Stencil art: We don't belong in Gucci shoes. (photo: jontintinjordan via Flickr)

A couple months ago, there was an infamous dust-up in the econ blogosphere about a law professor at the University of Chicago. See this, this, this, this, or this.

Not too long ago, I wrote briefly about the common tragedy of a family of four living on $20,000.

So, you can imagine my reaction to this:

Down and Out on $250,000 a Year

$250,000 AND POOR
A family of four with an annual income of $250,000 may be in the top 2.9 percent of earners. But after taxes and basic expenses, they are far from the affluent family they may seem to be.

I tend to have a reaction to bad journalism. It is not pleasant. . . .

First off, the example locales given are not your average little sleepy towns.

Of the 8 listed, I have either lived in close proximity to, or in, half of them, so I think I can speak intelligently on them. Alexandria, Bethesda, and DC are not only in the same metro area, but also one of the highest priced in the country. Trust me, if you are a high priced lobbyist in DC, you live in, or near, one of these three cities. Don’t get fooled that this is a diverse study simply because they are in 3 different states, Alexandria & Bethesda are both 20 minutes (if that) from DC & connected by subway; the update at the beginning admits as much:

“Note: This story was updated at 5pm on Dec. 10. Sales tax numbers were recalculated to reflect new data. In addition, three new locales were added to the comparative analysis, bringing the total cities analyzed to eight.

I lived in Glendale, CA for a number of years, and though it’s not the caliber of Bethesda, it’s probably a notch below. (FWIW, I lived fairly comfortably there on a fraction of the income mentioned here & was able to not starve)

But, lest someone think I am biased against that which I am familiar, let’s take the lead example, an average family living in a typical suburb where I have not lived: Huntington, NY.

A little research finds that this humble hamlet is home to the following members of the underclass:

Jason Alexander
Christie Brinkley
Mariah Carey
Bob Costas
James L. Dolan, Cablevision CEO
Sean Hannity
Curtis Jackson aka, 50 cent
Billy Joel
Angelina Jolie
Ralph Macchio
Rosie O’Donnell
Brad Pitt

Them, among others.

The craziest line from the piece:

“Some of the expenses incurred by couples like the Joneses may seem lavish – such as $5,000 on a housecleaner, a $1,200 annual dry cleaning tab and $4,000 on kids’ activities. But when both parents are working, it is impossible for them to maintain the home, care for the kids and dress for their professional jobs without a big outlay.”

This is not me being sarcastic, this is an actual quote from the article.

Mind you, what these people spend on band camp and cleaning alone is almost half what an entire family at the poverty line earns for one year’s worth of income ($22,050). If these guys have it so tough, did anyone ever consider how the $5000/yr maid is doing?

You can read the article in full, though it will likely just irritate you.

The real meat is in the chart they present as “evidence” of the upper 2%’s oppression; it is quite literally the only portion worth reading. If they simply cut their “Leisure” expenses in half, the vast majority of their negative cash flow would be taken care of; and yes, they still keep “The Help,” the kids still go to band camp, the yearly trip to Aspen is still on, etc.

Look guys, if you are trying to move next door to the spawn of the US Chamber of Commerce, or 50 FUCKING CENT, chances are you are neither middle class or poor. And if you are having trouble keeping up with the Brangelinas, that is not our problem.

$250,000 and poor, indeed.