27 Aug 2008

Are You Rich If You Make $250,000?

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Barack Obama has suggested that people making $250,000 are rich, and so can afford to pay higher taxes.

Now there are all sorts of quibbles we could raise. For example, if you are a young, single professional, then $250,000 per year allows you to live it up. On the other hand, if you are in your forties and have a spouse and three college-age children to support, you’re probably not taking weekend trips to Vegas very often.

There is also the issue of where you live. As this article points out, someone making $250k in Paducah, Kentucky would need $586k in New York City to live comparably. Now these comparisons are always flawed, because you can’t ask, “How much does a Broadway show cost in Paducah?” Still, the point remains that picking a single number for “rich” is silly.

I’m not the first to suggest this, but it’s a great point and so I’ll plagiarize: I would love it if Rick Warren or some other moderator would ask Barack Obama, “What percentage of total income tax revenues should the upper 1% pay, in order to be paying their fair share?”

Can you possibly imagine Obama saying on the spot, “Eh, I think the top 1% should pay about 40% of all income taxes”?! Of course not, that would sound crazy. But then he would have some serious backpedaling to do, as this chart shows. Probably Obama would know better than to answer the question directly. Instead he’d say something like, “You know, this is a complex issue with many facets. Our dynamic economy relies on innovative entrepreneurs to create jobs and new products that benefit us all. All my plan asks is that they give back some to the community which has provided them with such opportunities.”

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