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Thread: Define "Rich"

  1. Default Define "Rich"

    There is a lot of talk going around regarding the "rich" people in America. However, what does that term mean? Obama uses the loaded term "millionaires and billionaires," yet if you look at his official definition of the "rich," it is single people making (a.k.a. grossing) more than $200,000, or a married couple grossing more than $250,000.

    Besides using the loaded term "millionaires and billionaires" to refer to those making $200,000 ($200,000 is a loooooooooong way from $1,000,000,000), there are many other problems with Obama's definition:

    1) Different areas of the country have different costs of living. For instance, living in the suburbs of NYC or LA, you may have to fork over $600,000-$800,000 for a decent four-bedroom home, when the same home in Kentucky may only cost $200,000-$300,000. Thus, I think it is disingenuous to use arbitrary numbers (such as >$200k or $250k) to define who is rich in America, especially since those numbers have much different values in different areas.

    2) Obama's definition does not take into account any personal or family situations. For instance, what if I am single, gross $200,000 per year, but I have a medical condition that requires costly monthly infusions that insurance does not fully cover. Let's say that these infusions cost $4000 per month, and my mortgage on my 3-bedroom house is $3,800 per month. Is it fair that I can now barely get by, but yet I am still considered "rich?" Such a person would not even be able to contribute any money into a 401K/403b, but yet they are somehow "rich?"

    3) Obama's arbitrary definition is not original: It is the definition of "rich" under LBJ's administration over 40 years ago. Since then, there has been LOTS of inflation. In fact, $1 in 1968 would be worth $6.20 in 2010 dollars. That means, in all fairness, if we accounted for inflation, Obama should have redefined his definition of "rich" to single people grossing more than $1.24 million per year and families making more than $1.55 million per year. That's a HUGE difference.

    There are many more problems, but I think I've illustrated my problems with Obama's defintion of "rich" succinctly enough. Now let me definite what I think is "rich." There is no arbitrary number, but in order for someone to be considered "rich," they must meet the following definition:

    If a person is able to lose their job TODAY and be able to send all of their children to college, afford one vacation per year (overseas) for the rest of their life, pay off the mortgage with ease (if the home is not excessively lavish or ostentatious), be able to afford all of the basic amenities in life, be able to afford to go out to a fancy dinner once per week for life, and be able to pay out of pocket for the most costly of medical conditions for themselves and for all of their immediate family members, THEN I will consider such a person RICH. Anyone that does not meet this definition's criteria is, at least in my book, not rich.

    How would you define "rich?" Do you agree with Obama's defintion? Do you argee with mine? Do you have your own definition?
    Last edited by drj90210; Oct 21 2011 at 01:25 AM.

  2. #2


    "Rich" is simply an arbitrary label and can't really be "defined" in specific terms by income. For instance, a guy with $20 in his pocket can see a guy with a $100 bill and consider him rich. From some peoples perspective I could be consider rich, but I'm not. I know some folks who I consider very well off, even rich, but they don't see themselves that way but I'm sure consider others rich. So, it's really arbitrary. However, if you fall in the trap of attempting to define it by dollars and cents it leads to classification by income class and all the stigma's (justified or not) attached.
    And I must confess, I envy almost all the wealthy folks I know, not so much for what they have, but for they are able to give back.
    Hillary Clinton: "We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move"

  3. #3


    More than I have and I want it and think the government should take it and give it to me.

  4. #4


    As long as he states what he means by "rich", there is nothing wrong with the statement. If he just suddenly pulled the expression out of a hat, he would have to define it, and if he did, he'd be in the clear again.

    Rich is a relative term. There is no obvious line between rich and not rich, therefore, we have to look to a temporary definition. A temporary definition has been given. End of story.

    Note that it would be dishonest to call, for instance, everyone who makes *under* $250.000 rich (in contrast to the rest) since that doesn't follow the definition of rich that already exists, but you can draw the lines wherever you want if it isn't a part of the existing definition.
    "Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, too often we judge ourselves by our best intentions." -George W. Bush

  5. Default

    I suspect you might be being a little disingenuous with your opening paragraph. The terms millionaire and billionaire typically refer to how much you own. I believe the $200,000/$250,000 values are reference to policies about income. Those are two very different concepts that shouldn't be conflated. I would also question whether these values have ever been officially defined as "rich" (political rhetoric doesn't count - doesn't make it right in itself but that's a different issue).

    I agree that richness is both relative and conditional. It would also be based on a set of measures rather than income alone. I don't believe it is a binary line as you suggest though. There isn't a point at which one person is rich but if they had a dollar less, they'd stop being rich. To someone earning minimum wage, a person on $100,000 would be considered rich. A billionaire might not consider someone working for $500,000 rich at all (and lets not get in to international comparisons, where practically every individual in America is at least relatively rich).

    In general, I think you're presenting a flawed argument regarding (possible) use of the word rich in reference to setting rates and levels for a variable rates of taxation. There is plenty of scope to legitimately question that (in the specific values or the system in general) but I don't think your post really achieves that.

  6. Default

    I do believe "Rich" today means....any amount that is more than you yourself have or are ever capable of earning....because you will always feel that someone else has more than you. Make sense?
    " The man who d*mns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”
    — Francisco d'Anconia
    Atlas Shrugged (Part 2, Chapter 2, Page 412)

    "I don't look to a man to get pride in myself. It's not about having a black president, it's about having a good president, and I think that's the most important thing."
    Congressman Allen West

  7. #7


    Anyone who earns five times what the average income is for their area for five years or more is rich. You can apply this to any part of the nation.

  8. Default Make it ten times

    Quote Originally Posted by jmpet View Post
    Anyone who earns five times what the average income is for their area for five years or more is rich. You can apply this to any part of the nation.
    If you made the measure ten times the average income for their area, I would agree with this definition, assuming the area is large enough to have a representative cross-sample (preferably at least a state).
    Political compass:
    Economic Left/Right: -3.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.21

  9. #9


    Obama's, and the progressive lefts definition of "rich":

    "Lucky individuals who have unfairly benefitted from liberty have a moral obligation to the collective."
    Last edited by webrockk; Oct 21 2011 at 06:10 AM.
    With progressives, you get one, two, or all three of the following: a pathological liar, someone bereft of the intellect to realize they're being lied to, and/or someone who has absolutely no problem with the lies if they believe they'll glean a bigger portion of the fruits of someone else's industry.

  10. Default

    500 times the average workers salary is rich. CEO's are rich and criminals.

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