Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Does anyone remember that show?  I know I watched it a few times.  All of the uproar on the Internet about the Bush Tax Cuts being retired or renewed got me thinking about that show.  Most of the posts are full of name calling, “rich,” “wealthy,” “middle class,” “upper middle class,” “lower middle class”…what does it all mean?  That depends on who you ask.  The poorly defined social classes in the US are ripe for taking on any definition given in the media or by marketing groups or politicians.

Many posters that make 150K or 200K a year want to be classified as middle class and insist that we take the cost of living into account before labeling them as rich.  It does cost more to live in a nice area with good schools in LA than in Sioux Falls, SD. 

According to Sioux Falls, SD had a median household income of  $47,040 in 2009.   The US Census defines “middle class” as households earning the middle 50% of income.  So $47, 040 would put that household into the middle class.  I’m sure there are families calling themselves middle class inSioux Falls, SD that make 150K a year or more.  I doubt that the households making 47K a year think of those folks as “middle class.”  Maybe when aspiring to live the 150K lifestyle they view them positively and call them “upper middle class.” 

I recently watched the movie “The Joneses” with David Duchovny and Demi Moore.  The characters were promoting a lavish lifestyle, what I’d call a lifestyle of the rich and famous.  The reviews called the family “upper middle class.”  The father bought an Audi R8 just for fun, list price is over 100K. According to Road Reality  the average price of a new car is just over 29K.  That’s an enormous price difference!  It certainly illustrates the huge divide between the group we label “middle class” and the poorly defined group called “upper middle class.”  Of course not everyone in the neighborhood could keep up with the Joneses, but they all tried.

Prior to the “Great Recession” the middle class was using credit cards and car loans to live a lifestyle above their means, just like the neighbors in “The Joneses.”  Lenders have more loan restrictions now than a few years ago so I think the lifestyles of the upper middle class and the middle class will decrease to what their actual income can support.  A decrease in lifestyle will anger many people.  Households with large incomes in high cost of living areas will be demonized alongside those with similar incomes living lavishly in lower cost areas.  It’s the perfect opportunity for politicians to use that anger for political gain.  I’m sure the Internet uproar will continue.


About All Unwound

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