Given Motoko Rich's heart-rending story in today's NYTimes about one of the many older Americans who may never work again, this bit of self-absorbed, reality-denying twaddle from an only a little rich (as opposed to super-rich!) law professor at the University of Chicago was too precious to ignore.
The author, Todd Henderson, protests that -- despite having, with his M.D. wife, a combined income well above $250,000 --
like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t.
Michael O'Hare is withering -- and utterly accurate -- in his criticisms, noting (among other things)
Henderson’s lying isn’t limited to misrepresenting his income and what the Obama tax plan really means for rich people like him (though I wonder if he actually knows what any of the numbers in his family finances really are). He also blithely says ” The biggest expense for us is financing government.” No it isn’t: their biggest expense, and it’s three times larger, is financing their private consumption.
As if O'Hare's demolishment of Henderson weren't enough, Brad DeLong delivers the coup de grace, with zingers like this
Now it is time for a reality check on this ["like many Americans."] The median household income in the United States today is $50,000. Half of all households make more than this. Half of all households make less. The big expenses in the Henderson family budget--their $60,000 a year in contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles, their $25,000 a year savings building home equity, their $55,000 for housing, their $60,000 in private school costs, even their $10,000 a year for new cars--are simply out of reach for the overwhelming majority of Americans. Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year--the Hendersons make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year--the Henderson's make 4.5 times that. The Henderson's are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year.
By any standard, they are really rich.
Do I wish that Professor Henderson had a little more self-knowledge? Yes. Is it pathetic that somebody with nine times the median household income thinks of himself as just another average Joe, just another "working American"? Yes. Do I find it embarrassing that somebody whose income is in the top 1% of American households thinks that he is not rich? Yes.
UPDATE: For more about why a return to the pre-Bush tax levels for those households making more than 250K per year would be an almost completely painless way to raise an extra $700 billion, see Theresa Ghilarducci's "Tax the Rich."