Feedback Loop: How Rich is Rich?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 10:14 AM

Remember back during the run up to the 2008 elections when presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain attended a forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren? Each was asked to define rich, and their answers could not have been more different. Obama, in his characteristically professorial manner, said, "I would argue that if you are making more than $250,000, then you are in the top 3, 4 percent of this country, you are doing fine." McCain, with a grin on his face, answered, "I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million?"

The media labeled McCain's answer a "gaffe," and the candidate would eventually try to walk back from it, but the two candidates' answers represent a serious ideological divide that both parties are trying to grapple with as the Bush era tax cuts are set to expire on the heels of the November election. At what income level is someone "rich"?

As Congress starts to debate whether to return taxes for the top two percent of earners back to their Clinton administration levels, we put the question to Takeaway listeners. What does it mean to be rich these days? Does it mean earning over $250,000 a year, like the tax code, and President Obama, says?

Plenty of Takeaway listeners weighed in via text message:

Just what we needed! The change that we we believed in is the change we got.
—New York, NY

I would say $100k a year
—MI 

End it already and let's move forward. It really doesn't matter what "rich" means. What matters is getting out of the red ink. I mean..$300 for 8th grade sports?
—Pontiac, MI 

Another 70k
—Miguel, Hialeah, FL

Another 50/100 thou would be great! Not rich, still way under half million, but would allow savings & happy extras. Personally, I don't see MY taxes at work for ME: kid free, car free, pay own med insurance etc.
—New York, NY

I have no idea what "rich" is anymore. I think it has more to do with access & security than income.
—Pontiac, MI

Think the definition of rich should be revised downward to $150,000.
—Geneva, NY

$52k more wld help me cover my current expenses and plan ahead. That amount wouldn't bring me over 100k either. I live a simple life.
—Tamara, Baltimore, MD

More than 500k yr
—Denver, CO

I think 250k is not rich. I support president obama but he needs to increase the threshold to 500k.
—Winchester, MA

$200k/year
—Providence, RI

I say the estate tax needs to be revisited. How is it justifiable that wealth should be redistributed after someone works to build savings throughout their life
—Key West, FL

Hahahahaha! Not even in Idaho anymore. In my next life I wanna be a congressman! "What? Me worry?" Let's get real!
—New York, NY

$150 k:)
—Denver, CO.

I say all taxpayers need a brake.No taxes for 1 year will revive the broken economy.
—Allan, Woonsocket, RI

I say if you own a second home, boat, or drive a mercedes. A 100k or so ought to get you all three depending on where you live. 
—Miguel, Hialeah, FL

Thats about right. A person can survive on $100,000. Everything over that is excess.
—Tamara, Baltimore, MD

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