First, let’s get the facts straight. Mr. Obama is only partly right on the numbers. While he’s in the ballpark for single earners — $97,000 would put you in the top 7% or so — he’s way off base when it comes to household incomes, which I believe is a truer measure, since most of us live and spend as part of a household (especially in an age of two-income families).
Measuring households, $97,000 puts you in the top 20%.
So then the question is: Is the top 20% considered “the rich” or upper class?
Of course it depends on where you live. (See this post on “what counts as rich in your town.”) The Washington Post did a nice analysis, pointing out that firefighters in New York can make $90,000 or more. Most school superintendents in New York state make more than $100,000, according to the article.
Call me an elitist if you wish, but I don’t think a $100,000 salary makes you rich in many parts of the country — especially not New York City, where the average condo price has soared past $1 million.
Nationally, I’m not sure that getting into the top 20% makes you “rich” either. To get into the top 20% of households by wealth today, you need $435,000 in net worth, according to the Federal Reserve. That total includes the value of your house and retirement assets. I doubt that anyone with a total net worth of $435,000 (including their house and retirement accounts) would feel “rich” in any part of the country.
But maybe I’m jaded. After all, I live in New York.
Me, too. But I think a majority of my consumer goods come from sources like Target and Costco. Maybe that makes me middle class?