between this attitude (See also: Doug Ford) and a dream that includes social supports...the idea that people should not be at work worrying themselves to bits because they can't afford to take their mother to the doctor.

We also have, in general (Maritimes aside maybe) a slightly different attitude towards customer service and front-line work which is a little bit more...you get what you pay for. It's not that your Tim Hortons staff should be rude to you, but they also are probably not going to pretend that serving you coffee is the best thing ever. There is a very similar migrant dream, but I think it's a little tempered by an understanding that you cannot count on Grit and Determination alone. I hope so anyway.

It's a nuanced difference so I'm not sure I'm expressing it well.

Bonus: The Starkiller Base Undercover Boss SNL skit is well worth watching for a parody of the genre and Adam Driver is so funny.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:59 AM on January 10 [78 favorites]


Frowner:

"Your comment read to me like you were saying that to understand the happiness of the rich we don't need to look any farther than their freedom from material anxiety."

Ahh, okay. I saw your point as complementary to my point, not in opposition, but it was phrased argumentatively (in improv terms, you're "no, but"-ing instead of "yes, and"-ing), so I was a little confused.

I think we would both agree that there's much the 1% have the privilege of leaving unexamined, if they so choose.
posted by jscalzi at 7:12 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


when you're very rich, you know that most of your money comes from organizing and sustaining the most extreme human suffering

But they don't. They genuinely don't understand the anguish, fear, or even just drudgery that people go through for want of money. It's hard enough to remember what pain feels like once you're not in pain anymore -- imagine if you had never been in pain in your life. What would your understanding be of pain then?
posted by rue72 at 7:14 AM on January 10 [29 favorites]


Those who succeed do so because they deserve to; those who do not are not worthy. It is one of the most destructive and yet pervasive memes of our civilization

It's funny--YouTube started serving me up Dave Ramsey videos, I guess in its periodic attempt to red-pill me into fascism, and I watched a couple. One of them was about the stupid things (his term) different classes of people do. He stated, straight-faced, that the reason poor people are poor is because they spend all their money on lottery tickets and payday loans, and that the reason you don't see places like this in middle class/rich neighborhoods is because they got wealthy by not.. taking out payday loans and buying lottery tickets.

Just astounding propaganda from America's latest huckster. That's the American Dream.
posted by Automocar at 7:27 AM on January 10 [22 favorites]


It's not that your Tim Hortons staff should be rude to you, but they also are probably not going to pretend that serving you coffee is the best thing ever. There is a very similar migrant dream, but I think it's a little tempered by an understanding that you cannot count on Grit and Determination alone. I hope so anyway.

One of the things I dislike about Sweden happens to be the number of US chains here. (I get to choose what I am snobby about and that is one of those things.) I found myself in a Subway with the grandkids recently and discretely snapped a photo of what was written on the back of a customer-facing sign on the counter. It was a reminder, in Swedish, to smile at customers and be polite. That admonishment seems pretty damn American to me.

One of the luxuries of being part of the 1%, or so I imagine, is that people do not police your smiles nor lack of them. It's not the first thing I think of when I think of super wealthy people, but that sign was a wake-up call. A reminder that if you are white and wealthy (or, sometimes, merely male), you probably don't have to deal with the entreaties to smile or do related performances tied to a pay check. Which is awesome for those folks.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:28 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Available time to pursue interests beyond subsistence is likely a factor as well.

Money has the strong potential to buy you (free) time which from my understanding, is at a huge premium in the US for most working people.

Wikipedia: "According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77% of private employers offer paid vacation to their employees; full-time employees earn on average 10 vacation days after one year of service." There is no mandatory minimum paid vacation.

Every (full-time) job I've ever held in three different European countries has come with a minimum of 20-25 paid days off + public holidays.

I don't know the holiday habits of the 1% but I'd imagine that there is more time off than 10 days in a year.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:28 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


Available time to pursue interests beyond subsistence is likely a factor as well.

Not only that, but the security to wholeheartedly pursue them, fail utterly and not be destitute.

"Find what you love to do and do it on evenings and weekends" isn't a thing that wealthy people have to bitterly make jokes about.

I've worked at several startup-cum-success companies and orientation always includes the founders' "inspiring" story about how they were a lawyer or something but saw an opportunity and risked everything (everything being hundreds of thousands in interest free seed money from friends and family and maybe some credit card debt) and nearly failed but then succeeded.

It's remarkable how every personal success story is nearly identical.
posted by Reyturner at 7:36 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


slimepuppy: I don't know the holiday habits of the 1% but I'd imagine that there is more time off than 10 days in a year.

As they say, the poor use "summer" as a noun; the rich use it as a verb.
posted by clawsoon at 7:40 AM on January 10 [18 favorites]


Having grown up working class, spent my 20s poor and on assistance, and having had a meteoric career rise in my 30s, I've experienced life on a lot of parts of the economic spectrum. Here are my findings:

1. The main difference between the rich and poor is how much money they have.

2. Our culture infantilizes and coddles the rich to a degree they would find insulting if they truly believed a lot of our cultural myths of self-sufficiency and competency. You will never find as practically incompetent a person as a person who grew up and stayed rich. They just can't fucking do basic shit like laundry, changing tires, hell oftentimes even driving or shopping. They can't, don't believe they should be able to, and will be offended if society doesn't take their money to do it for them.

3. These experiences have radicalized me. I have gotten further and further left as I get older.

4. My politics are heavily influenced by the negative endorsements of what the wealthy and their mouthpieces want. Their fear of Sanders, and to a lesser degree Warren, has heavily weighted my political considerations. Affluent people are too dumb or mythologized for the most part to realize it, but they are my enemies, and I am not so dumb as to realize that their gain is my loss, and so to further my ideological project, they must lose.
posted by turntraitor at 7:43 AM on January 10 [42 favorites]


turntraitor: They just can't fucking do basic shit like laundry, changing tires, hell oftentimes even driving or shopping.

A friend of mine who's a professor (and a visible minority) recently said that he's noticed that professors who are graduates of Ivy League universities get all helpless whenever any university administrative responsibility comes up, leaving graduates of state universities to do the work. (I pointed him to the emotional labour thread and got an enthusiastic response.) I've been wondering since then if other people have had the same experience.
posted by clawsoon at 7:51 AM on January 10 [13 favorites]


People who feel a sense of control over life and/or work are happier. The very rich have all the power and control. Being at the top of a hierarchy provides satisfaction; this is well documented in all the primates. So, free from most worry, lots of control, top of the ladder. You may still have to deal with illness, loss, or personal struggle, but wealth tends to insulate and cushion you from these.

The very rich congregate, and their belief that they are better is reinforced. They are shielded from most views of poverty, and from the truth that their wealth is made from poorly rewarded labor, abuse of the environment, manipulation of the economy. The rich never have enough. Everyone always wants to be a rung higher, to have more, to feel more superior.

Just a few days ago, we were discussing how deer who are running from a hunter in fear produce poor venison, while a deer quietly grazing produces better meat. So will the happy, contented rich taste better?
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


The way that I explain to other people what being in the 1% is like is by saying that it's what people imagine living in a utopia would feel like. ...not having to worry gets baked into one's worldview.

I do generally agree, but also think that many rich people wouldn't, which is why it might not be a productive strategy.

"We need to raise taxes on the rich, who are living in a utopia!"

"I'm not living in a utopia. I know I'm better off than most people, but it's not like I'm jetting off to Bora Bora and driving around in a Rolls Royce. My wife and I worked hard in school and now we work hard at our jobs and make $600,000 combined. Sure, we don't have to worry about our next meal, but we're working long hours, and after paying for the mortgage and kids school and saving for retirement, it's not like we can buy anything we want."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:58 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I do generally agree, but also think that many rich people wouldn't, which is why it might not be a productive strategy.

The trick is to make sure you're not talking to rich people. You're inviting people to consider how good those other fuckers have it and how much more they have than you do, not asking those other fuckers to maybe deign to give some of their wealth to you. You tell people, "fuck the dream of being rich; let's make sure we make things fair."

Then you tell the smarter folks among the rich, "hey--hey, just out of enlightened self interest, you might want to support equity before unrest gets bad enough that your empire falls. And by the way, it's the right thing to do. But also, here's what's in it for you: you don't lose as much as you will if we have to take that wealth by force if you do it quietly, and we'll praise you a bit if you get in ahead of the crowd." You get an awful lot more success telling the rich people that when you talk first to working folks and encourage them to rattle their pitchforks and shout to one another before you go negotiate with the bosses.

Rich people are going to prevaricate about how hard they work and how much they deserve their wealth no matter what you say. Fine. We don't have to convince them first: we have to remind everyone else that they're not rich and they're working their asses off and everything is getting a lot less certain because climate change is about to ramp up and fuck us all over. You don't bother to talk to the rich people until just about everyone else has sat down and worked out the conclusion to the conversation.
posted by sciatrix at 8:13 AM on January 10 [15 favorites]


we have to remind everyone else that they're not rich

But they think they will be.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:17 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


> This is the American Dream - that anyone in the front line who has struggled for years and not complained will be suddenly knighted.

I think this is a truer explanation of American attitudes towards inequality than the "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" saw.

Whether because of religion, authoritarian upbringings, or the fact that most of our working hours are spent in strict and unaccountable hierarchies, many, many Americans internalize the idea of grand superiors who are Better. These superiors will reward you if you demonstrate fealty and virtue. There are inferiors, too! If you appease the superiors they might protect you from becoming an inferior. As long as you don't become an inferior you can enjoy their suffering and/or weep at their demonstrated virtue (and take comfort that it's not you down there).

Saying "of course I don't mind their wealth, they earned it!" is virtue signaling in the original sense. Most Americans don't actually think they'll be millionaires, but they've internalized an unfair system. In a lot of ways I can't blame them. If your boss can threaten your home and healthcare with no restraint, and if the rest of your community thinks this is just and proper, what else are you going to do?
posted by postcommunism at 8:19 AM on January 10 [18 favorites]


If satisfaction makes them tender and juicy when cooked over an open fire, I have no objection.
posted by tommasz at 8:20 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but you ain't now, are you. How hopeful are you feeling? How many people you know have made that dream come true?

My philosophy has, incidentally, been honed by years of talking to rich people followed by years of talking to poor people. You can stop explaining to me the tactics that rich people use to erode class solidarity, because I am aware of them and explicitly discussing how to counter them.
posted by sciatrix at 8:20 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Mr.Know-it-some's link punctures my belief a bit that people don't actually believe they'll be rich, but:

I still say 'rich' is a stand in for virtuous in this case, and people are making statements about a value system rather than statements considering likely outcomes. (Millionaire is also a smaller virtue than it used to be, what with all these billionaires knocking about.)

There's also a telling gender discrepancy:
  • Over 7 in 10 (73%) Male Millennials expect to become a millionaire at some stage in their lives, or are already millionaires.
  • Only 4 in 10 (38%) Female Millennials say the same.
posted by postcommunism at 8:25 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Over 7 in 10 (73%) Male Millennials expect to become a millionaire at some stage in their lives, or are already millionaires.
Only 4 in 10 (38%) Female Millennials say the same.


They're just expecting hyperinflation! We can all be millionaires when a loaf of bread costs $500,000!
posted by Frowner at 8:29 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


No lie, I did once have a gentleman of my acquaintance attempt to sincerely argue with me that there had been no inflation in the US since the early 1990s, and therefore it was not unexpected that my salary was suspiciously similar to salaries for recent college graduates in his youth.

I laughed in his face over that one and ended the conversation, but consider the disconnect to basic cost of living that might lead someone to make that error.
posted by sciatrix at 8:51 AM on January 10 [14 favorites]


It cuts you off very profoundly from the life of your own society

True, but the disassembly of that society makes the bad feeling go away.
posted by Ashenmote at 8:52 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


We can all be millionaires when a loaf of bread costs $500,000!

The happiest day of my life will be when I pay off my student loans using a can of tomato soup.
posted by mittens at 8:58 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Although 59 percent of low-income Americans say the wealthy should pay more taxes, just over a third of the top 1 percent say the same.

The second number seems very high, the first number absurdly low.


Vice versa. The 1 percent should be better educated than that.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Also, self-reporting is dubious.

"The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly
weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on
empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help
consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest
that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material
goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves;
(3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew
extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay
consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases
may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping;
and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others." (PDF)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:09 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


The happiest day of my life will be when I pay off my student loans using a can of tomato soup.


Immediately followed by realizing you can't afford a 2nd can of soup
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:10 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Just from an electoral politics perspective, "tax the rich" is usually a losing communications strategy throughout American history, because of the widespread mythology/sentiment cited above, which isn't just held by millennials. Well before What's the Matter With Kansas? documented the use of social issues to distract lower income conservative voters from economic issues, William Jennings Bryan failed in three presidential campaigns.
posted by PhineasGage at 9:34 AM on January 10


"More than half of the top 1 percent, for instance, say it should not be a priority for federal lawmakers to reduce income differences between the rich and the poor."

I think this is a poorly written question designed to create seemingly-repulsive answers.

When I read the question (as one of those "top 1 percent" people), my immediate reaction is that income differences aren't a top priority by themselves. Structural barriers to growing wealth/income are a thing and removing those barriers should be a top priority. Preventing high wealth individuals/families from using governmental policy to maintain their wealth is a problem and resolving it should be a top priority. I don't want to exclude other considerations and I can list a large number of ways the government makes it horrendously difficult to be poor in the United States. Those should be priorities of the US government.

Income differences in and off itself? I don't get it. In a (hypothetical) world where wealth is actually earned and where lack of wealth is not a death sentence, income inequality is not a problem to me.
posted by saeculorum at 9:38 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Warriorqueen,

That reminds me of the weird differences between the UK and US versions of, you know, the Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Show. In the UK version, Gordon appears to be working in a restaurant for a week, having conversations about how to improve things, and verbally jousting with the owner and workers...

...in the US version, he descends from the clouds to judge a deluded, unworthy owner who thinks their disgusting swill is haute cuisine. Gordon lets them know that they are a miserable fool and that their food is garbage; they disagree and rage back against him. Finally, they accept their absolute unworthiness, promise to be humble, and get saved by the gracious Gordon.

VERY different vibes.
posted by Chronorin at 9:57 AM on January 10 [13 favorites]


They're just expecting hyperinflation! We can all be millionaires when a loaf of bread costs $500,000!

Some friends of mine were living in Zimbabwe during the hyperinflation of a decade ago. The weekly grocery shopping trip, they tell me, often resulted in bringing home a trillion dollars worth groceries in the trunk of the car.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:20 AM on January 10


>"it's not like we can buy anything we want."
If you are in the 1%, you can easily buy everything you need, and that's giving need a wide definition. And, let's face it, "it's not like we can buy anything we want." is whiny and insensitive. Maybe you can't afford a real Mansion, just a McMansion. Maybe you don't have a chauffeur, but a nanny who ferries your kids in a Land Rover is a luxury when most can't actually afford good child care. Your wants are well provided for. If you're in real debt, it's either for education or luxury. For most Americans, education has become a luxury, so same deal.

As wealth aggregates at the top, the wealthy, having figured out how to get wealthy, use their money to make more money. They invest in, for instance, Real Estate Trusts. Real Estate Trusts buy up property, especially rental property, and manage it for maximum profit, so many people are being priced out of housing. Investments separate owners from the consequences of their actions. The rich do not see that their healthy portfolios represent pain and poverty.

A friend of mine lives in postwar housing, a large complex of 4 unit buildings on a nicely green space. Not terribly well-maintained, but the trees are mature, the apartments are comfortable. It's in a pleasant area of Winston-Salem. So pleasant that 95 4-unit buildings - 380 units occupied by families of all sorts, many disabled, older, certainly not wealthy - are being razed, and will be replaced with glossy, new, expensive condos, shopping, probably offices. It is legal, probably great for the economy for a developer to take away 380 homes. By the numbers, it's a boost to the economy. It's Peak Capitalism, it's cruel and heartless. My friend is 70, with a new and unpleasant health issue and a disabled adult child living with her. She isn't poor, but this move will make her poor, as well as being devastating. The people who really own the company doing this may very well have no idea. That doesn't make them any less responsible.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


I had to click on the link to see if it was an Onion article. No?

not-surprised.gif
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 10:31 AM on January 10


I don't want to exclude other considerations and I can list a large number of ways the government makes it horrendously difficult to be poor in the United States. Those should be priorities of the US government.

Income differences in and off itself? I don't get it. In a (hypothetical) world where wealth is actually earned and where lack of wealth is not a death sentence, income inequality is not a problem to me.


Solving the first requires solving the second - where else do you think the money (and necessary regulations on money) are going to come from?
posted by kokaku at 10:33 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


But doesn't research suggest that inequality itself is bad for society and that people are happier with less if everyone has less? There's The Spirit Level, but I'm pretty sure I've seen some plain old happiness research too.
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]




If you are in the 1%, you can easily buy everything you need, and that's giving need a wide definition.

My brothers and I realized we'd made some sort of step change when we collectively realized that as adults we all weren't clipping coupons and hunting sales religiously anymore, as mom had taught us to. Being able to go to the grocery store and buy what we needed, wanted even, without counting pennies was a small revelation for all of us.

I still feel kind of marveled and privileged by that decades later. It was indeed a relief of worry.
posted by bonehead at 3:06 PM on January 10 [9 favorites]


The actual report is interesting to read, also. I understand why they chose to look only at the 1% compared to the lower/middle groups, because the "high income" group ($100k-$499k) covers such a wide range of incomes, and looking at the top and at the bottom of the income spectrum tells a more dramatic story.

But the data in the graphs and tables suggests there is an interesting story about that high income group (and overlaps with some of the anecdotes in this thread). For example, almost none of the high income group report having problems paying for food or housing, but 30% had issues with medical expenses. Life satisfaction is high, almost as high as for the 1%, but way less say they have achieved the "American dream." For a lot of the metrics they are looking at, it looks like there is not a smooth gradation from low to high.

I wish that income group had been split further in the analysis -- I suspect there is an inflection point higher than $100k (income around the 30% of households) and lower than $500k (1%) where people's attitudes and beliefs start matching the 1%.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:48 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Money can't buy happiness.
But it can buy a lot of things that can make you happy.
And pay off a lot of things that can make you unhappy.
posted by moonbiter at 10:00 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


"it's not like we can buy anything we want." is whiny and insensitive.

Absolutely. But it's also common and, I think, a reasonable reaction to being told that you are "living in a utopia."

The reference point is important: If you're a lower 1 percenter, you will not feel rich if you compare yourself either to a) a fairy-tale life, or 2) the upper 1 percenters. If you compare yourself to even a median-income U.S. family, though, of course you're rich. It's just hard to remember that when you don't see those people, in both a literal and figurative sense.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:25 PM on January 11


And for references:

Mobility: Real and Perceived
"Americans continue to regard their economic prospects more optimistically than Europeans, who fear that the poor are stuck in poverty.

We conducted an original, large-scale online survey on a representative sample of citizens in the U.S., France, Italy, the U.K., and Sweden about their views on social mobility and redistribution.

[on] actual and perceived chances of economic mobility .... European respondents are more pessimistic than Americans, though their statistical chances now look better."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:58 AM on January 17


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