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Mid field has as much turf extending to the right as it does to the left. And when a team runs a fullback up the middle he plows into the center of the opposing line. Middle still means middle in football, but obviously not in American politics. Families earning $250,000 or more per year fall into the top 2% of income earners in America today, yet many talking heads insist (with strong Republican and some Democratic backing) that income level still falls within "the Middle Class". WTF? Since when does sitting on the two yard line place you in the middle of the field?

I hear the arguments that emanate from a privileged bubble. It’s true that a really nice home costs a lot more in some areas than in others. So do really nice restaurants. Areas that are desirable to live in for one reason or another often have higher costs than less desirable areas, all of this is true. So? The vast majority of Americans are priced out of living in nice homes in those areas; that is a fact of life. Have we gotten to the point where being wealthy in America is defined as the ability to write unlimited blank checks, and everyone who can’t gets called “Middle Class”?

Watching TV earlier today I was told about the challenges facing a “Middle Class” family earning $250,000 annually while living in a nice neighborhood in an expensive city with two kids in college each costing them $30,000 a year in tuition. The message, I assume, was that “these people are not rich.” Maybe yes and maybe no; rich to an extent is a subjective marker. Here is what is not subjective though. They still earn more than 98% of American families. If they can’t easily afford everything they want, what about the rest of us? There are parents working full time in the exact same expensive cities, in jobs paying at or near the minimum wage. How many families in America have kids who can’t afford to go to college at all, not even to public universities, without first being burdened with a life time of college loan debts?

Really, what is the point of language anyway when we gladly make a mockery of a words obvious meaning? The top 2% equals the 98th percentile. Perform that well in school and an A+ grade is assured, even if two people in a hundred might score a fraction higher. Yet when it comes to personal incomes middle essentially is being defined as less than a rarified maximum. That’s like saying that the Rockies can’t be mountains because the Himalayas are higher.

And here’s the thing. Even under Obama’s initial proposal everyone gets a tax cut on the first quarter million they make each year. If 98% of us really fall into the “Middle Class”, we all will keep our tax cut on that “middle class” income. That means for anyone out there having to scrape by on just $285,000 a year, Uncle Sam would only get another small nibble on $35,000 of that total figure. The total average annual income for seniors on Social Security is barely over a third of that. Yet Social Security may remain at risk for budget cuts next year, while we worry about the fortunes of families only making $300,000 a year, because we can’t ask them for more sacrifices; they are the “Middle Class”.

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Comment Preferences

  •  well, there's the median, the mean, and the mode (6+ / 0-)

    In the football analogy, the 50 yard line is the median.   It's the middle point between every hash mark from one end zone to the other end zone.  

    So, when you refer to the 'middle' in the sense of the 50 yard line, you are referring to the median.  There is no value statement or judgement as to which team controlled the ball more than the other, who had the ball in whose territory, etc.  

    The mode helps make that distinction.   When we talk about team A controlling field position compared to team B, we're more or less talking about the mode.   "Team A penetrated deep into Team B's territory, while Team B was seldom able to break the 50 yard line" is more or less stating that the mode, the midpoint between observed values, was within Team B's territory, not at the 50 yard line.

    Ironically and unfortunately (from both a mathematical and a logical perspective) when we talk about the 'middle' or the 'average' we're most likely speaking about the mean.  The problem is, that the mean (average) can easily be skewed by the extreme, or outlying data points.

    At the risk of stretching the football field metaphor to the breaking point, I'll suggest the following:  Team A (the winner) had one possession and scored one touchdown, equivalent to 100 yards.   Team B (the loser) had four possessions and made it only to its own 25 yard line each time, and thus scored zero points.  So the mean (100+25+25+25+25) / 5 = 40, and suggests that each team only made it to its own 40.

    And that's the problem with the mean when we translate it to income:

    If we take two people who earn $50,000 each year and one who earns $1,000,000, the mean income is (50+50+1,000) /3, = $366,666.

    So, I guess this is a long-winded mathematical way of saying I agree with you.


    •  All true, which actually underscores the point (4+ / 0-)

      No matter how you slice it, it is hard to come up with any way of looking at it that supports viewing the 98 percentile marker as in anyway typical of an "average".performance. It always falls at the far edge of a bell curve.

      •  income is nowhere near a bell curve (0+ / 0-)

        since there is a hard lower limt at -0- and essentially no upper limit

        That's why mean and median are so different

        And why mean income is almost meaningless - median is much more important

        With median income of $50,000 I don't why the lower limit on tax increases isn't ~$100,000 - let alone trying to justify $500,000 or even $1M as the lower iimit.

        I don't remember much stats from college - but I think the real distribution might be poisson, with a whole different set of rules than normal distributions.  I've now exhausted my entire recollection of stats.

        •  Simple, language is used to advance an agenda (0+ / 0-)

          It is far easier to defend tax cuts for the Middle Class than for the wealthy, hence annual incomes of $400,000 or more must be defined as Middle Class in order to advocate effectively for those in that income bracket.

    •  exactly, which is why it's crazy to use mean (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shuksan Tahoma

      Shuksan, Shahryar and Alex Rodriguez are in a room. What's the middle income? I'd guess, using mean, it's somewhere around $8,400,000.

  •  For similar political reasons (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shuksan Tahoma, Lily O Lady, brae70

    The term "Small Business" gets distored in the same way. When it gets thrown about it usually means someone wants you to equate their substantial vested interests with the Mom and Pop store on the corner

  •  wait till you get a load of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shuksan Tahoma

    what "middle" means ideologically.

    if necessary for years; if necessary, alone

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:47:19 PM PST

  •  Middle-class (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marking time

    originally referred to a social class rather than an income level - middle meaning not peasants/laborers and not aristocrats. In retaining the sense of "neither rich nor poor" it encompasses a broad range.

    At the top level of the middle class people have a great deal more money than those at the bottom of it, but I don't think that excludes them from being part of the group that's neither rich nor poor.

    Consider how vastly different the situations are of a family that earns $250,000 year solely from two people's salaries and one that earns $250,000 from interest on bonds.

    They are a world apart from each other. The first one might own nothing and be in debt to boot, as many young professionals are; their situation would change in a day if they lost their jobs or got sick or hurt. The second could be living off the income from $5 million in treasury bonds and own a couple of multi-$ million houses, art, airplane and yacht.

    Annual income is only one part of the story. Rich people own stuff.

    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

    by denise b on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 12:45:49 AM PST

    •  There also was a concept called the Ruling Class (0+ / 0-)

      Simply being wealthy wasn't exclusive enough to be part of it. I suppose nowadays we use the term Super Wealthy instead of "Ruling Class".  But the wealthy still are wealthy with or without putting "super" in front of it. The top 2% of income earners in America are wealthy in compariison to the overwhelming majority of Americans.

      It is true that people at the $250,000 a year income level in many ways have more in common with people making $50,000 a year than they do with people making $50,000,000 a year, but I would argue that's sort of like saying a dog has more in common with a cat than it does with a parrot, but that doesn't make it a cat.

      And to be blunt, even if a family at the $250,000 a year income level can't live well off of the interest on things that they own, they still own plenty of things that most Americans can only dream of, even if that is "only" a nice home in a nice neighborhood in a pricey city, but there is always more to go along with that. And no one proposes taxing them more on that $250,000 of income any way.

      •  I was only speaking (0+ / 0-)

        about whether they should be called middle class or not. Whether they should pay more in taxes is a different question. I think it's perfectly reasonable to raise taxes on income above $250k.

        However, I don't think the people I've described are currently undertaxed in the way that the rich are. In places like NYC where people earn high salaries and spend a lot to live, there are high state income taxes and city income taxes and high sales taxes in addition to federal income tax. Unlike the rich people who have unearned income taxed at preferential rates and many tax shelters available to them, many of these people are already paying quite a lot.

        A single person with an earned income of $250k living in NY could be paying $100k in taxes. Is that less than his fair share? No reason to feel sorry for him, but he isn't the one getting away with murder. The really rich are paying less.

        We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

        by denise b on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 06:58:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great point. (0+ / 0-)

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 07:11:20 AM PST

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