Friday, October 10, 2008

Feeling the Squeeze, Is Either Potential VP REALLY Like the Average Joe?

You know I read an article the other day on msn called A vice president like the rest of us. The premise of the article is that since each of them would be the "poorest vice president in recent memory" that they would understand what the average American is going through. At the time, the idea seemed a bit off to me. So, I did a bit of digging yesterday evening. My thought was that while they might not approach the super-wealth we're seeing among Presidential nominees, the rest of country would consider them rich. I wanted to see if I'm right. Oh... and I am. :)

In my digging, I first wondered, how do their annual family incomes compare to the national average. So, I looked about a bit and found that America's national median household income is $50,233 (Wikipedia). In addition, 80% of households make $100,000 or less (Can't find the reference on this one, why didn't I write it down?). So, Palin's $125,000 combined with Todd's $125,000 gives them a household income of $250,000 in salaries alone. So, you tell me, would someone making $250,000 per year REALLY understand the issues facing someone making $50,000 per year? Really? Now, being bipartisan here, Biden earned $300,000 (working two jobs it appears), so he's in no better shape (Both numbers from the article referenced at the top). I've lived the difference between $50,000 combined income and $200,000. I assure you there's a huge difference in your approach to things as simple as grocery shopping. At $50,000 you clip coupons, buy generic, and definitely notice when milk goes up by a nickle a gallon. At $200,000 those things just don't impact your budget nearly as much.

But, I though being fair, I should another measure to see how much "like the rest of us" they are. So, I went to look at the national median net worth. It's $86,000. For those who may not know this term, it refers to the value of ALL of your assets minus your liabilities (so your house is included as it's full value minus the amount you owe). So, the average American household net worth is less than these guys make in a single year. It's less than half. Bt what is their net worth? I'm glad you asked.

Biden's assets are hard to pin down because of the reporting requirements, but the article at the top lists his retirements accounts as being between $65,000-366,000. That's an awfully big range. At the top end, he's far above most Americans and at the bottom he's a bit lower than the national average. Palin comes in at $381,405. Far above most of the nation.

But where does that place them? With all the talk about their being middle class, how does this really stack up? Of course, perception is king as there's no actual formal definition of middle class. So, what does American perception say? 77% of a recent msn live poll say 100,000 or less in income falls in the middle class. In a NY Times survey, 29% of people said earning between 100-200K is rich. In addition to these surveys, I read an interesting article by MP Dunleavy called Just How Rich Is Rich? In it she says:

"...there's an amazing variation in dollar amounts that people attach to that four-letter word.
Those who earned less than $30,000 thought that a household income of $74,000 would qualify as rich.

Those who made $30,000 to $50,000 said an income of $100,000 would be rich.

And people in the top half of earners were more likely to say that an income of $200,000 earns you the right to the R word.

So the less money you have, the less money you think you'll need to become rich. And the wealthier you are, I suspect, the more money it takes to make you feel rich."

And yet at all levels according to Dunleavy, both candidates would be rich. So, the bottom line for me is that neither of the candidates is average, middle class, or whatever other term you might want to use. They live well. That's not a negative, it just makes them less "Joe Six-Pack" or Sally Super-Saver (my own term this one) than the media seems to want to portray them. When we see a candidate for the office who knows what a gallon of milk costs and battles over whether they should risk the lights or the water getting cut off this month I'll rejoice about a Vice President like the "rest of us". Because while I personally may share more in common with these two, I recognize that MOST Americans don't. The wealth divide is still staggering and we need to simply admit that those who attain high political office will rarely understand the plight of the common guy. And, when any candidate talks about "helping the middle class", I had to teach El 3atal early on that, no matter what party, they're in they're NEVER talking about us... :)

Happy Pseudo-Class Consciousness!


At 10:45 PM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

What great research! Thanks.
I remember when my mom's salary made it to $31,000/year. I thought we had made it to the big time.

It's all relative, isn't it? Newly graduated univ. students here are often happy to land jobs here for 400 JD/month.

Shout out to all the coupon clippers still around...if I were living back in the US and could clip, my scissors would be busy.

At 3:09 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Yeah, I recall the days of my $23000 a year in the Philly area salary. Yikes! One fairly significant difference between the US and here, of course, is the fact that once you go to college, the expectation is you move out :). You certainly have to make more than $600 a month to afford an apartment. Oh, and regardless of income, I was always loved clipping coupons (I itch to do it when I see them on my Cherrios boxes even here, teehee).

At 6:13 AM , Blogger Ali Dahmash said...

Im realy surprised with Biden and Palin numbers as they are considered very low when compared to the current's administration or the average American income in Manhattan that exceeds $150,000 But I know that most politicans have a 7 digit of savings, assets.

At 8:48 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Ali, yeah. El 3atal saw numbers on Palin's total net worth and they were something like 1.2 million. Of course, neither of them lives in New York... And, surprising to many folks, most large companies have a single salary scale and don't really pay more in New York.

At 12:42 AM , Blogger Ali Dahmash said...

well I did ask my friends in NYC, and the salary scale is higher than Florida. Anyways, in my believe most Politicans are corrupted, well off and have an agenda. But as I always say, I prefer to see a Democrat than a Republican now in the White House, its the best of the worse

At 5:27 AM , Blogger No_Angel said...

one thing that surprises me about "ohh they are just likes us !" arguments is that i feel shocked people like them.
This is not a PTA members election where i care about someone i can relate and communicate with at the same level this is about running the United fraking states people.
I want someone a cut above the rest, not an average joe to screw things up the same way he screws his budget.
here i thought everyone learned their lesson for cutting people in power who are "just like us" some slack. since it certainly got the country to reflect the assests of its denizens, WAY IN THE NEGATIVE!

At 10:40 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

No angel, I so TOTALLY agree. Actually, I want someone who's much smarter than me :). I don't want Bubba whose Daddy has always paid his way. However, I do want someone who at SOME point in his/her life has lived on a budget. If you've never known the price of a gallon of milk and never worried about how you'd make rent, you really can't relate to what most Americans go through. And, being able to understand how Americans live will make you better able to understand the issues facing America today. I understand how crippling credit debt can be because I faced it when I graduated from college. I understand how scary life can be without health insurance because of the $500 I spent on a Doctor's visit and presecriptions last year (and I have major medical). Having people in office who understand these things is actually quite important.

At 10:02 PM , Anonymous jollibee's history said...

well i really do agree with u cos this is now the way of getting votes in politics so my dear i respect your feelings but this is some how very general,,,,


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