Money realities: when $500,000 a year is not enough
I do think Americans live in a warped reality when it comes to economic class issues. Probably as warped as the female body image world: I remember in the movie Devil Wears Prada, the main character was considered fat because she wore a size 6 dress (she's down to a size 4 by the end, and this is considered a great accomplishment). And no one in the movie commented on how absurd this was. According to this article, the average (presumably American) woman wears a size 11-14 dress. Did the characters in the movie know this? Surely they did, working in the fashion industry?
Here we have a group of people convinced that $500,000 a year is "not enough to live on." They would not understand the grateful joy of my fortunate colleagues in the press room. They wouldn't consider $95,000 a year as "striking it rich," but as "striking it poor."
I don't begrudge those millionaires their millions any more than I begrudge the lucky guys in the pressroom their tens of thousands. The trouble comes when these extraordinary people cease to realize they're extraordinary -- when elites fail to realize that they are elites.
But is body image distortion universe in which size 6 is fat any crazier than thinking you can't live on $95,000 a year? Or $500,000 a year? (Average American income for household of 4: 44,389, according to Slacktivist).
Of course, there are people who would consider a $45,000 a year wildly extravagant, too. It's not bad that people have different lifestyles, with wildly differing costs. But it is bad that people don't know when they are exceptional and mistake their own, rarified reality for what the country, or the world as a whole, is experiencing. It's OK if you want to spend more than $500,000 a year, but you should have some consciousness that many Americans won't spend that much in 10 years, and many people around the world will never see that kind of money.
It's OK to be rich, but please, don't be oblivious and insensitive. If you're bringing in $200,000 a year, it positively grates on me to hear you call yourself "middle class". You may be in the "middle" of your peer group, but look at some census data before you declare yourself the "middle" of the country. Of course, you may not feel rich, because of the obligations on your money. $200,000 a year can disappear darn quick, I bet. It doesn't let you live like Michael Jackson, certainly. It probably won't even let you live the lifestyle of "middle class" people depicted on TV, because of the "lifestyle inflation" most shows seem to indulge in. So you may feel like you're middle class, even though you're in a very high income percentile.
I guess I'm saying don't rely on your "gut" to figure out where you are in the economic hierarchy, because our gut feelings on these matters are often out of sync with reality. Not everyone gets to call themselves middle class.