The Rich Equals Other People

Matt Yglesias catches NBC’s David Gregory saying “it isn’t just the fat cats, it’s you and me” when, in reality, Gregory is almost certainly a fat cat. And I think Matt’s exactly right about why that happens: people tend to think their reality is “normal” and define poor and rich as those significantly below or above them in the hierarchy rather than against the statistical median.

It’s also why appeals to tax “the rich” are so powerful.  Almost everyone, even those making incomes well into the six figure range, figure they’re excluded.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    Or it happens because Obama has defined the middle class as those making under $250,000.

  2. sam says:

    George Carlin:

    “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    The same phenomenon is evident in classifying political ideology. Everyone in his or her own eyes is a centrist, center right, or center left. People to their right are “the Right” or “the Far Right”;people to their left are “the Left” or “the Far Left”.

  4. Bithead says:

    Look, let’s boil this down:

    In the parlence of a leftist, “The Rich” is strictly defned as anyone making dollar one more than the speaker.

  5. Franklin says:

    Mostly agreed, Dave.

    I’m still scratching my head, though. After the recent election, a bunch of media personalities and Republicans went on and on about how this is still a “center-right” nation.

    Compared to what? Were these supposed to be comparisons to Europe? Because you can’t compare something to itself. You can’t say America is center-right compared to America.

    Perhaps following your theory, the people saying this considered themselves to be center-right, but also considered themselves to be the perfect representative of America. Hence, our nation is still center-right.

  6. Franklin says:

    In the parlence of a leftist, “The Rich” is strictly defned as anyone making dollar one more than the speaker.

    Sure. And in the parlance of the rightist, “The Unproductive Member of Society” is strictly defined as anyone making dollar one less than the speaker.

  7. odograph says:

    Sam, I think the Carlin quote nails it.

    Dave, that’s why political compass tests (online) are so useful. I test out as a centrist.

    FWIW, I think one of the most amazing things of the last decades was they way power couples could burn through big salaries to become wage-slaves voluntarily. That couples with $250K incomes should be trapped in debt seems impossible … but basically if you live in cash-flow mode you can trap yourself at any level. Buy a bigger house, lease a couple Lexis, put a vacation on the credit card … that’s all it takes.

  8. Ugh says:

    It’s also why appeals to tax “the rich” are so powerful. Almost everyone, even those making incomes well into the six figure range, figure they’re excluded.

    Of course, which is why the estate tax is almost universally popular in the United States.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    Dave, that’s why political compass tests (online) are so useful. I test out as a centrist.

    Every year or so I’ll take a battery of the various tests. I’m always SDM (smack dab in the middle). Having a yardstick with at least a pretext of impartiality is helpful.

  10. odograph says:

    I was slightly into the quadrant with Gandhi and the Dali Lama, which amused me no end.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Franklin – 1
    Bithead – 0

  12. Bithead says:

    Sure. And in the parlance of the rightist, “The Unproductive Member of Society” is strictly defined as anyone making dollar one less than the speaker.

    No, that definition would be reserved for someone not working by *choice*, and living off governmental largess. Unproductive members of society, tend to live off what most sane people would call ‘theft’.

  13. Bithead says:

    As an example of this, let’s look at NewOrleans.

    That was what, a little over three and a half years ago, right? Would you call the 17,000 people who are still to this day living in hotels on the government dime, three and a half years…forty two months later, to be productive members of society?

    Or, possibly, parasites?

    Are you getting the picture, yet?

  14. anjin-san says:

    Or, possibly, parasites?

    Tell me bits, are you as upset about the parasites who looted Merril for billions after they had led her off a cliff? Or do they get a pass because they wear Isaiah suits?

  15. Bithead says:

    I would regard them as the smaller problem.