May 21, 2005

Democrats Defend Rich (tip to CFG)

Okay, in truth this is just a ploy to smear Bush, which is anything but news from the Democrats. Bush's plan to re-index Social Security benefits would raise benefits for most earners and start scaling them back for people making an average of $60,000 in wages. That sounds like somebody who makes $60k a year, but it isn't. This is somebody who made an average of $60k as calculated by the Social Security bureaucracy.

About 15 percent of SS beneficiaries have an average of $60k or more, so it's not, as Pelosi said, "soldily middle class" - at least not in the way Democrats mean middle class. I'm going to assume the Democrats who wrote this either didn't know the difference between average SS earnings and actual annual salary or disregarded it to score political points. Neither ignorance nor malice would surprise me.

Now, my own take is that middle class means neither aristocracy nor peasantry, and under that definition pretty much every American is middle class. After all, the reason 'middling class' came about is people who had no set role in the feudalist system and moved around as they wished, more or less. Since there isn't really any successor to the feudal system, everyone in this country is middle class. That's my take.

Of course, then there's middle class as a relative section of an economy. I don't really appreciate such comparisons because I know a lot of people outside the middle levels on income who have middle class outlooks - both rich and poor - and I know some people of strikingly average income and normal upbringing with uncharacteristically proletarian or aristocratic views of life (funnily enough, both of these groups swing toward the Democrats in my experience).

Simply having money doesn't fundamentally alter who you are. It can be useful to make these distinctions when there's some independent correlation to other behavior - like if people 'in the middle' or 'at the bottom' seemed to have certain viewpoints or self-identifications. But I don't like to put much stock in this type of analysis.

After all, virtually everyone today is richer than his or her grandparents in terms of health, technology and luxury. Who cares where you are in relation to other people? Life isn't a competition and it doesn't hurt you if other people have more than you.

As far as the Democrats are concerned, nobody's middle class when it comes to taxes but everybody's middle class if it means you can attack Bush.


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