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Couples making $400K a year: still rich, no matter where you live

Georgetown Preparatory School, entrance and sign, North Bethesda, MD

Another unilateral representative of liberalism has been appointed, and I haven’t even been invited to the meeting:

Last week, in a conversation with colleague Gail Collins, Stephens argued that a couple with a combined income of $400,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have a lifestyle we’d describe as “rich”: “They’re scrimping to send their kids to college, driving a Camry, if they have a car at all, and wondering why eggs have gotten so damned expensive.”

“Granted,” said Collins, which was the most fascinating part of this exchange.

The left side of the internet dragged Henderson mercilessly for days after his remarks 12 years ago. But here was a left-leaning New York Times columnist essentially conceding the point. As for the internet, I saw exactly one right-leaning economist gently joshing Stephens for his remarks. How have liberals gotten so comfortable with the idea that $400,000 a year — more than what 98 percent of the population makes — is really just a middle-class income?

It could be that “liberals” as a group (as opposed to a few what we might call Josh Gottheimer Democrats who like to this this because they’re part of the group) believe that $400K a year is a “middle class” income. Or it could be that almost nobody reads those Stephens/Collins colloquy columns and so nobody noticed this one throwaway line. I don’t think this a tough question!

But, since this has been brought to our attention, all of the objections to arguments like Henderson’s still apply, even if they come from (unrepresentative) liberals. If you make 400 grand a year, you’re rich. If you use the money to buy a really nice house in a high-amenity urban area, you’re still really rich even before we get to the fact that you can use that house as an ATM. If you use the money to send the kids to fancy private schools rather than Burberry trenchcoats and ivory backscratchers, you’re still rich. If you “only” go on two vacations a year, you’re still rich. If you reduce your immediate disposable income to put a ton into your 401(k), you’re still rich. If you have to put in a fairly long workweek rather than living off the juice like some of the parents at Maddie and Elijah’s school, you’re still rich. If you have a lot money, you’re rich no matter what you spend it on. And if you’re exhausted, well talk to any retail worker you interact with and suck it up, Christ.

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