Scraping by on a quarter million dollars a year

I’ve been assured that the article in The Fiscal Times accompanying this image is not satire. You be the judge.


Basically the author of the piece, Karen Hube, in an effort to defend tax breaks for the wealthy, makes the case that people making $250,000 a year in income aren’t well off, as they still struggle to make ends meet. To make her case, she provides a sample budget, which includes such necessities as $15,000 a year in babysitting and daycare, over $1,000 a month in groceries, and $5,000 a year for house cleaning. It seems that these folks, you see, are just able to scrape by at the bare minimum. And, sadly, these people can’t just move from where they are to places where the cost of living is less, because the good jobs that pay $250k can’t be found in such places… But, wait a minute, it looks as though the author may have made statements to the contrary in the past. Here, on that, is a comment left on the Fiscal Times website:

…On the surface, this article (which fails to point out that the limit is $250,000 and, therefore, no one was suggesting these fake people should pay more) is simply stupid. It gets HILARIOUS when you consider the following: Hube writes above that, “for most, moving to a low-tax state midcareer is difficult, if not impossible. People are generally bound to their high-tax states by their jobs.” But Hube told us in a 2009 Barron’s essay that “Low-tax states are attracting businesses and creating jobs, while high-tax states are losing them” and, therefore, a huge population shift was taking place. So which is it? Are people being forced to leave “high-tax” states because businesses don’t want to be there or are people finding it impossible to leave high-tax states because, as Hube writes now, it’s “tough to find high salaries in low-tax states like Florida.”

Actually, in the author’s defense, she could be right on both counts. Maybe jobs are moving to low-tax states, but they just don’t pay well. Anyway, I thought that you might have some fun puzzling over the whole thing.

So, who wants to join me in making a meatloaf and taking it over to the house of the richest guy in the neighborhood, telling him that we’re praying that him and his family pull though?

[via Metafilter]

This entry was posted in Economics, Media, Observations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted January 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    And, yes, the family is in the chamber of a gun.

  2. Posted January 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I have three different recipes for meatloaf and all are yummy. I’d love to go with you, friend. Just be advised that I might rip off the rich guy’s head and shit down his throat which means you might have to bail me out of jail.

    Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with us as a society that we aren’t roasting these fucking people on a spit? I mean, you can’t make it work on $250k per year? Really? Cuz my husband and I make less than that and we are okay. Now granted I didn’t shit out a litter of kids that would require a thousand dollars per month in child care but you know, I know how to live within my means and all.

    Anyway, I will certainly pray for our wealthy friends tonight…and if I have time, I’ll throw in a prayer for the kids that I teach, esp. the ones who come to school having not been fed.

  3. Posted January 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Meatloaf is a little extravagant on $250k / year. We don’t want to make them feel bad. Maybe some beans and rice, instead?

  4. Posted January 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Tangerines are seven for a dollar at my local market. I’ll be glad to toss one at them.

  5. Posted January 6, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    The person who wrote this article can’t be making more than $30,000. I’d be interested to hear what the person actually thought, rather than what she or he was paid to do.

  6. Edward
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine having to clean my house on only $400 a month. Have some sympathy, people.

  7. Eel
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    29% Of Americans Say It’s Difficult To Afford Food .. 48% of Americans Say It’s Hard to Pay Their Heating And Electric Bills

    no word as to how many are millionaires

  8. Posted January 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Couple of thoughts, easy snipes aside –

    This article appears to be a somewhat think-tanky analysis, rather than any “real people”. Which is interesting, I suppose, but easy to attack their assumptions. For example, the piece where the Jones’ are assumed to live “reasonably” in a $750k house. Okay, sure, that’s what a house costs in many of the economic powerhouse cities around the country – but it’s not something that plays well in Peoria or Ypsilanti (Zillow shows median recent home sale price in each at about $120k).

    More interesting to me are the individual accounts that came out in September. First, UChicago Law Professor Todd Henderson blogged his own thoughts under the header “We are the super-rich” – the backlash was so bad that he has apparently hung up his blogging hat entirely, and deleted his post, but it can be found archived with analysis by Berkeley economist Brad DeLong. Elie Mystal at Above the Law responds with a defense of some of Henderson’s assertions backed by some of his own.

    If you read the real-people accounts, they still sound pretty tone-deaf, but more sympathetic in ways.

    For example, Henderson notes that his wife has student loans in excess of $250k (and he has his own, if not quite as much) – not only is that a pretty staggering (to me) debt, it’s an indication that these folks are hardly old-money or wall street moguls. They invested in a ton of education, without a ton of support, in order to get themselves to what should be a “solid” level of upper-middle-class employibility. Isn’t that something we theoretically encourage? (And evidence about the attainability of education?)

    Mystal does a much better job of contextualizing “rich”:

    Rich people don’t play the lotto, and they don’t live above their means. They worry about whether or not they can afford another plane, not whether they can afford to fly coach. And those people, the real rich people, those people should be taxed. Tax the living hell out of them, I say (I’m a liberal, it’s in the handbook). … And if Obama does get that money, if he does what is hard and actually closes offshore tax loopholes and raises the capital gains tax and executes all the policies that embody true fiscal restraint and make Republicans cry in the night, and then he comes back to me and says, “Yeah, and we still need to raise taxes on those making more than $250K,” I’ll say fine.

    $250k, yes, is still top 3% or whatever, and I’m in that category of people Mystal looks back at as having a mere fifth of his household income – but remember that the wealth curve goes up asymptotically at the high end. The top 1% hold 35% of the wealth in America in 2010 (43% in “financial wealth”, excluding homes from the calculation), and they look way, way down on those serfs living at a mere $250k / year.

    Now, personally, I have (had) no problem increasing taxes on the part of someone’s income that’s over $250k, but if you’re looking for a place to park your pitchfork, that guy’s probably not it. We can take him a meatloaf, only because he actually lives in town with us. The top 1% – good luck getting your meatloaf within sight of their houses.

  9. dragon
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I know if my only choices were that of getting rid of the maid or having to pay 4 cents more on that two hundred and fifty first dollar, I would have to seriously consider murder/suicide as an option.

  10. Kim
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The point the guy makes is valid. The taxes, if the Bush breaks were allowed to have expired, would have only gone up on income made OVER AND ABOVE $250k. A family making $250k would pay the same, percentage wise, as the rest of us. And, if they made over that, just the amount over $250k would have been taxed at the higher rate. This article is bullshit. Is The Fiscal Times a real magazine, though? It looks more like a blog. Great graphics department, though.

  11. What?!?
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    We make it work on 60K a year, and I clean my own house. as far as the student loans go…boo hoo. My wife isn’t going for her masters because the amount her income would increase compared to the debt load we would have to absorb just doesn’t balance. I’m so tired of this crybaby shit, I could puke. Time for a flat tax…

  12. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I once read that most people think they would be happy with fifteen percent more in income. We tend to spend what we make–and too often spend more than what we have. This is what capitalism, corporate advertisers, our cultural programmers and we have created (I’m not sure who gets the blame the most). But there is that threshold that Murph mentions above–those who have too much money to usefully spend. We should ever be minding the gap and keeping it from skewing to the absurd (it’s there already–CEO pay, for example). I don’t know where we should draw the line (the limit beyond which the gap between rich and poor becomes unacceptable and counter-productive to the well being of us all), but it seems we are well beyond it now.

  13. Posted January 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Murph is quite right about housing prices in big earning areas. It’s quite possible to make what would be an incredible chunk of change in rural and middle America, and be mortgaged to the gills.

    I was just speaking with a friend, who make easily six times what I do, but the cheapest house he could find in his not so amazing area was upwards to $375,000, with property taxes that run him close to $15,000 a year.

    I’m not defending this article nor am I defending irresponsible tax cuts, but it really doesn’t make sense to hold all of America to the same yardstick.

  14. Jules
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    This is from a blog post on FDL, by Dean Baker.

    On the last day of 2009 (yes, coincidentally December 31st), the Washington Post departed from standard journalistic practice by running material produced by the “Fiscal Times” in its own news section. The Fiscal Times is a news service funded by billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson. Peterson has been working to gut Social Security and Medicare for at least two decades, starting and funding a wide variety of organizations that have this as their purpose.

    The Fiscal Times is Peterson’s latest creation in this line. He had his kid hire some of the journalists displaced by the collapse of the newspaper industry to put it together. While most newspapers would not publish as news material produced by an organization with such a clear agenda, the Washington Post apparently had few concerns along these lines.
    Here’s the rest of it.

    If you feel your blood boiling after reading that piece from The Fiscal Times, your head may explode after reading this.

  15. Knox
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The guy in the photo looks like a Russian hit man.

  16. Knox
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  17. John Galt
    Posted January 8, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    I have never been hired to work a job by a poor man. (For that matter, I’ve never been hired by anyone outside of my family, but that’s beside the point.) The rich are the ones in our society who create the jobs. We should hold them up on our shoulders and shout their praises. YOU people make me sick. You are diseased. How can you not see reality? You listen to The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and see cruelty, where anyone sane sees a simple misunderstanding between employee and employer.

  18. Kenneth Thompson
    Posted January 8, 2011 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    I earn approximately $200,000 a year. I do so by working hard. My wife makes about half of what I do. I would not consider us rich. In the past year, we have given up both Botox and Grey Poupon. If things continue as they are, we will soon have to lay off the illegal alien that sculpts our hedges. Please stop this nonsense. I beg of you.

  19. Russian Hit Man
    Posted January 8, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Knox. I was beginning to think people didn’t like me or something.

One Trackback

  1. […] other night on the hypocrisy of the right wing pundits who, just a month ago were talking about how families making over $250,000 a year were just barely scraping by, and now claim that teachers, who make a fraction of that, are too well paid. How is it that […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative VG 3D