Tag Archives: Osawatomie Kansas speech

What Do Americans Mean by "Rich"?

A week ago on Dec. 6, 2011, in Osawatomie, Kansas, Obama fired the first shot in what Financial Times is calling a “class warfare election.”
In a speech that set out the guts of his 2012 campaign, Obama says the belief in capitalism, individualism, and small government, although is “in America’s very DNA,” not only “doesn’t work. It has never worked.”
Instead, Obama calls for a society where “everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules” — whatever that means. Blaming the Great Recession on the “breathtaking greed” of the financial elites — the very same financial elites whom he has bailed out ($7.77 trillion to Wall Street!) and who are his cronies (e.g., Jon Corzine, ex-CEO of the now-bankrupt MF Global) — Obama calls on the rich to pay a higher share in taxes.
Words have different meaning to different people.
During the 2008 election season, in his now-famous encounter with Joe the Plumber, Obama had called Americans who make more than $250,000 a year “rich”. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement say they represent the 99% and call those who are in the top 1% of income distribution to be the super “rich.”
Oddly, some who are in that top 1% insist they are not “rich”. Actress Roseanne Barr, who has a net worth of $80 million and supports the OWS movement, says Americans who make more than $100 million should have their heads chopped off.
Now we have polling data from Gallup about what ordinary Americans consider as “rich.”
Catherine Rampell reports for the New York Times, Dec. 9, 2011, that Gallup has surveyed Americans to ask what they believe the cutoff for being “rich” should be. The median response was that a person would need to make at least $150,000 to be considered rich. “Median response” refers to the income figure — in this case, $150,000 — that cuts the poll sample into two halves.
Here’s a breakdown of the responses:

Answers to Gallup’s survey question on the threshold for being “rich” vary by demographics. Men, those younger than 50, college grads, those with kids, city-dwellers, and those with more than $50,000 in annual household income cited a higher figure for what they consider to be “rich”:

According to the Tax Policy Center’s calculations on income distribution, a household earning cash income of $150,000 would fall somewhere between the 89th and 90th percentiles, that is in the top 10-11%. In other words, the typical American believes anyone in about the top tenth of the income distribution counts as “rich.”
Obama and others, on the other hand, have set the cutoff around $250,000 when discussing “raising taxes on the rich.” Households earning cash income of $250,000 are somewhere between the 96th and 97th percentiles, that is in the top 3-4%.
So if you make $150,000 or more a year, watch out for that hand reaching into your pocket!
~Eowyn

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