Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ugh. God forbid I should ever agree with off the deep end Debra Saunders, but her article lambasting $200,000+ earners who lambasted her for calling them rich is creating that (albeit, tiny) snowball in hell.

They see only what other people have and they do not have. They do not see what they have, but others do not. They apparently do not notice the people with whom they work every day who live on less. They are not chastened by SFGate.com commenters who were appalled that anyone would complain that he could not buy a home or put aside any savings on a measly $200,000-plus a year.

And these SFGate.com commenters pretty much say it all for me:

Okay, first off, I am in the family of three making under 50K a year category. If we made another $20K-150K a year it could all go to savings. I am sorry, but I see you guys out there with the $1000 strollers (when you could buy one for $10), the $4 Lattes (when you could make your own for 50 cents), the $100 pairs of jeans, the $100+ diaper bags... You think you are struggling, but what it really is is that we have been taught to hyper consume. And yeah, I know I am unlikely to be able to buy a home in the Bay Area, but that is no longer part of the middle class experience here in the Bay Area.

The clincher:

$200k per year IS rich, where you CHOOSE to live and HOW to spend it is a different matter, but it IS rich.

I grew up solidly working class, no fronting. I also grew up with a sense of need vs. want, and to value quality vs. quantity/keeping up with the Jones' (thanks Mom and Dad!). I have lived in the Bay Area -- one of the most "hyper-consumer" places in the world -- for 8 years. Most of the time, my honey has been in grad school (oh glorious graduation in December!), so we have never made enough to live more than paycheck to paycheck, yet we still vacation and eat organic and go to shows and aren't freezing in a cardboard box. We also drive a car from the 80s (when we drive) and live in a studio apartment, our idea of good meal out is usually under $30, and I would never spend $100 on jeans. Choices, baby.

I don't disparage people who make $200,000 a year and then make the choice to have a new car or eat at a fancy restaurant or buy the $100 jeans. I take extreme offense, however, at said person calling themselves working class (even middle class) or "struggling." Bitch, please. Pull your head out.

I have a good friend who lived on $7-9 an hour in Oakland for many years. She lived in a cooperative house, didn't own a car, and shopped at the thrift store. Girl saved a big chunk of change, put tens of thousands away in her retirement account, and still bought quality clothes and organic food.

Good choices can augment sparse economic reality, but nothing makes someone who earns $200,000+ a year struggle but ignorance.

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