Opinion Brief

Is $250,000 a year really 'rich?'

The debate rages over whether to extend Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 — an amount some say hardly translates into being "wealthy"

Polls show that a narrow majority of Americans support Obama's plan to let tax cuts expire for couples making $250,000 or more a year. But Republicans say raising taxes on anyone is a mistake in this economy, especially since people at the $250,000 threshold don't necessarily earn enough to be immune from middle-class money troubles. How much does an American have to make to be officially rich? (Watch Obama defend his proposal)

$250,000 a year doesn't make you rich: After a couple making that much pays taxes — "financing government" is their biggest expense — and the mortgage, plus private-school tuition, day care, and the essentials, there's little left at the end of the month, says Chicago law professor Todd Henderson at Truth on the Market via Brad DeLong's blog, at least in my experience. President Obama should drop by: He'll see we're "not as rich as he thinks.""We are the super rich"

The self-pity of the wealthy is disgusting: Americans are getting laid off and losing their homes, says Paul Krugman in The New York Times, yet rich Americans, "the luckiest people in the world," are "wallowing in self-pity" and outrage at "the thought of paying modestly higher taxes." With their expensive houses and elite schools, even undeniably "privileged" people making $500,000 deny being rich. The "spectacle" would be funny if politicians weren't promising the "oppressed affluent" they'll get their $700 billion tax breaks after all."The angry rich"

People making $250,000 can afford to pay more: I'm rich by this definition, and "it is time to tax me more," says Garrett Gruener in the Los Angeles Times. We "fortunate few" who have family incomes above $250,000 are among the wealthiest 2 percent in a very wealthy country. Since the Bush tax cuts took effect, we've been enjoying the lowest tax rates many of us have ever paid. We'll survive if we pay a little more, and the country will do better if we invest the savings in infrastructure and research, putting the money into the hands of people who need it more."I'm rich; tax me more"

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