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Richistan

"The growth of such a large super-rich class, coupled with a deepening poverty in many communities, is starting to tear at the fabric of society. Even some of the most wealthy - like Gates and Buffett - have spoken openly of the needs to address the massive 'inequality gap' that they have come to exemplify. In effect, some of the very richest Americans are calling for themselves to be taxed. In a speech last month Buffett - the third richest man in the world - pointed out that his tax rate was 17.7 per cent of his income while his secretary was taxed at 30 per cent. 'Many of the new super-rich are looking long term at the world and they see a collapsing US education system and health-care system and the disappearance of the middle class and they realise: this is bad for everybody,' said Frank."

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2131974,00.html

...

I am middle class.  I live affordably and consciously so i don't over-spend. I save money.  Yet I live in a sub-standard neighborhood with weak public transportation service, craptudinous fast food restaurants and schools that basically suck.  If I want the "dream", I will have to buy a car, move to the suburbs, and spend at least 1.5 hours commuting EACH WAY.

Sure, I could move somewhere else, some other state.  But this is CHICAGO, folks.  This is as middling as it gets.  Why make my standard/quality of living even lower and live in a less diverse area? 

What happened to MY American Dream?  It doesn't exist.  I spent goo-gobs on education, I got into the "right" field. I am a go-getter.

But I am discouraged and don't give a fuck anymore because there really is no benefit in caring about a career/job/life that gets me barely able to afford a car (I don't have one).

Start your own business, you say.  Yeah, okay.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 22nd, 2007 3:14pm
I'm not bitter, though :p
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 22nd, 2007 3:18pm
start your own business ...

well, there is a lot to this. When you read about many of the great entrepreneurial heroes - Carnegire, Buffet, Gates - a significant chunk of "giving back" was often right at the middle of their personal ethos. They balanced their desire to gain wealth with some sense of collective responsibility. (I don't know if this was always so with Gates, but these days his intentions are clear.)

But the ideal of capitalism as it is often portrayed seems to miss this aspect. Indeed, it seems like the US is now being governed by a strata of people who pay lip service to the dream that "everyone can make it for themselves with sufficient application", but in reality have succeeded by conniving and cheating.

I still, however, believe that creating wealth by creating value by using your skills to create things that people need and will pay for, is the most honest and honourable way to get yourself ahead. I'm actually a subscriber to the "american dream", even though it seems to be currently failing in America. But it is not failing - it's the people who are failing it.
Permalink $-- 
July 22nd, 2007 3:28pm
It seems to me shark you could take down another 20k with a job change in Chicago.  And if you got into the Chicago trading scene another 100k seems do-able.

Certainly with your range of personal and technical skills, I don't think you are stuck below a 100k.

Change jobs!
Permalink bob 
July 22nd, 2007 3:32pm
Shark, there's not a lot about your lifestyle that really says middle class. You don't drive, you live in a not-great area. Do you take vacations somewhere? How long and to where? If you had kids, could you afford to send them to college? I'd say you, like most professionals nowadays, are upper lower class. The question then is how come smart college educated professionals like yourself and many others are living so close to the edge? The answer, in my opinion, is corporatism and fascism to steal from the people the fruits of their labor and deny them a decent standard of living for their hard work. Because when we see high paid professionals living in the underclass, we know the actual low paid people are really screwed, many living in homeless shelters, or a dozen people sharing a single apartment.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 22nd, 2007 6:03pm
class != income
Permalink $-- 
July 22nd, 2007 6:09pm
class = income + race

welcome to america.

regardless, PE seems to be right on. Single living in a shitty place working as a professional?  doesn't make sense, doesn't make middle class.
Permalink guess worker 
July 22nd, 2007 6:14pm
it's kind of interesting what the word "class" means in different places.

In the UK and most of Europe, you can easily be not very rich and upper class. There's not much correlation between class and income at all these days.
Permalink $-- 
July 22nd, 2007 6:21pm
which is kind of funny, 'cos I thought that that was one of the things you people wanted to achieve in becoming independent from us :-)
Permalink $-- 
July 22nd, 2007 6:22pm
I have family and relatives who have grown up, been to school, lived and worked in Chicago, and the Chicago sharkfish describes is quite different from the one I have seen. It's a story of two worlds, no mistaking it.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
July 22nd, 2007 6:33pm
I hope we get to the point where we stop caring so I can just sit around in the streets with the other poor people picking a guitar.

I would like that.
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 22nd, 2007 6:37pm
to sharkfish:

I think you should read all of Paul Graham's articles, it describes exactly what you are saying.  You can't get rich or live comfortably anywhere working for the man.

And it is kind of sad because you are in a better position that me or any of us.  You have the social/sales/marketing skills to network in the IT field.

It seems like 90% of the business is actually the getting investors, and the business aspect as opposed to the actual product.

http://www.paulgraham.com/notnot.html
Permalink Bot Berlin 
July 22nd, 2007 6:51pm
getting the investors?

maybe.

or, bootstrapping form revenue - which is hard, but a lot more realistic in many cases.
Permalink $-- 
July 22nd, 2007 6:52pm
In response to Bon Vivant, please review this article.  It is not on the current topic, but it is the Chicago I know. 

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0713/p09s01-coop.html

There are a few types of Chicago:

College grad middle class:  live in Lincoln Park area, overspending on renting/small condos with high mortgage, waiting to get married, mostly white. 

Middle class white:  live in northern suburbs, commute on Metra trains to work

Middle class black/brown:  south suburban, commute on Metra trains to work.

Poor white:  sprinkling on the south side, mostly north side of the city, some suburbs allow them to live in rental properties, but several do not.

Poor brown/black: mostly sprawled out on the south and west side of the city, where few whites will EVER go and most whites know nothing about.


...

So for the most part, people most of you would consider normal are actually SPEEDING PAST THE CITY ON A COMMUTER TRAIN and NEVER see the actual CHICAGO.  They only see SUBURBAN CHICAGO.

I know at least a dozen white people who will readily admit they haven't been anywhere but the Chicago Loop in years.

So whatever your friends know, unless they are profoundly liberal and put themselves out, HAVE NO CLUE about my life in Chicago and don't want to have one.

If they do have a clue, they are living in places like Oak Park, feeling guilty like the woman in that article, wondering about the black folks their bosses never hire for anything but receptionist jobs.

If your friends are brown, I will bet my savings they live in the 'burbs and ride the train past all the things that matter to me.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 22nd, 2007 8:34pm
Hey shark, you are assuming we are judging your situation, but all I'm doing is holding up a mirror to your own words. you said "I live in a sub-standard neighborhood with weak public transportation service, craptudinous fast food restaurants and schools that basically suck." and I believe that. It doesn't sound like what used to be called the middle class. I'm not saying that to say 'oh look shark is po folk' I'm saying that, yes, look at america, you can do as you say shark, do everything that is said to be successful, and here you are in a substandard neighborhood not really able to afford a car. Moving to the suburbs wouldn't make that better, it would make it worse.

Middle class is the class that can send all their kids to college without it being a burden or choice between that and eating. Middle class doesn't worry about getting sick, and middle class can drive their station wagon across country to Wally World for their yearly vacation, or fly to Paris.

The middle class in the US has been gutted, as economic surveys have shown. There is a widening gap between rich and poor and most of the formerly middle class occupations have slid down rather than climbed up.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 22nd, 2007 9:43pm
I understand PE.  I was responding to bon vivant and re-read his post and I realize I may have mis-interpreted him.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 22nd, 2007 9:48pm
For what it's worth I thought it was a pretty cool description of Chicago.  How did you end up there anyway?
Permalink lz 
July 22nd, 2007 9:58pm
I was born here, my immediate family is here.  I have lived in other places such as the Bay area.  I moved back to Chicago chasing an opportunity.  My SO finishes her BA in May 2008, so I get an opportunity to leave then.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 22nd, 2007 10:01pm
Neat.
Permalink lz 
July 22nd, 2007 10:20pm
from the article:

> Cain knows what Solstice's clientele want. 'We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury,' Cain said with pride.


OK, so how can we use this to our own advantage? Can we separate the rich from their cash in return for worthless trinkets?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 3:32am
"So keen is the demand that many can expect to earn a six-figure salary when they graduate from booming butler schools."

Six figures is not too bad.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 3:54am
"According to Frank, you need about $10m to be considered entry-level rich."

See I think that is true. Middle class is now the $350k-$10 million range. Less than that and you are getting by. Truly, if you make less than $200k, you can't afford a mortgage in any major city in the US. If you make less than $50k, you are just fucked.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 4:05am
Sharky,

Middle class = married.  Sorry, but taxation is set up to favour this little legal wrinkle.

Let's say the typical middle class Chicagoan makes 70k.  Double that for a married couple, and you're looking at 140k with a much lower tax rate than two single 70k'ers.

Also, middle class means that you were smart enough to put a little away towards a down payment for 5-10 years.  For a couple, that's about 40k each.  Oh, did I mention that middle class means your parents paid for your education?

With a rule of thumb of 3x income for a mortgage, you could afford a 500k house in the 'burbs or a pretty nice condo in the city.
Permalink Kenny 
July 23rd, 2007 9:47am
Sharky you should move down south. If you can stand the drive, pick a bigger city down here and move to a town about an hour away from it.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 23rd, 2007 10:28am
Kenny, I think you may have an incorrect understanding of tax laws. Married couples are generally penalized for being married if they have two incomes. There's only a tax break if you are supporting two on a single income. The government assumes that 'two can live as cheaply as one' and taxes accordingly.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 2:24pm
But he is generally correct in that the economy as a whole favors two-person per household incomes.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 23rd, 2007 2:28pm
It's hard for two to get by on income of one (no matter the mix of genders involved).

Blame feminism for ratcheting up social expectations.
Permalink strawdog soubriquet 
July 23rd, 2007 2:32pm
Shark, yes, you are correct that almost all economic analysis on the strength and stability of this nation work from these 'household' 2-income figures, even though the married with children routine is no longer the majority of situations, and 30 years ago families did great on a single income, which at the least means purchasing power is down by 1/2 for those households.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 4:29pm
strawdog, most women work corporate jobs for the same reason as everyone else, out of necessity. It's rare that a women enters the workforce because of a philosophical viewpoint rather than the need to earn an income. Few people other than the aristocracy have the luxury of choosing to work.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 4:31pm
well you just said it PE. 30 years ago one income (*) was enough. then, corporate America decided that instead of raising salaries or importing cheap labor from abroad, they'd change cultural norms and say it was 'good' for women to work out of the home (*). the funny thing women bought it, hook line and sinker. now instead of their 60s era 25 hours here and there at home, they got to put in a good 40 plus commute just to keep up with the Joneses.


(*) yes, yes, women worked at home 30 years ago. but not as much as 100 years ago, or at any time before. automation like blenders and vacuum cleaners and frozen dinners really freed up the ladies. for a decade or so.
Permalink strawdog soubriquet 
July 23rd, 2007 5:29pm
Women have worked outside the home for most of civilization.

The single earner family was very much an exception of the 1950s-1980s.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
July 24th, 2007 10:00am

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