Economy · Politics/Government What’s your definition of “rich”? Eric Ringham July 21, 2010, 5:00 AM Jul 21, 2010 85 DFL candidates for governor are sparring over whether couples who earn $150,000 a year should be considered wealthy for tax purposes. Today’s Question: What’s your definition of “rich”? ‹ Older What issue in the governor’s race matters most to you? Newer › Is owning a cabin part of your Minnesota dream? Browse by category Education Health Economy Politics/Government Culture Religion/Ethics Science/Technology Transportation Race/Gender Environment/Energy Security International affairs Immigration Media Military About the blogger Eric Ringham email@example.com Neil Sorensen If a couple with two children has a net salary of more than 72,000 dollars a year should be considered as wealthy. $150,000 would be excessively wealthy. That is not to say that people in the category between 72,000 and 150,000 are actually capable of managing their resources in an efficient way, and in fact I know many people who are wealthy but grossly mismanage their wealth, thus giving the impression that they are nowhere near wealthy. For people who live in a major or expensive urban metropolis, such as New York or San Francisco, the amount could be the nearer to 150,000, but on a national level this is not the case. In fact, people who have a much lower net salary may be considered rich in rural areas. The tax code should endeavor to take these nuances into account to create an equitable system of taxation. Clark $500,000 in annual earned or unearned income and a net worth of $5 million. Dayton is an idiot, born rich and dumb with no idea that $150,000 income today is really middle class. John (from St. Paul) Rich is having the time available and the good health to allow me to play with the grandkids. unexpand A bit dated, but: “Wealth — Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.” H. L. Mencken But quibbling over language is counter-productive and takes focus off of the real debate: how much tax at which income level. It’s important for tax hawks to bear in mind that even their patron saint, Adam Smith, supported a progressive tax with wealthier citizens paying more than those with less. Greg $150,000 per year is over triple the median household income. Regardless of if one considers that “rich,” it is sufficiently wealthy to afford a tax increase. We need to pay for the services that we demand rather than passing the deficit onto the next budget year; in fact, everyone should pay a little more, and those over $150k have sufficient resources to pay proportionately more. Sue de Nim I’d say you’re rich if you meet one or more of the following criteria: — When you get the idea you’d like to have something, you’re generally able to just buy it without much worry about how you’re going to afford it. — You have the luxury of believing that the poor are poor mainly because they don’t work hard enough and make bad financial choices. — You think your wealth should give you some sort of status that entitles you to call the shots. — You don’t have to do any chores you don’t want to, because you can hire them done. — Your kids aren’t begging you for the latest fashionable clothing and toys, because they already have them. That’s assuming the question is about financial wealth, not something more abstract. Amy First, I second Sue de Nim’s comment because you said exactly what I believe dead on. I think being “rich” is really what you make it to be. If you live within your means, plan ahead, save and don’t have thousands of dollars in credit card debit, I’d say your doing pretty good. Since this question clearly is geared at the current debate about taxes, I believe the tax system does need to be made into a fair, progressive tax system in which we all pay our fair share. The argument that someone making $250,000 doesn’t “need” that much and thus should pay more is not fair because the perception of need is very subjective. That said, I do believe that the tax system needs to be made clear, concrete, and fixed soon. All of us, regardless of yearly earnings, should be planful with our finances, live within our means and prepare to pay our fair share of the income taxes in the state. If the income tax system is not fixed, we will continue to pay for the budget issues as we are now through increased fees, gas taxes, property taxes, sales tax, etc. J Before this recession, and unemployment and subsequent cutting of costs and expenditures to the barest of bones I would have said $100,000 for one person is rich. But now, $50,000 for one person is definitely rich. If you cannot live on that, there is something wrong with you. Note that I said PER person, not $50,000 for a whole family. It is clear, to me at least, that the old idea of the “American Dream” is as dead as the Gulf of Mexico. A house in the burbs, two cars, 3.5 kids all in sports and each with a college fund, and retiring at 55 … all gone, quite possibly for good. Who is rich? I do not have the most current statistics on me, but I will leave y’all with this thought: in 2004 (I think it was) the top 400 richest people in the world had more wealth than the bottom %50 of the people .. in the WORLD! Please note my use of capital letters there to express my shock and awe and what is that feeling? Disgust. Andrea Wealthy is having safe water to drink, enough food to eat, and basic health care. Fabulously wealthy is indoor plumbing. Jordan Anyone with more money than me. Phil Being gay – this doesn’t affect me at all! Can’t marry – can’t file joint taxes. I do however pay twice as much for domestic partner benefits and other tax penalties because my relationship isn’t recognized by the gov’t. As far as I’m concerned – taxes are always going to be unfair to someone. Jeffito Families with a combined income of $150,000 are well able to afford higher state income taxes. The idea that all families can afford to pay the same percentage of their income in taxes is fair and necessary if we are to remain a viable state and society. It should not be about who is rich. I suppose rich folk are those who pay inheritance tax. Nanalee 150k $ is rich if you are a couple making this amount and only have 2 children. That amount and 5 or 6 children maybe not so much . However they get enough deductions to still be very comfortable. GOP voter ME Steve Being “rich” is kind of vague in the sense that one can be rich mentally or morally, but in the sense of monetarily is still vague-it depends what the individual thinks of himself in richness. That being said a couple earning 150,000 without children depends on the amount of expenses or obligations that couple has. Me personally i have 2 children live in a great suburb with a nice house married but on a very tight budget-but i believe in the can-do spirit of our community and belief that one can be wealthy through generosity! jamex Since the question asked about *couples* and not *families*, I’m going to go with the assumption that this refers to childless couples (though why they would be allowed to marry when they don’t have kids is beyond me – after all, marriage is all about having children, right? (sorry – that involuntary rant is hard to suppress)). In Minnesota, any two people who can’t get by on $150,000 a year are idiots. My partner and I (whose relationship is also not recognized by the state) live quite comfortably on half that. We don’t run out and buy whatever we want, and we aren’t able to save much, but we are able to afford a high-speed internet connection and cable TV, eat out at nice restaurants a couple times a month, and pay a mortgage & taxes on a 2,000 sq ft home – without resorting to credit cards. Couples earning 150K may not be rich like Mark Dayton, but they’re certainly not going to suffer from a small increase in their taxes. Sandra Weston Rich is someone like Margaret Kelliher, who assumes that “average” people can afford to send their kids to summer hockey camp. No, Speaker, they can’t. Maybe someone who makes $130,000 a year can.That only means that they are not, in fact, middle class. Median income is $50,000, and at that level average people are not, in fact, sending their kids to summer hockey camp. Before I heard her say that, I was actually planning on voting for her. Now I’m not at all sure. James Having family, friends and a dog:-) Leading a healthy, happy and productive life. The finical ability to house, feed and care for loved ones. DTOM Don Jacobson Since it is out there in the public sphere, I will $150,000/yr as a convenient starting point. I agree that this is, in reality, “middle class” but it is also a VERY comfortable middle class income. If both adults are pulling in 75K, they have better paying jobs than most others (isn’t MN median something like 36-38K, or merely HALF of 75K?). But like most things in life, there are many many shades of “wealth,” leading all the way to “filthy rich, Warren Buffett-style wealthy.” I would say 150K is getting pretty close to the slightest shade of wealthy. Gary F When you have achieved “sustainable mass”. Which means you can live comfortably on your investments without having to a daily job. We can’t be punishing people for earning money. If you tax something you get less of that activity, like smoking. So, if you tax work more, you will get less work. Less work means a huge ripple affect through the economy. Larry Someone is rich if they have more money than you do. So I don’t know if $10K, $100K or $200K is rich, but I know that those making $500K and certainly those making $1 million and above can afford to pay more in taxes than someone at $250K, or $150K. The trouble is that there are not enough of those people making the $500K and $1 million. So why not graduated taxes at many levels of higher income? Certainly someone making $1 million per year can pay more as a percentage of income than someone at $150K or $250K! All of us who pay taxes can probably all afford to pay a little more, but the real problem for most people paying taxes is, what are we paying for? I believe in taking care of the children (education, nutrition, healthcare) and the disabled (those who can not work or need assistance to work), and government is probably the best way to take care of them. The best way to take care of the rest is with jobs. The old saying that it is better to teach a person to fish and than to give the person a fish is all too true. The best way to get new jobs is to encourage new businesses. New businesses need money to get started. We need more incentives to invest in new businesses. We need more than the tiny “angel tax credit” passed by the legislature – too much paperwork and too little money. Lets really incentivize people to invest in new businesses. AAG Rich is having enough money for the basics (home, health, food) that you don’t worry about it. Anyone with something left over after covering the basics is rich. Certainly $150,000 covers the basics. Brian I retired about six years ago. Prior to my retirement, I was making about $78k. I was a single, half-time parent (i.e., divorced, with joint custody of my two children, who lived with me half-time). My salary was certainly sufficient for my needs; I never felt upset about having to pay taxes. I feel very strongly that all people who work need to consider giving back to society, and the way we do that is through taxes. We pay taxes because we have wealth, we have wealth because of our economy, and we have an economy because of our society. Let’s keep our society healthy. To return to the question about a joint income of $150,000 per year: I think these people can afford an increase in income taxes. Bloomington My family falls closely to the $150,000/yr income. Two parents, one child. While no one likes to pay taxes, and I don’t consider us to be ‘rich’, we are certainly comfortable, and able to withstand a tax increase to help get our state and country out of the financial mess we are in. I also guarantee that a tax increase will in no way encourage us to work less. echoegami My husband and I are doing okay for the first time in our adult lives. We purchased a new car a year and a half ago and we just purchased our first home this spring. We’re both bright, intelligent people but very much under educated because we grew up poor and couldn’t afford to go to post secondary schooling. However, we feel fortunate that we’re pulling in $55k a year on our combined incomes. We have enough to pay our bills and splurge on entertainment like dinner and a movie every now and then. If tomorrow our income somehow doubled I would count us rich. If you make $130k or $150k a year and think you’re not rich you’re sadly of touch with how most of the rest of this country lives. If you make that much and don’t feel rich you’re doing something wrong. Two Harborite “Rich” is having more than “enough”. Rich is having more than enough food; living in a house that is bigger or fancier than what is necessary to keep ones self and family warm, dry and reasonably comfortable; more than adequate transportation; more than adequate health care, more than adequate education. Obviously “enough” is incredibly subjective. In the case of health care and education, I personally believe we need to set the bar for adequacy pretty high. Regarding all need categories, I believe we as a nation need to have a very serious conversation about what constitutes “enough” , and work to ensure that everyone who contributes their time and energy to the economy will come away assured that they will have enough of what it takes to live a fully dignified life, free of the stigma of government assistance, within the broader community. T I make 150.000/year, my wife doesn’t have an income, but works just as hard, if not harder than I and we have two kids. Culturally I feel rich, financially I don’t, but I am more than willing to pay more in taxes to benefit our family and others in the state who have less ability to pay. And no, paying more taxes does NOT make me work less…not in the least. Shane I don’t understand the logic behind the progressive tax idea. It would be like walking into the grocery store and have the clerk ask you how much money you make to determine how much you have to pay for that loaf of bread. The whole point of making more money is that your costs as a percentage of your income go down. I’m not rich, but someday I will be. Lisa After being at a friends multilevel home, my seven year old daughter asked me if we were rich. “Very” was my response. We have a small rambler where my second and third children share a room. It is perfect for us. As teachers with 15 years experiece and masters degrees (that we are still paying off) our combined income is $114,000 plus health insurance. Our cars are paid off (one with 110,000 miles on it!), we put money in 529 plans for our 3 young children, and after 10 years of savings have a large sum in our savings account. We are able to have more than we need and give to others in our community. I have never complained about paying taxes and know that they are needed, even though I believe they are not always used in the best ways. Raising the taxes on the weathiest is the right thing to do. We were raised to believe all people need to be more willing to live within their means and work as hard and much as they are able. That is how we are trying to raise our children. Terry VanDerPol Last week, from my back deck I watched a coyote pup trot down the Minnesota River bluff and catch her first glimpse of a two-legged creature. This morning I awoke to the song of the Whip-poor-will and Sunday I’m heading out to the Christening of my nephew’s new baby girl. Yeah, I’m rich. Ruben – St. Paul RICH = Family, Health, and DEBT FREE!!!! A lot of people think that wealth has to do with how much stuff one has, big house, fancy cars, 50″Plasma TV, trips, etc. Until you are debt free (i.e. house, cars, student loans, credit cards, etc), all of it belongs to someone else. Lawrence A person making 250,000 or more a year can expect to make at minimum $ 1 million 250,000 in 5 years and $ 2 million 500,000 in 10 years if he/she has no expenses and saves every penny earned. The key is expenses/debt. Most Americans find ways to spend up to (and for some beyond) the amount they earn, and don’t really see how wealthy they are until a few things are completely paid off, such as a house, a car, vacation trips, the lake cabin, etc. So while we can argue about how much money makes a person wealthy, in the 21st century, it all comes down to how many people are not encumbered by debt. Khatti Well…how high is “up”? H Rich is having financial security. If your family earns $150K this year, but fear that a job cut is on the way and next year will be vastly different than they may not feel so rich. Also, a family taking care of multiple generations of people with big child and eldercare costs may not feel very rich, at least in the monetary sense. Gary F So, the DFL says $150,000 is “rich”. So you tax them more. So, they go out to eat less.(Fewer waiters/cooks needed). So, they don’t remodel the kitchen. (fewer contractors needed). So, they won’t has as much to give to MPR/TPT, American Diabetes Assoc etc., their college/school endowment fund, place of worship, sharing and caring hands, Sierra Club, foodshelf, etc……………. The Golden Goose can only be squeezed so hard. Margaret Thatcher said it best……. “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of someone else’s money” Dan G Wouldn’t it be interesting to live in Gary F’s simplistic, black-and-white, zero-sum world? Gary F Wouldn’t it suck to live in California or Greece? Steve the Cynic Interesting thought experiment, Gary F. Here’s another one: We don’t raise anyone’s taxes but tackle the deficit with spending cuts alone. The rich keep more of their money to pass on to their kids, building up piles of inherited wealth that the kids didn’t work for. Teachers are laid off and the quality of education deteriorates, with 40 students per teacher. Infrastructure deteriorates, as workers go unhired for things like road maintenence jobs. Parks get overgrown with weeds, so the general quality of life goes down. Law enforcement becomes spotty, so the crime rate goes up. Eventually the middle class evaporates as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the majority find themselves in a state of economic servitude to the very wealthy, and a new aristocracy develops. It’s not that there’s one peril we need to avoid at all costs, but two ditches to avoid. Avoiding one ditch but falling into the other makes us no better off. Neither pure socialism nor pure capitalism is sustainable. Gary F Problem is, it’s never enough. Starr Brainard A person is rich if they have more money than I do, or if they have traveled to more foreign countries than I have. jim e. i was born in 1953 and raised in a blue collar middle class home with 5 kids. back then you were rich if you had air conditioning, if you ate out more than once a year, if you ever flew in an airplane, if you had 2 cars (a double garage was rare), if you didn’t wear hand-me-downs, if you had a new bike, if you had a credit card, if you had a color tv, etc. my point is with all the talk of a declining middle class the fact is that our standard of living has risen over the years. shut up and pay up and quit looking to looking to someone else for what you want. Amanda I feel that being rich means having choices. I have the freedom to choose a career, a partner, a home, and so much more. I don’t mind paying taxes because I know they pay for basic comforts like clean water, paved roads, and public education. If I asked my representative to improve these services, I would expect to pay more for better quality. Joel The question is not relevant, but if $150,000 for a couple is rich you need to consider an individual making $75,000 rich. Dayton is an idiot if he thinks an individual isn’t rich until they make $120,000 but a family is wealthy at $150,000. Married couples where both individuals work are already taxed at a higher rate than individuals. My wife and I have paid more than $30,000 more in taxes during our marriage than we would have if we simply would have lived together and not been married. Dayton is a prime example of a poor education. bsimon Rich should probably be defined in terms of median household income. To people making the median, twice median probably looks pretty rich. If I were going outside the formula, I’d say if you can regularly afford to pay someone else to do household chores, you’re rich. I would include the lawn service and weekly cleaning services in that calculation. Shane wrote “I don’t understand the logic behind the progressive tax idea.” Much is expected from those to whom much has been given. Keith According to the 2005 American Community Survey, the top 10% of Minnesotan households earn $127,410 or more. The bottom ten percent of Minnesotan households earn less than $13,400 a year. Given these numbers, it seems as preposterous to me to say that a household that makes $150,000 is in the middle class as it is to say that a family that makes $12,000 a year is middle class. David L As a minor who still depends on his guardians, I may not have the best perspective, but as far as I know, the average household income in the US is around 45k. That means that people who make 150k are making over three times the average American. I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems to me that three times average ought to be considered wealthy. Even 100k per year seems pretty rich in comparison to average. Ben It’s pretty simple: being “rich” means you have extra money, that is, you never have to worry about having enough money to pay bills or take care of unforeseen expenses. Interestingly enough, you can approach being “rich” by me definition by both increasing income and decreasing expenses Roxanne Johnson I’m not sure what the exact criteria for “rich” would be, but I know that I’m not financially rich. I make $7.75 at my new part time job with no benefits. My mom only makes about $30,000/year (including child support from my dad). But she has great benefits-health and dental. I live with her because I can’t afford to live on my own. We have wealthy relatives who can afford to have a house and cabin, multiple vehicles, and take frequent long vacations. Even though my family isn’t financially rich, we are rich and blessed in other ways. We have our health (thank God) and my dad got sober from alcohol almost a year ago. We love each other and enjoy spending time with each other. And I have been blessed to have a wonderful extended family who have helped me out financially and emotionally (not to mention I enjoy going to their cabins!) I think “rich” is making more than $50,000/year for an individual. That may seem low but since I grew up working class I will be happy if I can make that much someday. DNA A people and planet that make’s the best use of its renewable/sustainable resources. The first Gutenberg bible was printed on hemp paper. The first drafts of the United States’ Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. The first American flag was made out of hemp cloth, as were the first blue jeans. Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. In 1791, Jefferson said, “Hemp is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words, to the wealth and protection of the Country.” In 1794 Washington said, “Make the most of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” In 1941 the Ford Motor Company produced an automobile with a plastic body made from sisal, wheat, and primarily (70%) hemp. The plastic withstood blows 10 times as great as steel could without denting. Its weight was 2/3 that of a regular car. Its engine was designed to run with hemp-oil fuel. “Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” –Henry Ford “Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody ‘hurds’ remaining after the fibers have been removed can be used to produce more than 25,000 products.” –Popular Mechanics, 1938 http://rosenlake.net/er/hempinfo.html Rem Anon My husband and I together make close to 150K a year gross, but much less after taxes and retirement we are setting aside. We are both multicultural and come from underprivileged backgrounds and worked hard to stay in college and finish our degrees, and we work in education. I am going back to school for an advanced degree now and pay for it out of pocket. Many states don’t have state income tax, we need to remember that. I feel we pay more than our fair share of state income tax already, even having to pay in some years. We are not the rich to take from to give to the poor. We need to cut back on spending in this state overall, period. Tony We need to remember that we are looking at Minnesota, not the entire nation. You can cite the average US household income as 45k a year, but that statistic alone means nothing. Living expenses vary greatly between urban and rural areas, and also on the state by state basis. 45k can go a long way in an area where products and services are relatively cheap and you could be considered the richest person in town by being able to afford everything available to you. In other areas you could be stretching yourself thin with that income trying to balance the bills. That’s where definition of rich becomes a problem for both the public and politicians. It’s a qualitative term, not quantitative. You can’t attempt to put a number to it without it being somewhat arbitrary, but you also can’t avoid the issue when looking at the quality of life of people of the state as a whole. It would be nice if that could be decided on a case by case basis, but the folks who balk at “big government” now would have no qualms about our current state of government if it was compared to how much government would be required to act on that level. Michelle I guess I can’t answer what I think “rich” is with a number. But I will say that if my household income was so high that politicians felt the need to tax me more, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be complaining about that situation: having enough money to afford being taxed more. There are much worse problems in in life; having enough money to pay higher taxes is hardly a catastrophe. I guarantee you that the vast majority of people who aren’t in that situation would do just about anything to be in that situation. Emily I’m in my mid-twenties and together my husband and do not even pull in enough to qualify for the marriage credit – we bring home less than 40K combined. We both have college degrees and are currently working towards advanced degrees while working. We consider ourselves “lucky” because we do not have children and we are able to make our schedules work with one car… additional expenses that would throw us into a state of hysteria. If one day we are privileged enough to make 150K a year than yes, I would definitely consider us rich, and yes I would be willing to pay these taxes simply based on my experience. Sorry but the money has to come from somewhere. If we were taxed any further than we could not even put food on the table. The disparity between the rich and poor in this state is absolutely disgusting. I support this tax. Jolene Being rich is all relative. Anyone who makes more money than you, you will probably consider to be rich. David Rogde The question revealed what primary voters need to know about the candidates: who is the real progressive democrat? Dayton! Before the debate I assumed they both were — now I know better. Susan I cannot say where rich begins, but I know that a large majority of economists describe the middle class (in our country) as earning between $40,000 and $80,000. So while $130,000 may not be rich, it is definitely upper income and NOT middle class. I am very disappointed in Margaret Anderson Keliher’s remarks and may switch my vote from her to Mark Dayton. I am so sick and tired of people making over $100,000 protesting that they are “just middle class.” Hogwash! Also, $150,000 is three times more than the median household income of $50,000; of course they can pay more taxes. And Dayton is talking about raising taxes on the top 10% of incomes–why not the top 20%? Can’t wait to see all of the diatribes headed my way! Ben Huset You don’t work for Money, your Money works for you. A line from the Cosby show many years ago. Ninja Our household income before taxes is over $150k, but the amount of tax we pay usually hovers around $30k. So my $34k job essentially pays for my husband’s income tax. Poor I have a Bachelor’s degree and I have never made more than $38,000 per year. I am 38 years old, currently. I think anyone making $150,000 a year is wealthy especially if they can make this over several years. Kyle Dorsey While no single metric, like annual income, can possibly encapsulate the entire concept of “richness”, there are a few factors which support a more broader definition in the immediate context of the question (tax proposals). I think that it’s hard to argue that $150,000 a year is anything but wealthy, being as far as it is above national and state averages. Artificially reducing net annual income to allow optional spending, like funding retirement accounts and post-graduate education, is disingenuous and itself a sign of wealth. Such things may be very responsible ways to spend money, but they’re still very expensive and beyond the reach of many. Just because it isn’t caviar doesn’t mean it’s not a luxury. But more specifically, Minnesotans enjoyed the fruits of a great deal of state spending for quite some time, regardless of income level. The rising tide lifted all boats. But now the extent of that spending (over-spending, perhaps) is apparent, and the problems that it has caused are severe and immediate. With a $6 billion dollar deficit, taxes are going to go up– there’s no way to avoid it, even with savage cuts in spending. But the economy is weak enough that many middle and lower class citizens simply can’t handle much of a tax increase without starting to compromise immediate necessities, like food, mortgage payments, medical needs, etc. People in the $150,000 per year category would generally not be so hard pressed. We all enjoyed the perks of a Minnesota that spent freely. Now, when the state needs revenue to avoid the chasm that free spending has led us to, is not the time to defer to the “humble” condition of those who can still afford spend on luxuries (even responsible ones). In such a difficult economy, with such a dire state budget, $150,000 may indeed be rich enough to start addressing these issues. Kevin If 45K is what the average American is making….. then about 2x that should be upper income, aka RICH. I know some who make that amount and do not think that way, that’s because they keep spending their money on wasteful things…. There are a few reality shows showing this, and seeing those couples face reality of their wasteful spending is PAINFUL! You don’t need to make that much!!! Sorry but 150K a year is so beyond the RICH mark … And ignorance of it is no excuse…. Its really shameful that there are so many sinning greedy people. somewoman I think that people making $150,000 are not rich, but they can pay the same percentage that the rest of us pay in taxes and that is the point. Poor people pay a greater percentage of taxes. D X Pro sports athletes making millions is obscene. As much as I like football and baseball this is an outrage. Yet society allows it and continues to pay the price in stadium admissions and buying athlete-endorsed products The health care barons who make millions in excess meanwhile the price of their product is costing people their lives. (Your money or your life). Software company execs who charge hundreds if not thousands for their products, (even the operating system necessary to run a PC at the bare minimum), living lavishly while small businesses and startups are extorted by their “license agreements”. Pirate baby, pirate! Birchsmoke It has been said everyone is broke, only at different levels. Being rich or wealthy these days seems to be more defined by the marketers who tell the population what they must have, and/or the politicians who tell you how much you do not have so they may step in and fullfill your every need. The fact of the matter is every person has the ability to define wealth. I define wealth by the amount it takes to live free, that is NOT dependent on anyone especially the government for anything, not to educate my children, provide my healthcare or tell me how to live. I consider myself wealthy because I have the ability to leave the state when the power hunger fools try to take my freedom. The fact that these politicians feel the need to divide the population through class warfare shows how their inability to bring the entire state together. Can we please get some quality leaders who can legislate within the means of the state rather then their own egos? jim Rich is being appreciative of your life and the life around you. Rich is having a circle of friends that are loyal, honorable, and available. Wealth, is defined by the majority of the world’s population as having clothing on your back, and food for the day. My best financial year brought in about 45K. I could do anything I cared to do. I chose a home that did not take more than 25% of one income, net. I was wealthy because my debt to credit ratio was in balance, with the fulcrum at as close to zero debt as possible. I am now partially disabled. I have enough ability to work, and enough disability to not be able to secure a satisfying and satisfactory job. 150K is a fantasy world for me, and both my brothers. I am not asking for a handout, but I am tired of a continual drain on the proletariat’s back, while the beaujoise disguise their income, and typically pay zilch. citizen2915 The premise of the question is flawed. What people CONSIDER themselves to be is interesting but, for policy purposes, pointless. Is Sen. Dayton’s factual assertion accurate, or not ? Either $130K annual income places an individual in the top 10% of Minnesotans, or it does not. Do the math. Act accordingly. Give the theatrics a rest. In the same vein, there is NO redeeming social value, in the masses subsidizing interest deductions for either McMansions or second homes. Jeff For those who don’t make $150k/yr., you’re not qualified to judge whether those who do can make ends meet or not. Everyone’s situation is different (see daycare, healthcare, “metro” housing and transportation costs, etc.). I would venture to say that I expect many in that $150k range pay proportionally more in tax than those in the lowest brackets (who often pay little or no tax, or even receive tax credits back as income). I’d also suggest that much of the “need” for more tax revenue is generated by social services demanded by the “poor” (for which the “rich” do not directly benefit). If we all really “need” more govt. spending, then we all really need to be paying for it. Jeff @citizen2915: not everyone in the $130-150k range who itemizes mortgage interest is living in a mansion or has a 2nd home, but for those that made the calculation that their interest was going to be deductible when choosing a 30-yr. mortgage, is it right to change the formula by now disallowing that deduction? It’s pretty hard to get out of a mortgage like that right now if you can’t sell your home, either because the sales market is so bad or because you’re under water (which also brings up the fact that many of the “rich” that benefit from itemizing mortgage interest also have generally lost more on their previously expensive homes). cera I have heard opinions regarding income and whether or not said sum defines one as ‘rich.’ The argument that I have never considered resolved in relation to this subject involves small businesses. Is anyone able to accurately inform me on the income of a small business owner? Does the income of a small business count against the owner-what if, for example, a small business earns $300,000 but $250,000 was reinvested into the business and the owner took home only $50,000? Must they reinvest that money in specific areas, office/equipment upgrades, employee pay, or business travel? Must these investments be carefully recorded; is the revenue just considered part of the owners’ income regardless? I think this is the critical area of this topic-the segment that creates the most local jobs should not be strangled when the business owner tries to upgrade/expand. I have never heard this addressed articulately and clearly. Thank you in advance for your response. justacoolcat Let’s leave it up the the philosophers: Socrates – He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature Khatti Jeff: I don’t know anything about your situation, but I get the feeling that you either make 150K a year, or you know deep in your heart that you’re going to start making at least 150K a year any moment now! If you are in the first catagory you apperantly have learned a truism a friend of my father coined many years ago: “No one really has any money, some people are just broke in better neighborhoods than others.” If you are one of those people who is broke in a better neighborhood, I have to assume that you moved to that neighborhood just as soon as you thought you could afford it. You undoubtedly thought you deserved to move to that better neighborhood because you were just doing so darned well! There are three likely reasons why you moved to that better neighborhood: fear, exhibitonism, or a combination of fear and exibitionism. Fear: “God! We have got to get out of Eagan! If we don’t, Junior is going to lose his 4.1 grade average and end up selling drugs on the street. If, by some miracle, Junior avoids that fate he’s bound end up dating some hillbilly from Appalachia because, as everyone knows, there are a lot toothless hags like that wandering around Eagan; trolling the marital waters like hungry sharks! I’ve got to think of my family, no one else will! Exibitionism: “Listen douche, I live in Wayzata and you don’t–which only as it should be. My material worth is such that I am now of a special stature: I deserve to be seen with only those of my station. I have spent my whole life planning and fighting for the day when I could live in the presence of the near-godlike. My financial worth is now so significant that even I sometimes find the implications insufferable. The time has come when I too can enter my proper station as a demigod! Fear and Exhibitonism: “I’m terrified that I won’t be seen as a demigod with an excrutiatingly perfect family.” Yeah, well…forgive me if I’m not moved by your plight. Look, I don’t know what would be a good cutoff for personal wealth, but I do know that both state and federal goverment are going to need more money for lots of things that we all need. That trip to Wayzata will become very unimportant to you if a bridge collapses underneath you on the way. Noah I have basically no money and lots of student loans, I live in a government-subsidized apartment, and I’m still in school, so I don’t make more than 8k/yr, all of which goes to tuition BUT I consider myself very wealthy. I’m happy and I live in America, where food is overflowing from every dumpster behind every grocery store. Carrol I believe that being rich is having enough to live on and some left over to share. People who have stuff, rather than needs, are rich. Jeff @Khatti: You’re right. You know nothing about my situation. I live smack in the middle of “Bachmann country,” yet I’m fairly liberal. I cut coupons, most of my clothes come from the second-hand store and my car has duct tape holding it together. Pretty exhibitionist… I also have a brother who lives with my parents, pays no income taxes, and spends what he makes on video games and fast food. I have no issue with paying for bridges, and firefighters, and a universal healthcare system for this country, but I have a problem with people who pay nothing (or next to it) insisting that those who already pay most of the taxes are the only ones who need to pay more. It’s about fairness, and value in what you’re paying for. So, anyone interested in talking about a VAT? Gerald Myking There is only one thing that money is good for. Buying Time. Early in my life I had the desire to become rich so I could spend more time with my children and thus avoid the “Cats and the Cradle” curse. When you no longer have obligations to just survive you are rich. When you have the time to spend with friends and loved ones you are rich. Toys and adventures are nice but are worth a lot more when you can share them with others. Andrea It is simply not fair for people to assume that just because someone makes more money per year, they can afford to pay it in taxes. How many of those “high” earners have school loans they are paying off or things like large medical bills to pay for (I do!)? What about people with children making $150,000 per year while living in a city with a higher cost of living- including things like daycare expenses (in the metro area, daycare center costs for 2 children are a little more than $500 per week on average) or housing costs. Has anyone considered that for us younger folks, social security will probably not be around by the time we retire, so we also have to save as much as possible just to survive in our golden years? Unless you personally know someone else’s finances, you cannot declare them rich just because they have a gross income of $150,000 per year. “Rich” cannot be determined by grouping people in a number category. Jason Wow, so many naive comments. All of those advocating taxing those “rich” $150k earners are really showing their true sour grapes motives. Here are some important points: 1) Those actually earning their income through a paycheck already pay both a higher rate and more absolute tax than you do. 2) Have you considered that some of those people just possibly made some wise decisions, worked hard, and have earned that money? In my case I came from a single parent home, went to college on a scholarship, continued on to my PhD (not in art history – hint hint) and put in long hours at work to earn my $150+k salary. My wife did the same thing going through medical school. So, because we made some good decisions and make more money than you, we deserve to be liberated from our earned money. No one is preventing anyone else from doing what we did. 3) Mark Dayton being “truly rich” gets much of his income from family investments so he pays a lower rate than those of us with an actual job. For all of those championing his parody of Robin Hood ask yourself this: If Dayton only “made” $173k last year according to his tax return, how is he able to “loan” his campaign $3million? How much did he spend on getting elected to that embarrassing term in the Senate? Does he even have to pay a mortgage? Tell you what. When Dayton is willing to give up his family trust, mortgage his house and give the proceeds away, and live off of his own earned income, then he has the moral high ground to lecture me about my proper tax rate. Until then he’s a populist thief playing with other people’s money. Carolyn B No amount above a certain point makes you : ‘rich’, or below poor. A gradual increase in how much we pay in taxes starting at $400.000? Neil If you don’t or will never have to be concerned about having enough money, then you’re…well, let’s say financially secure. And that to me is rich, at least rich enough. Brian I have heard and read much about what wealthy is or is not. There is clearly no agreement. Perhaps we ask the wrong question. I would ask, what income level would be considered “poor”? Would it be $100,000, $75,000 or perhaps $25,000? Would a teacher making $40,000 a year be considered poor? What would you consider a minimum acceptable income to not be poor? If you are not poor, then perhaps you should bear the responsibility of greater taxation. John Dale I grew up in Iowa on a farm in a family with little money. I only have an associates degree, a family of 4 with a stay at home wife, and average earnings are over $190,000 from my job. I fully expect to earn over $250,000 within the next 2 years and grow beyond. My dad taught me to take the jobs people dont want, show up early, go home late, and work hard. I followed that advice and got to where I am today because of it. People need to stop looking for hadnouts and excuses and get off the couch and start working. The idea that 40%+ of Americans don’t even pay taxes by the time they get all their deductions and credits, and they are the ones that want to tax the “rich” more makes no sense to me. If we really want a fair tax system then we should have a flat tax for everyone with none of these deductions we all enjoy. Simple system, everyone pays, and if you make more you pay more. Example, set it at 7% and if you make $10k a year you pay $700. If you make $100k a year you pay $7k, and if you make a $1 million you pay $70k. Simple and fair for everyone. Studies have shown if we implemented a system like this with a tax rate around $14%, we would have more moeny in the system now then could ever be produced under the system we have today. People need to stop looking for handme outs and free rides. I know a guy who has been on unemployment for nearly 2 years and wont take a job at the grocery store because it is “beneath” him. Me, I would take two jobs, three if I had to, don’t care what the title is or where it is at. Whatever it takes to put food on my table is what I will do. We spend so much time hating the “rich” and wanting what is not ours. Phil I grew up in Iowa on a farm in a family with little money. I only have an associates degree, a family of 4 with a stay at home wife, and average earnings are over $190,000 from my job. I fully expect to earn over $250,000 within the next 2 years and grow beyond. My dad taught me to take the jobs people dont want, show up early, go home late, and work hard. I followed that advice and got to where I am today because of it. People need to stop looking for hand outs and excuses and get off the couch and start working. The idea that 40%+ of Americans don’t even pay taxes by the time they get all their deductions and credits and yet they are the ones that want to tax the “rich” more makes no sense to me. If we really want a fair tax system then we should have a flat tax for everyone with none of these deductions we all enjoy. Simple system, everyone pays, and if you make more you pay more. Example, set it at 7% and if you make $10k a year you pay $700. If you make $100k a year you pay $7k, and if you make a $1 million you pay $70k. Simple and fair to everyone. Under a system like this we all contribute to the common good and evenly. Studies have shown if we implemented a system like this with a tax rate around 12%, we would have more moeny in the system now then could ever be produced under the system we have today. Stop looking for hane me outs. I know a guy who has been on unemployment for nearly 2 years and wont take a job at the grocery store because it is “beneath” him. I think it is insane he is still collecting unemployment. Me, I would take two jobs, three if I had to, don’t care what the title is or where it is at. Whatever it takes to put food on my table is what I will do and there are low paying jobs available for those willing to work. Guess what? If you work hard you will work your way up and pretty soon be making good money again. We spend so much time hating the “rich” and wanting what is not ours. Overworked&childless Why dont they make the 40% of americans not paying taxes, start paying. People are getting thousands back in refunds and not paying a penny. I know someone that has three kids, worked 15 hours a week and got a check for 15,000, and bought a new SUV. Im working 70 hours a week and cant afford a new car but people barely working are able to get their refunds through refundable credits and go shopping. They should make sure everyone pays into the system. I dont have and free time and get two days off a month, and most ot goes to taxes, while all the people at my job that sign up to go home all the time get a fat bonus each year. They need to get rid of these refundable tax credits. Everyone needs to pay in and its no wonder the government isnt making money if someone like me is paying in and its just going to someone elses refund. moe raff Just to tell you my story, i graduated with a degree in econ in the fall of 2003, i had a friend who was doing home loans and fliping houses, i decided to get in to the business, in 2004 i made 122k i flipped 1 house, in 2005 i made 187k i flipped 2 houses and did about 130k in home loans, in 2006 i made in 138k, i sold the house i lived in july of 2006, since then my income has fallen alot in 2007 i made 46k selling home loans, in 2008 i made 27k i was driving taxi, i tried to get a job in a different industry tell this day i am driving taxi i have 178k in the market as of august 21 2011, i believe people that make money are only making money form medicare, medicaid, and government spending, if you can work in computers you are the private sector other wise peoples incomes are coming from the government, we have no money left i am just hoping the stock market goes up but most people who have money made it along time ago, housing in utah is falling like a rock my house i lived in tell the summer of 2006 i sold for 565k i bought it for 378k, in 2004, that house is now selling for about 340k, it is over for this country. The rich make there money from dividents on the stocks, the medical field pay needs to come down unless it is 100% cash payment anything to do with medicare or health insurance is bull shit and rapes the middle class, also my dad works for the federal government as an petroleum engineer, he makes about 105k after 31 years of survice he is a gs 13 step 10, he told me the waste is bad and there are many employees that don’t do much, when i here people who are in there 20 and 30 making as much as my dad does for the government i now they are lying unless they live in dc or the west cost, people lie about the pay, i wish i made his money but i don’t it sucks i have money in the market but the economy is not good in the western world because of crony capitalism and high cost of living, my cousin lives in lebanon, he owns a restaurant he makes about 100k a year but has no income tax only sales, he is like 45, but lebanon is doing go so is the whole middle east. The west is falling because of to much government. Mary Why should anyone pay more taxes when the Obama adm., who gave 535 million to solandra, over a billion to The Muslim Brotherhood (a terrorist org)’, almost 900,000 for a GSA party, and etc and etc etc. until they learn to spend our money wisely they should be forced to cut our taxes and their spending. We give illegals between 500 and 1,000 tax credit for each child, even tough het paid nothing in taxes. We pay their legal bills, education plus welfare etc. we let them have their babies free, while it cost us an arm and leg. I say let the “bleeding hearts” pay for these services if they want, but please don,t force your values on us.