Pity the Poor Couple Who Make $450,000 Per Year (Yet Another Failure of Our 'Elite' Educational System)

I swear every time I go on vacation, there's an outbreak of stupidity. One symptom is a ridiculous plaint by law professor Todd Henderson, who whines about barely getting by on $450,000 per year.

No, really, I'm not kidding. I suppose the rest of us should just eat a bullet or something (and bullets are cheap!). Thankfully, Michael O'Hare and Brad DeLong (aka 'Mr. Deling') tear down this staggering display of narcissism. I would only add that when one has $500,000 of student debt, you probably shouldn't buy a million dollar house. Or maybe, you'll have to forgo part of the $100,000 annual donation to your retirement funds. Because personal responsibility should not be the sole purview of single minority mothers. Perhaps Henderson's outburst should be chalked up to the influence of degenerate white culture or our finishing school 'elite' educational system. But I digress.

Like I said, the narcissism is utterly staggering and indicates a bewildering lack of empathy with most people--the median household income in the U.S. is around $50,000, which means half of all households make less than $50,000.

But I'm here to help (we like helping!). First, Ian Welsh:

When I was poor and working in lousy jobs I used to look in the mirror and see myself at 50, or 60. I expected to still be working at grindingly hard jobs, being treated badly by bosses (because there is no rule more iron than that the worse you are paid the worse your employer will treat you), and still being paid little more than minimum wage. That was the future I saw for myself.

And when I was on welfare, after having failed to find a job for 6 months, and even being turned down by McDonalds (in the middle of the early nineties recession) I wondered if I'd even ever have a shitty job again. I ate cheap starchy food, turned pasty and put on weight. My clothes ran down. When my glasses broke beyond the point where tape would keep them together I literally had to beg the optometrist to make me his cheapest pair and I'd pay him later. (I eventually did.) My life was a daily grind of humiliation.

And that's what I expected my life to be....

Living without that safety net, knowing that if something goes wrong, that's just too bad, changes you. Living without any real hope of the future, knowing that the shitty job you've got now is probably about as good a job you're ever going to have, changes you.

And it changes your sense of what hard work is, of what it means to be deserving....

And they know that they're one bad break away from losing even the little they have--one illness, one plant closure, one argument with their boss.

They don't have a lot of hope for the future, except that it won't get worse. The life they live now is the best it's probably gonna get.

Living like that changes you. It makes you see people differently. You understand that there are a lot of bad jobs out there, and that someone's going to be stuck with them. You know that most of those jobs are either hard or humiliating, and often both. You know that for too many people, a shitty job where they're abused by their boss is as good as it gets.

John Scalzi (and read the whole thing):

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say "I get free lunch" when you get to the cashier....

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid's school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights...

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid's teacher assuming you don't have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Henderson graduated from Princeton, and, presumably his spouse, who is a doctor, is also well educated. That he can not responsibly get by on ~$450,000 per year and that he does not understand how ridiculous he sounds complaining about his 'hardship' can only be viewed as a massive ethical failure of our 'elite' educational system.

And next time I hear someone talk about the irresponsibility of the poor, I'll be sure to point them to this asshole.

An aside: Unlike DeLong who wants to help him, I come to bury Henderson. He's not a child; at this point, he's a lost cause morally.

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degenerate white culture

Will you be talking about degenerate black, hispanic, asian, whatever culture any time soon? Didn't think so. Fuck you.

Mad Biologist: As others note, the right often talks about a 'culture of poverty', a degenerate culture that happens to be 'urban' (and I don't think that means Hyde Park). It's called snark, you nitwit.

Dear Todd,

I think you will find MtM was making a not very subtle point about other peoples' judgements with his "degenerate white culture" swipe.
Namely, in case it has to be spelt out, that a lot of people do attribute all sorts of moral failings to "degenerate [ethnic] culture".
Kinda stings when the reverse case is made, however sardonically intended.

Didn't think so.

irony much, Todd? (didn't think so.)

@1 Professor Henderson? Is that you?

Yep, it's another clueless twit sipping his own bathwater and declaring it to be champagne.

Even in the NYC and coastal California markets, $1M gets you a largish (by any sane standards) home. Elsewhere, including Chicago, you get an obscenely huge home. Unlike many people who bought in that price range, the Hendersons can actually afford it...or at least they could, if they weren't so busy trying to live like rich people.

And that's the objection: that they can put $100k per year in the retirement fund (very few people have managed to put $100k in the retirement fund over their lifetimes) and still have almost enough money to live like rich people. It would take them only one or two compromises in their lifestyle to make the whole thing affordable for them. But they want it all, and they want it now. So Prof. Henderson should count himself lucky if listening to someone playing the World's Smallest Violin is all that happens to him.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Sep 2010 #permalink

You guys don't get it. All the poor people in Chicago make around a half a million dollars. That's what they pay at McDonalds and for custodial work and such. How else would those people survive in a place like that? They wouldn't be able to live in the city on anything less.

Except the homeless, they only make like a quarter of a million. That's why they're homeless.

Thanks Mike. I'm so angry at all these people making "only 250k" in big cities and complaining about the possible-maybe-expiration of Bush tax cuts, complaining about how "in a big city" it's tough and that "250k isn't as much as it sounds like." Well guess what, in all these Big Cities I'm going to bet median household income is something like 35k because that's what it is in MY big city. That's 35k for a household, combined income. If these people can survive on that much surely you can afford to pay a little higher in taxes on the income you earn above 250k.

Oh hell yes! I'm currently living on UK long-term-sickness benefits, which come to rather less than £12K (including the housing subsidy). And actually, it doesn't feel terribly poor. I have to think twice about buying pretty clothes even from charity shops, and the food is less varied than I'd like some days (lamb chops are a distant memory unless the supermarket has them heavily reduced!), but I'm fed, there's fuel in the car (a necessity for family reasons), money to pay the utility bills, and even a (very) little left for luxuries like internet, gardening and other hobbies. How the devil do you manage to spend ten times that (assuming that the bulk of his income goes on fixed costs like housing and pensions) and still feel strapped?

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 20 Sep 2010 #permalink

Dr. Henderson seems to have removed the post...

Along with a follow up that was apparently made a week later - see here for a short snippet and proof that the posts existed...

It's cached on google

and saved at DeLong's site, but of the three posts only two are cached (Now I know I must be right isn't around anymore that my 2 seconds of searching could find) - just in case anyone wants to make sure they existed, there's at least some record on the site itself.

80% of households make less than $100K. About 13% of households make less than $15K.

Imagine how much harder their lives would be struggling with a household budget of just under $500K.

Oh, the humanity...

...and now the link I put in goes nowhere...

Henderson you are a cunt. I don't care how hard you have worked to get where you are (b/c I guarantee I know people who work harder) I hope you lose everything for this blatant lack of flaunting and disrespect for the position of others.

I don't care how disappointed in Obama and the Democratic congress people are. If you can't vote *for* the Democrats, can't you at least vote *against* this trash?

Henderson's argument is certainly not about material necessities. He's whining about giving up his status symbols! It really comes down to, "I'm barely able now to live a lifestyle that shows the little people how morally superior I am to them. It will just be too humiliating to have to treat all my inferiors as if they were human beings."

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

The worst of this is that this "libertarian" bozo expects a government bailout to cushion his truly awful financial decisions and to preserve a lifestyle he cannot afford therefore.

Truly a "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" kind of guy -- and aggrieved too, that so many folks on the intertubes don't understand the pure nobility of his attempt to join the working classes.

My response to this post is simply:

You all remember the WSJ editorials that were jealous of the Lucky Duckies? You know, poor people who pay no taxes (without even trying to arrange a tax dodge) and have everything handed to them, unlike those unlucky rich people who have to scrap by on a mere $450K PRETAX per year?

By william e emba (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

I think the point is, is that even when you seem to make a ton of money, it's still really hard to get ahead. That's all. Life is expensive if you want some of the niceties of life. I.e. Cable, Internet etc.

By Camille Sikorsky (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

Camille Sikorsky @23-- "I think the point is, is that even when you seem to make a ton of money, it's still really hard to get ahead."

Uh huh. MY point was, you don't *need* a ton of money if your entire focus isn't on getting "ahead" of everybody else. There's no way you have to have an income of $450,000 to afford cable and Internet. But I guess you think you're so much better than us idiots with less than $450,000 a year that you'll be able to pull a really obvious bait and switch and we'll be too dumb to notice.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

That "I'm Sorry" post from Henderson was an apology for posting his opinions against his wife's wishes, and for giving out private information. He never apologized for his views.

I would be very willing to give him some financial advice. I've gotten by on much less with a larger family all my life.

Henderson is a real fool. Some people will remain fools to their dying days, no matter how smart they are or how high-quality their education. His 'apology' shows that he is also an arrogant fool.

I'd be happy with his money, but I am very, very happy that I am not the jerk he is. Poor, poor Henderson, suffering under the possibility that he might have to pay a few more taxes to live in the country that made him rich.

By freelunch (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

You know, I don't know if it's so much the failure of our elite educational system anymore.

I submit to you the opinion that most individuals of all social classes are blatheringly off their rockers (oh, by the way, I like that picture of the smug rat-faced little fuck who had a tie and a 'oh, I'm going to make Duddy proud by sitting behind a desk, giving myself raises, and pretending I care about anyone who makes less than $1,000,000 a year, time to go hop off to the squash game and squish that kid from the middle-class or even upper-middle-class household who got the scholarship to Princeton and thinks he's going to be more powerful than me, and don't get me started about the working-class scholarship winners in the dorm who had to get a full ride! Why, I'm a LEGACY student and I PAID for their tuition, pip pip' look on his face).

Because I do think top universities actually do quite a good job of things. However, you can't divest the responsibility of the rest of society at large and the parents of people to help them develop a sense of ethics.

That's something I think education helps with vastly in those who have the capacity to learn, but you can't fix stupid.

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

I like that he believes that most working Americans have multiple types of hired help.

"Will you be talking about degenerate black, hispanic, asian, whatever culture any time soon? Didn't think so. Fuck you.

Mad Biologist: As others note, the right often talks about a 'culture of poverty', a degenerate culture that happens to be 'urban' (and I don't think that means Hyde Park). It's called snark, you nitwit."

OOOUW! Ickle Todd 'I can't live without my 346345654534 thread-count cotton sheets' sounds like a racist too.

How many square feet do you live in?

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

I'm on unemployment and I can barely make ends meet. My unemployment checks come to about 5% of what this Henderson guy makes. If I had even twice what I currently make through unemployment I would be able to afford a PS3 instead of Xbox360, a lease on a Impala instead of a Cavalier, etc..

What a bunch of BS, this guy should have to give at least half of his income for the public good.

By Jermaine Johnson (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

If I go on to make six figures and ever forget that there's lots of less visible people scraping by, and forget that I'm quite blessed to be in such a position, I personally would like to be slapped back into reality by a friend yelling at me for being a moron.

Frustration at working out the details of finances is one thing that everyone sees now and then, but to complain of not being able to afford just a little more burden with a salary of half a million? Foolishness.

(Oh dear, you can't afford all the luxuries you could possibly desire! How I pity you.)

Um, Mike? Where did you get the $450K income number you put in your title? Is it a typo? The article says the Henderson's family income is over $250K, but not $450K. And Henderson himself says it's not anywhere near $450K (see comments under this article: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/09/todd-henderson-we-are-the-super-r…). I'm not saying $250K isn't a lot of money, but it's WAY less than $450K. If you're going to bash the guy...let's make sure it's factual bashing.

Christ. My parents have a household income of about â¬100k (from my dad's full-time job) - and out of that, they *bought* me a house and heavily subsidise my mother's start-up business. And live extremely comfortably. In fact, I've had symptoms of long-term illness for a few months and I'm not even claiming any benefits because they're keeping me afloat for the moment.

Damn, I just checked the google-cached version of the original blog post. The comments on there are disgusting, it makes me feel physically sick that there are people who think like that. My parents consider themselves very rich at â¬100k/year and I actually think that they should be taxed *more* to help the poor.

I mean, shit, my parents make 150k a year combined. I KNOW I'm from a relatively well off family, and I and my parents are the types who prefer to get the biggest bang for our bucks - i.e. we spend more on quality things such as education and otherwise we are actually pretty modest.
We've got the smallest house on the block and I drive a clunker.

My parents came from working-class neighborhoods and pulled themselves up. I am grateful that they did.

Okay, so from DeLong's site, here is the projected outlay of Henderson's budget:

* $60,000 in student loan payments
* $40,000 is employer contributions to 401(k) and similar retirement savings vehicles
* $15,000 is employer contributions to health insurance
* $60,000 is untaxed employee contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles
* $25,000 building equity in their house
* $80,000 in state and federal income taxes
* $15,000 in property taxes
* $10,000 for automobiles
* $55,000 in housing costs for a $1M house (three times the average price in the Hyde Park neighborhood
* $60,000 in private school costs for three children
* $35,000 in other living expenses

Seriously, you can hack off the 60,000 a year right there. Move somewhere where there's good public schools and make them ride the bus.

Income taxes are commensurate with income.

WHO SPENDS $10,000 A YEAR ON NEW CARS? Someone who has a car fetish, that's who. It's a friggin' vehicle, not some sort of sex object.

You can live in a smaller friggin' house. I live in one that costs maybe a tenth to a fifth of that.

DeLong expands on this better than I could. Henderson spends more than he needs to a year on building equity and blah-de-blah and whatnot.

Here's another suggested fambly budget from O'Hare, if you're too lazy to click the link.

"Taxes $100,000

Housing* $65,000 mortgage + 15,000 insurance & maintenance = $80,000

Two really nice cars $.70/mile x 15,000** miles = $10,500

Student loan payments (20 year amortization at 10%) = $60,000

*Why a couple with a half-million dollars of debts decides it needs a million-dollar house in Chicago, where the Hyde Park average price â near their workâ is a third of that, is not entirely clear. Also note that $25,000 of this is going into their own pockets, building equity in their house.

**They live near their work, so this is probably generous.

This leaves about $90,000, a lousy $245 a day, for food, clothes, vacations, cable TV, and like that. You can walk into Nordstromâs on Upper Michigan and spend that in a minute, and for stuff you really need. Really, I donât know how these people get by; their adaptive skills, economical habits, and modest living style is an inspiration to all of us. Perhaps they are careful to tip no more than 15% at the Sizzler when they splurge.

So how does our third-of-a-million-a-year law prof/doctor couple and their three kids, barely scraping by already and falling before our eyes to the very bottom of the top 1% of US families by income, make out under Obamaâs rapacious soak-the-rich commie attack on all that is holy and American and fine? Wait for it; take a guess before the jump:

His taxes will go down $3700; he can buy one of those ties every two weeks! And this guy is threatening to fire the gardener and the house cleaner, take the kid out of art class, turn off his cell phones, and try to raise competent adults with only basic cable. Prof. Henderson, Iâm ashamed to share my profession with you."

Dude has no idea what spending on things that are actually worth your money means. Education and things like that deserve the outlay. You don't need a stinking huge house or a shiny car. Especially when you have huge student loans. $245 a day for food/etc? My parents spend maybe $200 every time they get groceries, which is per week.

What a whiny fuckface.

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

When I get my PhD, in fact, one of the things I hope to do before I die, as soon as I become a full professor and have the super mega bucks, is contribute to a scholarship fund for STEM students.

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

where is the link to google maps with his house ?
just sayin....

You are the moron, Henderson was not in the wrong. He earns hi. But also has high expenses and is going through issues and thoughts of how it is he may need to tell his children that they cant afford their private schooling anymore and need to change... And yes that is not as bad as poorer people making more degrading choices but he has worked and educated all his life to make sure it doesn't get any worst then that, that his dilemmas are still awful dilemmas to have to confront but not the worst of their kind because he has ensured that they don't get any worst then that..., and it's ok... He is allowed to complain and talk about these. There is nothing wrong with that. He is experiencing changes In quality of life and they can be drastic just as well.

But how convenient it is for you to write about something so easy to write about calling him the rich whining professor as you fail to understand the complexities of what makes his post legitimate. You I'll witted thoughtless attention seeking moron!

ErX, how much money do you make?

Did you read what his probable budget was and how he chooses to have a million-dollar home in an expensive area of Chicago, send his kids to hyper-expensive private schools when there are probably public schools somewhere in Chicago that are just fine, gets new cars every year, et cetera?

Do you realize how ridiculous your argument is?

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

Also, ErX, please learn to spell, punctuate, and use good grammar. It's quite useful, you know.

By Katharine (not verified) on 21 Sep 2010 #permalink

My parents make a little more than $300k per year and they are definitely not rich, so my first reaction was to feel understanding of this guy. I see firsthand that a high salary does not necessarily mean super-rich lifestyle. My parents do live in a nice town in CA, but in a very modest home; they're putting three kids through college, still paying off their own college debt, and literally have nothing saved up for retirement (they're both in their 50s). They don't live extravagantly, have always sent their kids to public schools, and have never had a yard guy or a housekeeper. I understand Henderson's point that it's frustrating that a certain income will get you classified as "super rich" when you're actually living a pretty darn middle-class life, when the truly wealthy have tax lawyers to evade the penalties of that classification. I didn't think that the author was calling himself poor, or saying that he was actually struggling to survive, but that he was more middle class than super rich, and I do agree in a way. But I also don't think that higher taxes would be good for anyone at this point, no matter what the income, considering the fragile nature of the economic recovery right now. But that's just my $0.02.

In fact, I've had symptoms of long-term illness for a few months and I'm not even claiming any benefits because they're keeping me afloat for the moment.

I wish you would claim your benefits if you're entitled to them. That really is what they are for, and I wish people would get into the habit of thinking of them as 'theirs' whether they're currently contributors or claimants. Think how much nicer America would feel with a real notion of social responsibility, by, you know, society as a whole, for society as a whole. Maybe people would be less quick to precipitate others into desperate situations (expensive mortgages, poor job security), if they knew that as members of society they would have to cover the cost. Maybe they would see the utility of universal health care if they perceived that as a shared responsibility.

Yet the whole system falls apart if people only take benefits as an absolute last resort. It undermines the idea that there are circumstances in which people are actually entitled to social support and should in no way feel humbled for claiming it. It supports an utterly antisocial collection of megalomaniacs like Mr Henderson, trying to pass themselves off as members of a society. And it doesn't actually help anyone else.

What I'm saying is, by claiming your benefits, you can be a force for social improvement : )

Also, in the original article, he said his income was around $250k --- where did this $450k figure come from??

I realize these things, he is arguing that he needs to make a lifestyle change and descale what he is used to affording. But all in all I think everyone misses the point he tries to make, what he is trying to say is that even someone with a high income as mentioned do have financial hardships even though his lifestyle needs are pretty normal of what you would expect of that income bracket. Most people like him are called rich or super rich but he is trying to say he lives less than what you would expect someone making that amount lives, and thats the point. They also have financial hardships and that those hardships do affect them in just the same ways they affect others on lower incomes (but of course in objectively speaking less severe ways, however, subjectively, since it is relative the emotional burden is not that much different believe it or not, sometimes even worst given that you have more too loose - however this last point is not true in his case so please don't flame me on that).

Just for the record, I vote democrat all the time, and labour party in Australia (The middle class families party). I have been very poor min wage/ welfare level) when I was younger and have been very well off (up to a bit more income per year then their combined income) and now I am somewhere in between. I know what its like on both ends. Would I ever write what he wrote? No way.

Yes, it comes across like he is rubbing it into peoples face but I don't think that was his intention, I really do think he was just trying to say that people who seem as rich as he is do have legitimate sympathizable financial problems just like everyone else does, the way he went about saying it didn't come across well. People are just quick to make the textbook high-impact anger driven interpretation of it because it fis easy and eels good, but is thoughtless and clouds the emotional and understandably subjective point he was tying to make. Please at least try to understand this.

I have been on both ends and always vote outside of my interests and for the greater good, so I haven't "lost" or misplaced myself or my values throughout my financial ups and downs, I accept it may be difficult to understand but I ask that you try. That's all.

His income also is not 450k, that is a figure placed by sensationalist wannabe jurno bloggers trying to make the misguided points of fury they obviously can't wait to make. Morons.

Correction, replace "because it fis easy and eels good" with "because it is easy and feels good"

I'm a little disturbed by some of the comments and statements aimed at this prof. He wasn't complaining about being poor. Not a single word of his original post was a complaint about him being poor. He also didnât come across as entitled. He came across as honest, maybe too honest, and maybe a little too clumsy. The fact is, he's in a certain income bracket and is faced with real choices and decisions due to circumstances. Some are within his control and some without. His income bracket doesnât invalidate those choices and options. Nor does it invalidate his observations.

Because some of us live in a cheap one bedroom apartment doesn't mean that he should as well. Of course heâs made some bad financial choices, nearly everyone has! But the dude living on 20k a year doesnât deserve to hear âyou fucked up, now deal with itâ anymore than the dude living on 300k. Making some bad choices doesnât negate us nor does it negate any truths about the mismanagement of our federal and local budgets or the tax burdens inherent to each income bracket (ALL the tax burdens, not just income). Making bad choices doesnât negate real poverty and it doesnât negate real choices being faced by people at all levels of society.

What I find most fascinating is that so many people said he should cut back on the things he doesnât need in order to deal with his taxes, to pay his debt to society and to live âwithin his meansâ. Whatever the hell that means. We could also all live within our means wearing paper dresses, eating vitamin crackers and living stacked four to a sleeping pod. I can live within my means while living out of my 12 year old car.

Way too many comments suggested that he should cut back on luxury items like yard maintenance and a sitter. But, those aren't actually "things" are they? They are services. Services performed by people who also pay taxes. People with jobs and businesses and families of their own, people who are paid by this man and many other such "well offs.â No of course these people donât earn 6 figures but for the most part they aren't being paid 2 cents an hour either. I had a decent income doing jewelry photography and interior design. My boyfriend works as a roving chef for families quite like this profs, it keeps him out of the physically punishing shit storm that is the restaurant industry. So yeah, Iâm glad this guy is around and can afford such âluxuriesâ.

Are so many people honestly saying that it would be a really good idea if this guy and people like him had to slash their budgets and trim down all these "luxuries,â and that those of us not earning 6 figures feel that those who are should essentially âpay up and shut upâ?

The teachers, maintenance, admins at the private school get paid because kids go to the school. The restaurants can pay their servers and suppliers because people (all sorts of people) eat at them. We KNOW that everyone works for someone so why has this profs blog post, a quite reasonable and rather dry one, been so ripped out of context? The why is whatâs disturbing to me.

If the criticisms people are applying to him are in fact genuine then people who live on 9 bucks a day shouldn't whine about it either. There are people in Pakistan living on 9 cents a day... And so it goes on.

But then again, if the real arguments have all just been railings against capitalist and consumer culture, then thereâs not much else to say. Rail on.

Wow, isha, I completely agree with you.

Isha, perfectly said. The "why" you touched on I briefly explored and answered in my post. Everyone else seems to have swallowed their tounges now.

Dear morans

If he isn't making more than 250K then he isn't going to be paying anymore taxes than he is now. If he is only making 300K then he is only paying more on 50K which is peanuts. In order for him to be REALLY paying more tax he would have to be close to 450k.

They may have calculated his income from the amount of extra tax he CLAIMED he would have to pay.

End of math class.

As one of those peons who makes just enough to avoid the stigma of subsidized housing, who works under the fluorescent lights during the wee hours of the morning to pay the bills, trying to pay off student loans for a college degree that promised oh so much and yet actually produces zilch...

As one of those people who scrimp and save all year so I can buy a new pair of workboots when these are beyond repair...

As one of those people who only can dream about 401K's and retirement funds at the moment, working hard to get a good reputation and good references for when a better job opens up...

As one of those people, I actually have it pretty good. I live in a spacious-for-the-price apartment downtown within walking distance of nearly everything I need because no one else wanted to live here. I have health insurance, optical, and even dental. I have a cell phone, a decent car despite its 100,000+ miles. I have a loving pet who adores me despite my apparent financial situation. I'm only 12 miles from work. I have learned to appreciate the beauty in nature rather than going to movies. I'm glad my mother forced me to learn to cook and clean and sow (and even darn socks). She was a wise woman. I have learned that most of the nicest people I have ever met live below the $30K/year line. These are people who look out for each other no matter the racial, political, or religious lines between them. These, my fellow Americans and tax-bracketers, make me proud.

This is real America, living on a shoestring and working hard for something better. People with a dream of someday owning their own house free and clear, owning their own car free, clear, and reliable. A dream of having enough saved up to retire comfortable and not have to work to pay the bills when they are 75, a dream of sending their children to college and to a better life. These are people for whom its the quality of life rather than the quality of your bank account that is the dream. These are the people who donate to Goodwill on a regular basis because "there are folks out there worse than us."

I would like to see "Mr." Henderson live this lifestyle with these people before he decides to complain again about his bank, his house, his vacations, his car, his job, his tax shelters, his benefits, his neighbors, etc.

Apologies to Isha, but though we may be employed by him (or others like him) in some capacity or other, we don't have to "try and be understanding of him" He has what many of us can only dream about. Its people like him that really annoy me. If any one of my neighbors was in his situation, they would get everything paid off first before even thinking about eating out, hiring lawn service, nanny service, etc. When a guy who gets more back in his tax returns than any of us in this building make in the whole year BEFORE taxes and then complains about not being able to live his life the way he wants to, people here get PISSED OFF. The general sentiment around here after I showed them a print-off of the article (yes, I know I am "rich", I have both a printer AND paper) seems to be "The idiot (paraphrased for politeness) needs to shut up, stop whining, and take care of business. He doesn't need to have everything he wants until he can afford to have them." One guy showed the article to his son and said "Boy, when you become a big-shot lawyer I don't want to hear you be like this guy. You remember where you come from and you deal [with it] you hear me?"

Wow I was right, who would have thunk that thinking worked:

Gives you the calculation of his income and the reasoning behind it.

There are 3 cases.

Case 1, the Whiney Ass Titty Baby makes $400+.

Case 2, the Whiney Ass Titty Baby is a lying sack of shit

Case 3, the Whiney Ass Titty Baby cannot do 5th grade math.

I'm not entirely certain I understand - his wife has $500,000 in student loans? Look, I'm all for education and getting loans to pay for it, but there is absolutely no fucking way you're going to pay that much off in a reasonable amount of time unless you got a doctorate in shitting gold bricks.

I mean, just look at the way Mike O'Hare amortized it on Same Facts: he said $60,000 a year for twenty years. That's a really high end entry-level salary for someone with a bachelors down the drain every year for the next twenty years. I don't care what profession you're in, that is a shitload of money.

The bottom line is: if you're not offered a scholarship or a fellowship or something for your postgraduate work, that probably means that you shouldn't do postgraduate work - if the institution is not at least going to cover your tuition (and with $500,000 in debt, I don't think they did), then they clearly don't think you're worth teaching.

I'm not sure why more people don't understand this. My wife is currently getting a PhD, but she's being paid $30,000 a year to do it and her tuition is covered by the university. Clearly, the university values her as a researcher, and her eventual PhD is just going to be a good side-effect.

I love the poorly written comments of the morons who come out to defend this guy. Also, Henderson's "I'm sorry" post is hilarious.

To those with pitchforks trying to attack me instead of my message, I feel sorry for you. You have caused untold damage to me personally. I may be wrong, even stupid, but I donât think I deserved that.

The "untold damage" bit really cracks me up.

Seriously, all you people supporting Henderson have failed to account for the fact that this is a lifestyle issue.

This dude is whining about the fact that he can't support his lifestyle, which includes massive spending, a hugely expensive house, etc.

Perhaps he could, y'know, downgrade to a smaller, less expensive house in an area that's got good public schools and spend less every week.

Fuck's sake, there are people whining about not being able to afford household help? Here's an idea: clean your own fucking house, and if it takes too much time get a smaller one.

He doesn't NEED these extra things to do his job as a law professor and give his family a good life. He just wants them.

By Katharine (not verified) on 22 Sep 2010 #permalink

The thing that TH did wrong was simple - he made himself a target for mockery then complained that people were mocking him. Would he deserve the derision he received had he kept his mouth shut? Probably. Would he have received it? Not likely. Does he deserve, for his actions, public humiliation and all the that goes with it? Most definitely.
One can only hope his offspring recognize their father is a douche and do not follow in those footsteps.

By Onkel Bob (not verified) on 22 Sep 2010 #permalink

@Tacroy- 500k in student loans is actually relatively easy to rack up these days. Especially going to MED school (note that the wife in the story is *that* kind of doctor)

I find it REALLY interesting/revealing that everyone suggests just moving to an area with good public schools. That's not always the easiest thing in the world, and it's basically admitting defeat as far as inner city public schooling goes.

I don't think it's a simple thing to find a place in Chicago with good schools that isn't at least half an hour away from their workplace. Unless their kids got into Whitney Young (magnet) or something.

Mind, the best way for them to live CHEAPLY might be something like moving out to Homewood Flossmoor and taking the IC in. Get rid of their cars, or at least go to a one-cheap-car model. Then they could live in a reasonably decent school district, and increase their disposable income by thousands of dollars a month.

Of course, then they'll both be spending two hours in commuting each day- which, scheduling wise, probably comes right out of family time.

It seems like this is a case of two professionals who chose fairly demanding career paths, under the illusion that money = freedom. Then, they spend all their money trying to buy time, and complain about having no money. I see the problem they face, although I generally agree it's awfully hard to muster sympathy for it.

Be nice, folks. Henderson just got himself into a bigger, flossier version of the same familiar pickle. Too much house at too high a purchase price and now stuck. Student loans taken on without calculating just how much a person would have to make for how long to pay them back. Henderson and some tens of millions of other people.

First, I am thankful for Henderson's willingness to put his budget to the public. It shows we're in similar trouble, up and down the demographic. His trouble just has more zeros than most.

Second, Henderson is living in Hyde Park in Chicago, a walkable urban neighborhood. That's exactly what New Urbanism is about. Henderson and wife can spend their limited time left from two demanding careers with their kids and community instead of in a car, commuting. Then we run smack into the reality of living in urban centers: the schools may be not just lousy, but dangerous, as in Chicago's South Side.

$10,000 for auto expenses seems like a lot, but it may be only one car. His wife is doctor, probably has long and irregular hours, and she needs a car. I'm from Chicago, and I would not take public transit alone, after dark, on some routes.

Yes, Henderson is having a close encounter with financial reality, but how is that different from lots of us folks, maybe even some of the mouthiest posters? Yes, all along the Hendersons made overly optimistic assumptions about their incomes and their choices, but so did how many million other people.

Personally, I paid cash for an elderly Mazda. I paid off my student loans years ago. I was fortunate in that the NDSL loans of the 1970's had very low interest rates, so I was able to stay out of the student loan trap even though I borrowed a fair amount of my tuition. I've always been fortunate to live somewhere with public schools that I could stand to send my children to, even though I was trying to stay in the urban area and minimize commuting times, just like the Hendersons.

I'm generally a frugal and careful person, willing to cheerfully endure the ribbing I get from my colleagues for driving the Mazda ("It's paid for, so chill out already".) I still got myself into rather more house than my professional income will support in a declining economy, and I'm scrambling, too.

Of course he's peeved. I can't get through to friends making $45,000 a year that frugal is the new stylish; we're in for an extended downturn. They're peeved also. They have too much house, too much car, too much student debt, and they are feeling the pinch. Why should Henderson be any different?

isha, Erx:

Plainly, Henderson is not one of the "super-rich". He's in the lower end of upper class by income: quite comfortable and surely able to afford some of the nicer things in life. Judging by net worth, however, he's considerably worse off, if indeed he does have a negative net worth (and I have no reason to say he's lying).

I got his point - that if the Bush tax cuts expire, his family will have to cut their spending, which will have a real trickle-down effect on the hired help. But his post wasn't *only* about this - in making his economic policy point, he clearly expresses a pained, whiney tone: "we are rich enough to be hurt by the presidentâs plan". And this is why he was attacked. It's hard to believe that he would suffer any real inconvenience even from a $5k tax increase. He really has no idea what "hurt" means.

But if we're trying to look at his ideas about tax policy, we can ask, "Is Henderson's situation normal for his income bracket? Is it common to have such a high income but a negative net worth?" (And he's not new to his income level, he worked at McKinsey and Co for three years as an engagement manager, making ~$170-200k). The answer is no, he's not normal: the median net worth for people making >$150k/year is $1.1 million*.
So I don't have any problem with raising the tax rate on his bracket - there will always be outliers like him, people who have high income but a low net worth, through bad luck or bad money management. And he'll still have a far easier time handling a $5k tax increase than most people who earn $100k. And federal income tax rates are the lowest they've been in decades, to boot.

With his high income, if he manages his expenses wisely, he should have no serious difficulty paying down his debt and building a reasonable nest egg.

* http://pfstock.blogspot.com/2010/07/annual-income-and-net-worth.html

With the original post gone, it's hard to judge him (and I can't access the cached version from here), but I will say this: I have known a number of people (and am related to a few) who cannot seem to control their own spending. People on a fixed income who seem to think they need all the bells and whistles on their TV. People with large salaries who nevertheless manage to bounce checks constantly. It's possible that Henderson simply got in way over his head. It happens a lot, and as Hamster said, at every income level. But it is awfully hard for me to feel sorry for him, that his income above $250,000 may soon be taxed at a higher rate. Like I said, I know people like that. I am related to people like that. I love them dearly and it pains me to see them in dire financial straits, but they brought some of it on themselves, and that makes it harder to take pity on them.

It's especially hard to take pity on Henderson, as it sounds like his sacrifices would be minor by comparison. It's not like he's lost his job, been foreclosed, and been chucked out on the street. I know one person who had that happen. Yes, there were foolish financial choices leading up to it -- it was a disaster waiting to happen. But Henderson doesn't appear to be facing a disaster (unless, God forbid, the situation with his new preemie turns bad; medical care in the NICU can get very expensive). He appears to be facing inconvenience. And that makes it even *harder* to pity him.

I'm a hard-working professional, and so is my husband. Both of us are college educated. We live well within our means, yet our income is low enough that we are far away from being impacted by the soon-to-expire tax cut. One of our cars has been paid off for years. The other we got for 0% interest, which was pretty cool. We've got a nice rainy day fund, as well as a college fund for the kids and retirement savings. But if one of us loses our job, we will be in trouble. That would be a much larger hit than what Henderson is facing. I feel blessed to be so well paid. I've never understood how a person could make this much money and still have financial problems, but it happens rather frequently.

I guess it's like the old engineering dictum that work expands to fill the available schedule. Expenses expand to fill the available budget.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 22 Sep 2010 #permalink

JessE: even in CA, a family making $300k is in the "rich" bracket. According to the US census, median income is about $57k. So boo hoo to you. Think hard about what your family has and spends money on. If your parents really are not saving then they are doing something wrong.

Being poor is having to go to the ER for treatment. Being poor is being treated like dirt by the ER staff. I was treated by ER staff, VERY rudely. It was assumed that because I went to the ER suffering from extreme pain, that I was nothing more than a "bounce" looking for a fix. It's being thrown out of the ER & told that "No doctor is going to treat you, anytime, anywhere, EVER." After you BEGGED for help because you cannot find a doctor who will treat your surgery caused disability & chronic, intractable pain. It's being talked to like you are nothing but a liar. It's being ignored in hallway, on a gurney, after being verbally abused & ignored in the back of an ambulance because you are calling for the 3rd time in a week for help & you do not live in a very nice neighborhood, where in fact often the only care your neighbors get -is by calling an ambulance.
Being poor is not being able to pay for all the expensive tests, labs, medicines & office visits that are required by Pain Specialists, but if you don't go to them & follow every letter of the "CONTRACT" of humiliation they make you sign, then regardless of any reason at all that you have for missing an appointment- like eviction & having no phone-you are kicked to the curb.
Being poor is filing for Medicaid and being told that IF you qualify, after submitting tons of documentation to prove you are not lying, being told that you will have a several thousand dollar deductible before it kicks in-and being so poor you can't imagine HOW to pay the out of pocket expenses and how long that will take to convince the state that you are poor enough to actually get help. In other words, being poor is having to go further into debt in order to get help. Being poor is not being able to afford your rescue dogs you've had for 10 years & your heart breaking because they look at you & wonder what's going on when you say goodbye, crying & kissing them & saying you are so sorry to them & feeling like the worst traitor in the world. And never forgetting how much that hurts. And being SO grateful rescue will take them back & keep them together.
Being poor is walking in to stores & being totally disregarded.
Being poor is not being able to spoil your grandchildren anymore.
Being poor is living in a situation that's supposed to be temporary with someone who is poison for you to be around & having no choice though, because, if you are a pain patient & you managed to get the pity of a doctor & you have medicines, you CANNOT be in a public shelter where you will, if found out, be robbed or killed for those meds. And if you lose them, you will have to go through sheer hell again, after 30 days of suffering ungodly pain to try to get more. At the mercy of the medical staff who treat you like dirt. Because you are poor.
Because somehow it's YOUR fault you were maimed by a surgeon. And somehow it's your fault that you lost your job to a millionaire scumbag Medicaid Mill running doctor who bought the practice you were with for 15 years & now-no matter HOW qualified, in this economy, with people out of work eveywhere, you never find another comparable job because you are over 50 now & can no longer compete, let alone work in chronic pain in a job of any kind that is 40 hours a week, or for 4 12 hour days..
Poor is being on unemployment which didn't kick in until 4 months after you lost your job & using your retirement money to pay your bills until it's gone & you get evicted, & your credit is ruined because of the utilities you couldn't pay off.
Poor is living on SS retirement & it's half of what you earned. And even though you never just blew money, you worked hard for 40 years & tried to do things the way you are supposed to, you end up poor and alone & judged & you seclude yourself so as not to bring anyone else down.
It's wishing you could go back to when you had that job were paying your own way & not ashamed about not being rich, but didn't have the constant burden over your head of what to do next & having the inner strength to keep fighting for your dignity.
Being poor is a loss of your dignity & if you have a shred of it left, someone, somewhere that you encounter when you ask for help, will be sure to rip the last shred of it away & smugly turn on their heel & walk away from you, because you aren't worth their time.
It's being looked down at by an administrator who's main goal is to keep the poor OUT of their hospital, hand on one hip, clipboard in the other barking sharp questions at you about WHY you deserve to be treated there because "You don't have insurance!"
And then you say, after being kicked out of there twice already, after they found you have 2 fractured screws in your spine, on that third trip when the EMT's were horrible, "Yes I do."
And suddenly EVERYTHING changes. And you are rushed to the scanning rooms. And you are given the right meds. And you are admitted for 2 days for pain management. And PT shows up with a back brace you tell them you don't want, but the ortho god ordered it without even discussing it with you, because by golly, those things have a price tag of $1400.00!
But later when the bills in the thousands start coming in & you can't pay them, baby, you are right back where you started.
You are poor all over again, but further in debt.
THAT'S what being poor is.

By Kathleen FlorCruz (not verified) on 22 Sep 2010 #permalink

Jesse @40 says: "My parents do live in a nice town in CA, but in a very modest home...."

This is one of the things going on-- of course if you live in "a nice town" you aren't going to feel you're particularly rich compared to your neighbors. Because everybody in that "nice town" has a much-above-average income (and/or is deeply in debt and faking it.)

If your parents lived in a small town in the Central Valley of California, they could afford a much bigger house AND they would be considered one of the "rich families" in town.

I'm not saying they are wrong to live where they do, only that the fairly extreme housing segregation by income in America creates the impression in rich people's minds that they are merely middle class, because everybody else they know has about the same amount of money that they do. This is one of the inevitable results of the end of small-town America.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 23 Sep 2010 #permalink

The median income of a single, college educated or higher male is $60,493. I make about $4,000 more than that. The median income for all males is, of course, much lower: $39,403. Being a federal employee, I also have access to health care and a decent retirement program.

The fact of the matter is I am super-rich. If you compare what I have to the vast majority of human beings, both past and present, I can logically come to no other conclusion. We live better than the kings of old. How many had access to clean water, a diverse diet composed of 1000s of options, vaccinations to treat childhood diseases, the knowledge of the world at our finger tips with just the click of a mouse, and leisure time? Even most of humanity today does not have access to all of that. Sure, you can always look up and find someone who has more. My suggestion is that we should instead look down and realize how lucky/blessed we truly are.

That's why I think the world would be a much better place if everyone focused on what they and people like them could do for others rather than shoving the responsibility off on those who make more or less.

So please. Raise my taxes. Cut my salary. Fire me and contract out if it's more efficient or the priorities of government change. Do what needs to be done to get the deficit under control if that's what we want. But it's dishonorable to demand someone else's taxes go up if I'm not willing to accept an increase in my own.

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