Another way to label income groups

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

And here’s a piece from Robert Reich. I mostly found it interesting because he has new labels for various income groups. Whether Bernie is The Answer is up for debate. For Totebaggers, I think some of us are “Overclass” and some of us exist in the apparently unmentionable land between $300K and $1M.

There are now four classes in America: an underclass, an anxious class in the middle, an overclass, and an oligarchy at the very top.

The underclass is the bottom 20 percent with family incomes under $26,000 this year, who live in marginal neighborhoods, whose kids attend lousy schools, and whose families are in continuous danger of hunger, homelessness, or serious medical problems.

The anxious class is the old middle class — 75 percent of Americans, with family incomes between $26,000 and $80,000 a year, whose jobs are becoming less secure and who are living paycheck to paycheck, and most of whose children will not live as well as they do.
The overclass is the top 5 percent, earning between $80,000 and $300,000 a year, who still feel pressured and worry about the future but can afford to live in good neighborhoods and send their kids to good schools.

The oligarchy is the top 0.1 percent, most earning over $1 million a year and sitting on over $15 million of wealth, who now possess almost all the power. Through their political contributions, lobbying, “think tanks,” and media, they essentially rule America – influencing politicians and organizing the market to get most of the economic gains.

It’s a vicious cycle. The only way to reverse it is through a political revolution of the sort Bernie has been advocating.

What do you think?

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113 thoughts on “Another way to label income groups

  1. I think it is realistic that Reich cuts off the middle class at $80K in family income. I think it doesn’t make sense to consider people making $200-$250K to be in the middle class (as Hillary does for her tax plan).

  2. Such numbers are (always at least somewhat) arbitrary– and he ignores the vast differences that result by geography and markedly different costs of living– but I think his sense of the four classes is reasonable.

    The factor that gets overlooked– out of ignorance or a desire to score cheap political points– is family structure and stability. On family structure, there is a huge statistical issue: if one looks at individual income inequality, there is little/no change over the past 40 years. But the popular number in this arena is household income inequality, which shows far greater dispersion. In large part, this is due to changes in family structure, concentrated among those in the lower income classes over the past 40-50 years. And of course, aside form the statistical question, big changes in family structure and stability, particularly in the lower income classes, have caused big problems– only some of which are measured by this statistical proxy. (Charles Murray’s Coming Apart is must-reading for those interested in the topic. Or I have an article in Markets & Morality, comparing Murray’s book with Harrington’s classic book on poverty in the 1960s.)

  3. I find his skipping of the $300k – $1 million group fascinating.

    Also, folks here have pointed out, income is not a perfect measurement of wealth.

  4. Ditto Lark. I have a feeling that the overclass extends up beyond $300K depending on cost of living, and also bleeds into the oligarchy at the top, particularly when we add in wealth, but it is odd not to count the $300K-$1M people at all!

  5. I agree with his estimate of class. His delineation between anxious class and overclass seems to be spot on with assessments that say ~$75K is the point at which people don’t feel stressed about money. I know it doesn’t take into account COL, but as a general talking point, I like it.

    Did he ignore the $300k-$1M people because they don’t make up a significant portion of the population? I’m sure they do, but I’m thinking relative to the $0-$300K group combined. RMS – did he include a bell curve of income distribution which helped him make his delineations?

    On a personal level, I have moved from anxious to overclass recently. Reich’s assessments of feelings in those classes are spot on to me. I don’t worry about money the same way anymore. It’s shifted from “how can I get by” to “what can I make my money do”.

  6. Not a statistician but i wonder how much the change in expectations for what we have and do has shaped how these classes feel, specifically the “anxious class”. I think about how my father grew up on a farm in the Depression and he says they never felt poor because most everyone around him lived as they did and he was never hungry. Now people in the lower classes are exposed everywhere and every day to people and things that are well beyond their grasp. I wonder how that affects how you feel and what you aspire to. I blame Robyn Leach.

    In unrelated news, I thought the engineers here would love to see this table. Quite clever. One does not often consider furniture design to be something one uses their engineering degree for. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3368863/The-table-GROWS-family-Furniture-doubles-size-simply-spinning-top.html

  7. There are now four classes in America: an underclass, an anxious class in the middle, an overclass, and an oligarchy at the very top.

    This is interesting in terms of what Finn termed “middle class values.” I think a lot of what people here think of as middle class values are in fact overclass values. One of the biggest differences would be the wherewithal to engage in extreme long range planning – 529, 401k, etc. For example, the median combined IRA balance for people 65 to 70 is $75k.

  8. We hover on the boundary of the anxious and overclass, based on dollars alone. When we both worked full-time, we were much farther into the boundary of overclass, but never close to the unmentioned class. Overall, because of our COL and being debt free, I would classify us as overclass. We know a lot of people in the anxious class and many are one major event from being in the underclass.

    Rhode is right. There is a lot of peace of mind once you can shift out of “getting by” to the best value or choices of how to make the money work for you.

  9. That table is fantastic, Moxie. I get the whole bit about too expensive to produce, but it’s a fabulous idea.

    I think we could quibble about dollar amounts, but I think Reich is on to something. I grew up in a household where anxious fits very well, and the other side of the family was underclass– which only increased the anxiety level of how possible underclass was. I suppose that while I hate the term “overclass” (who are we ruling over, exactly?) the characterization of how the worry shifts, and the huge privilege of that, mirrors my experience.

    I’m not sure I agree that “middle class” values are overclass values. Perhaps they are now, but I didn’t grow up even close to overclass, and those values were always there. I think in some ways that’s part of the shift. Middle class values felt a lot more possible to my lower earning family when I was a child than they seem to today. Dollar amounts aside, I am so far from oligarch, or that level of assets and/or political power, that it feels completely foreign.

  10. Moxiemom – I think your point is spot on. It seems that it is the difference between what you have/can have (given age, education, and income) and what you desire. I have a friend who desires multiples of what she has/can have, but that is mainly because of her choices – (1) to work in a field (she says she loves) that has low pay and high job turnover, (2) to remain less educated which limits the jobs even within the current field, and (3) regardless of her ability to afford a different choice at the time, always picks the lowest initial cost vs. looking at lifecycle costs, which has her spending more and “rebuying” some items multiple times. As a result, she is always unhappy about not being able to have “things”.

  11. Our family is very much into middle class values but there are two things we wouldn’t have done had our incomes not shown signs of growing. One is vacations involving plane tickets and the other is nice hotels and restaurants when we travel. The other is private school for our kids. Both of these could be classfied as “experience spending”. If we hit a bump, both these would go. Our kids would find it hard but they would survive. Our greatest fear is to be like Meme’s friend working all those years but no significant assets accumulated by the time we reach our sixties.

  12. Our family is very much into middle class values

    How would describe those values and how would they differ from overclass values?

  13. Rhett – the biggest difference I see is no luxury brand cars and our homes at the time we bought them cost less than we could afford at the time.

  14. I really hate the term “overclass” – it sounds like overlords or something. But the description of people who can afford to live in good neighborhoods and send their kids to good schools is spot on. But… when I was a kid, we called those people, the ones who lived in the “nice” neighborhood and sent their kids to the local private school, “upper middle class”. When did that cease to be a thing? I grew up in a family that would count as middle class in this description – we were always anxious, had no savings, and could not deal with sudden house repair emergencies – but we weren’t poor. But we did not think of the people in the “nice”neighborhood with the larger houses as being rich – they were upper middle class, which we definitely were not. The rich folks were the people out on the horse farms who got written up in the society pages.

  15. our homes at the time we bought them cost less than we could afford at the time.

    That would seem like an overclass value. As Mooshi mentioned, for most actual middle class people every penny is spoken for. It is primarily the overclass who has the luxury to live comfortably in a home that is less than they could afford.

  16. “As Mooshi mentioned, for most actual middle class people every penny is spoken for.”

    ITA with this. I think the overclass values are: education, nice homes in a nice neighborhood that are well below what they can afford (but choosing a $500K house when you could afford more is not middle class), 401K/529 contributions and reliable cars that you can drive for ten+ years.

    My mother, who is most decidedly middle class, has changed cars more times than I can count over the last ten years for one reason or another. The middle class and below I think feel that they have no hope of saving a significant amount of money so they spend it on cars and new homes w/granite counter tops (just judging by what I’ve seen on House Hunters with those who have budgets in the $200K – $300K range.

  17. I also don’t think you can overstate the “cost” of stress and worry to the under and anxious classes. Is it a lot harder to get ahead when so much of your energy is focused on getting by.

    I was raised middle class. I never flew until I was 16. We literally never flew as a family. Our vacations were always driving affairs and we camped along the way. Oh how I longed to stay in a Holiday Inn. When we were at Disney, which I qualify as a significant expense, I kept looking around at people that didn’t look like they could afford to be there and yet it seems like this experience that most American families feel like they can or must do which is astounding because truly we could have gone to Switzerland for what we spent on that trip. I have a friend who is worried because her car is about to die and she can’t afford to fix or replace it who just got back from Disney. I know I was raised in a pretty frugal home but sometimes the choices baffle me and other times I think, well of course they want a part of what they see everyone else getting.

  18. Moxiemom – we never took an official vacation when I was a kid, except for a few Christmases spend at my grandparents in FL (and my father always said that was NO VACATION for him). We did travel a lot, and I was lucky in that way, but our travel always had to do with my father’s work. He took consulting jobs in the summer for extra money, which were always across the country, so we would drive out, staying in cheap motels on the way, and we would sometimes stop along the way to see mountains and scenic stuff. We also camped on weekends. When I was growing up, no family that I knew of had ever been to a Disney theme park. For those families that went on vacation somewhere other than going to Grandma’s, Gatlinberg was pretty typical.

  19. On vacations – quite a few of my relatives worked for the airlines (good paying jobs in the home country). One of the perks was free tickets for the whole family subject to load. In the years past, when a lot less people could afford to fly and before airlines cut back on such perks the families could travel. One set of cousins flew to various countries. Sometimes relatives were posted overseas for stints of two/three years. Again, families were able to visit because of free tickets.

  20. I was raised real middle class. I primarily think of it as being able to afford what you need but having to really plan for purchases. My mom would buy presents on layaway, one driving vacation a year, Disney once (but we didn’t stay in a Disney hotel), going out to dinner was a special occasion. We always had plenty of food and clothes and there was never a concern about the mortgage payment, but buying a new washer and dryer was a much bigger deal than it is for almost everyone here and possibly required waiting for the next paycheck. Huge emphasis on education, but not a lot of guidance re: careers beyond be a doctor or lawyer.

  21. Have vacation expenses changed a lot, maybe? My parents’ go-to vaMacay for us was to drive the 35 miles to Santa Cruz, stay at a clean motel, and let us play at the beach and do the rides at the Boardwalk. In 1965 we did fly down to Anaheim for Disneyland. I’m not sure where that came from; it was the only time we ever flew as a family and my parents never flew anywhere ever again. But my sister and I have been all over hell and gone. My sister, a special ed teacher, went to Nepal for a meditation retreat. As I mentioned, I got back a couple months ago from taking my DIL to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. This is completely beyond anything my parents ever even thought of doing.

    So, my DIL coming from Boston cost about $500 for the flight on JetBlue. I paid $820 coming from Denver but that’s because I went first class. Then each of us cost $1700 for the seven-day retreat. So that’s what, $4,720? Round it up to $5K for incidentals. Uh, I guess that is excessive. I don’t know. An online inflation calculator says that $5K in 2015 is equivalent to $663 in 1965. I would bet that four airplane tickets to Anaheim and the motel and the Disney stuff was about like that. Huh. I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

  22. I think the biggest difference was that the middle class was not anxious in the same way. Dad had a steady job and usually a pension. Mom often picked up paid work, at a fairly young age in those days, when the kids hit high school or college. It is true that Disney was a luxury trip, but national parks were not and the family could drive because they had sufficient vacation time and no modern connectivity requirements.

  23. “but not a lot of guidance re: careers beyond be a doctor or lawyer.”

    I agree, education was stressed, but I wasn’t really aware of all of the many career choices there are

  24. Mémé’s right — my dad had a nice defined-benefit pension and excellent health insurance that he could keep through the end of his (and Mom’s) life. That’s a lot of anxiety gone right there.

  25. “Dad had a steady job and usually a pension”

    “the median combined IRA balance for people 65 to 70 is $75k.”

    the people in this age group counted on social security and pension for retirement

  26. I grew up middle class like you all describe (driving vacations, comfortable home but not a lot of stuff). I remember the conversation we had a few weeks ago about certain brands that we wanted as kids. We weren’t worried about paying for needs but I knew that things like Guess jeans were not in the budget.

  27. I was just talking to my FIL about this because I had CPE on personal finance issues and retirement was discussed. He said as a young man, saving for retirement wasn’t on his radar like it is for my generation

  28. Rhett: You bring up a very good point about what we consider “middle class values” really being “upper middle class” values.

  29. “ I think a lot of what people here think of as middle class values are in fact overclass values. “

    Marriage may be an example of what is becoming less of a middle-class value and more of an overclass value, based on those income numbers.

  30. My parents are late 60s/early 70s. No meaningful defined benefit plan. My dad does have a small one (~$1k/mo) from his first professional job, but everything else is 401(k)/personal accounts. No employer sponsored health ins after retirement. I think they are typical for their age group (other than people who were fed/state/union employees).

  31. The anxiousness is definitely related to job loss. If we lost our jobs AND couldn’t get similar paying ones within a resonable time, we would still be able to make it through with our savings but we would fall behind financially. In the home country, there was family as buffer. I recall my uncle who worked for an American company coming home after the Iran oil crisis. My aunt, cousin and my uncle lived with my grandparents till he secured another job. He wouldn’t take just any job so, there was discord till he found another one and moved his family out of his wife’s parents house.

  32. my dad had a nice defined-benefit pension and excellent health insurance

    I also get the impression that layoffs were, due to unions and precedent, typically LIFO (last in first out) vs. today they are FIFO (first in first out). In the past, the longer you stayed at a job the more seniority you gained and the more secure you job became. Now, to a significant degree, more seniority translates into less job security.

  33. One of Murray’s findings is that marriage is more of an “overclass” thing– and interestingly, it seems to connect to class more than religion. Beyond that, the manner in which people find spouses today (“assortative mating”) encourages more selection by class.

  34. @Rhett – I’ve seen a lot of this, so people down the ladder are questioning if they really want to move up and take on more responsibility if at some point they will be a target and are just going to be displaced, regardless of performance.

  35. Meme et al – agreed. My grandparents all had pensions complete with health care. My parents have bigger IRAs/401ks instead, but saving for medical costs in retirement seems almost impossible these days.

    Also, Meme, I sent you an email (delayed from a few weeks ago, sorry!).

  36. Job security and pension/health benefits in retirement are the number one factors in insecurity, I think. I agree with Eric that looking at household (vs. individual) incomes maximizes statistical inequality because high earners tend to marry each other. Another factor is that much work that used to be unpaid (childcare, eldercare, food preparation) is now paid and included in the GDP so the economy appears to be growing because the same work is now classified as “paid”.

    Two other factors that affect at least working class families are the availability of overtime and the percentage of income paid as social security tax increased dramatically. My Dad observed that it made far more sense for him to work overtime (at time-and-a-half as an experienced factory worker, say $24/$36-at-time-and-a-half per hr in today’s dollars) than for my Mom to work in retail or as a substitute teacher.

    Here’s a chart of social security tax history.
    http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/Content/PDF/family_ss_fica_hist.pdf

  37. WCE makes some great points here. (A broad implication of all of this is that one should be really careful when comparing simple statistics over long periods of time when trying to understand complex social/economic phenomena.)

    SS’ impact is even more insidious, since the employers’ “half” of FICA is largely shifted to workers in the form of lower compensation. (Think gas tax and the burden shift from firm to consumers.) Beyond that, the rate-of-return on Social Security averages about 0% now (and negative for groups that tend to die earlier– e.g., African-Americans). So, middle-class folks are forced to put a big chunk of their retirement into a lousy nest egg, while this is largely just a nasty little inconvenience for over-classers.

  38. My DH’s family was definitely working class (a term you don’t hear much anymore, and which does not fall into those 4 categories in the post). His father was an enlisted guy in the military for about 10 years post WWII because he couldn’t find another job, and when he finally left, he was a mill worker for his entire career. He did some kind of machining. When he retired though, he and his wife were comfortable, even abe to travel to Europe and around the US, due to his pension. Some of it was military but he hadn’t been in long enough for the really good benefits. Most of it was from his employer. He did have medical benefits from the VA and greatly valued those. In any case, they were not a well off family, but he still had a pension. DH’s mother had been a nurse, and she also had a pension.

  39. Beyond that, the rate-of-return on Social Security averages about 0% now

    The average return on a 401k is IIRC negative so folks are better off in SS than on their own in most cases. Sad, but true.

  40. I would add the return is negative largely because the average person tends to buy high and sell low and they can’t resist the temptation to cash out when they switch jobs despite the tax penalty.

  41. Note that the social security chart above assumes all income is earned by a single earner, so it does not take into account the transition from largely single earner families in 1950 to dual earner families today, which is especially important when you look at the marginal FICA rate. For the bulk of families, the SS/FICA marginal rate for at least one earner is 7.65%.

  42. yes. Thanks! This is all over the local news because the boards are popular here, and many seem to have already been purchased as gifts. Local fire chiefs have been on the news to urge parents to think twice about purchasing the item. We bought it in early Nov, and the store that we purchased it from is not issuing refunds. We are going to see if we can work through Amex if we want to get a refund.

    I was with an old college friend today and they celebrate Christmas. I was surprised when she told me that she purchased one for her DD because I wouldn’t have made this same choice if it was a month later.

  43. Lauren & Risley,

    It doesn’t seem like the issue is with name brand hoverboards just the knockoffs.

    Swagway already meets all those certifications and is happy that Amazon has decided to take steps to weed out the low quality boards.

  44. Are the fires really that big of a deal? I still think kids riding them in traffic is the bigger problem

  45. we have Swagway. I think the fires are a big deal, and the accidents from falls off the boards.

    Even if there was not a risk from the batteries, I think it is a stupid present because the kids are outside, but they’re not getting exercise. They’re together and it is fun, but I still think they will be bored of these things by the Spring.

    It ties into this topic because it is one of those gifts that is just a little too expensive for the age group that seems to want it the most for play.

    I’ve posted many times that I was able to move from a low income group to a high group via education. I can see that it might be much more challenging to make this leap today if a kid doesn’t have access to a decent education before he/she even gets to college.

  46. One of my son’s friends brought a Hoverboard over and it was actually really fun to ride. Super intuitive and pretty easy to do if you have decent balance. I do wonder if the novelty will wane but if we had one I’d use it to go get the paper. I think it might be fun to try to have a basketball game all on hoverboards but you probably want helmets!

  47. I think the Hoverboard looks like fun to try, but I’d be terrified to buy one given the fires. Seems like the kind of thing that makes more sense to rent someplace, kind of like Segway tours, vs. owning. I think the novelty would wear off.

  48. Has anyone else been getting some laughs over the controversy about cultural appropriation in Oberlin’s cafeteria food? The irony of complaining about an “inauthentic” preparation of General Tsao’s chicken. Which if I understand correctly is about the furthest thing from legitimate Chinese food! But really, since when does mediocre cafeteria food equal a microaggression?

    http://www.eater.com/2015/12/20/10630408/oberlin-college-students-cafeterias-general-tsos-chicken-bahn-mi-sushi-cultural-appropriation

    The pendulum has to be ready to swing back the other way regarding campus activism. I’m sure the more moderate leftists (like I think mostTotebaggers probably are) have just about had it with legitimate concerns being drowned out by this kind of triviality.

  49. the cafeteria thing is funny. These current students need to get a life, and they should have to eat the food that I had to eat in my college cafeteria in the 80s. It was gross.

    Rio, I hope you are feeling ok.

  50. Can you imagine if someone said that cafeterias should serve fried chicken and watermelon, because “black people like fried chicken”? I think the Oberlin complaints may be the high point of the arc and the pendulum is about to swing the other direction.

  51. The funniest thing is that my kids get authentic ethnic food at home, cooked by my MIL but they love the chicken tikka masala from the restaurant. I had to tell DS, not to tell his grandma of his preference for “red sauce” vs. home made curry. Our own ethnic recipes have changed over time as home cooks have tweaked them, so there is nothing that is totally authentic about anything.

  52. What was really funny was that they were complaing about the General Tso’s chicken, But General Tso’s chicken doesn’t exist in China – it is purely an invention of Chinese–American takeout restaurants! I saw Jennifer 8 Lee give a talk once on how Chinese food has been appropriated overseas, which was hilarious (she uses humor rather than lecturing at people, and she doesn’t see the appropriation as a bad thing, merely an interesting thing). She had gone to China with photos of General Tso’s chicken, and video taped people’s reactions. She did a documentary later on about this, which I haven’t seen yet.
    http://www.thesearchforgeneraltso.com/

    Anyway, I think these students should have researched their own cuisines before complaining…

  53. I also think the students would be doing more of a service by picketing the ubiquitous protein-by-the-numbers Asian Fusion restaurants, which I think would be far more offensive.
    “Choose chicken, pork or shrimp in
    A. Sichuan sauce
    B. Pad Thai sauce
    C. Curry sauce
    D. Sweet n spicy ginger sauce
    E Indonesian sauce”

    Dump in the protein, slop on some sauce, and call it Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Indonesian/Indian/whatever. Now that’s cultural appropriation

  54. Ada, believe it or not some black students on campus were protesting the lack of fried chicken as a permanent fixture on the menu. It’s like an SNL skit at this point or something.

  55. That’s sweet and hilarious, Louise. It makes sense though- I mean, I bet most Italian-American kids would prefer Olive Garden over their grandmother’s authentic cooking as well. Or even whitebread Americans preferring In n Out Burger over quality home cooking. Restaurant food is usually sweeter, saltier, and richer, and our palates tend to like that!

  56. Some years ago, I used to help out at the CNY celebration at the small Chinese school the kids were going to at the time. One thing I learned – we had to have traditional Chinese food AND we had to have pizza and fries, because the grandparents only ate traditional Chinese food and the kids only ate pizza!

  57. @Mooshi – MIL was mentioning that my kids like pizza. I said, most kids (of all cultures) do. Same with pasta. My nephew at one restaurant didn’t eat white Mac n cheese, he was used yellow.

  58. L. Sent you a note.

    Cat is correct that fewer 60 somethings (my cohort) have pensions than those even 10 years older, but a lot had kids at a younger age, equity in their paid off homes, and a willingness to relocate to lower COL in retirement.

  59. This afternoon I went from overclass to underclass. It turns out that a high voltage electrical transmission line is proposed to split our ranch and go over our house. Any suggestion on how to fight eminent domain.

  60. Murphy that’s terrible! I have nothing to offer in the way of help, but so sorry to hear that.

  61. Murphy, how awful. I am very sorry to hear this. Good luck with fighting and/or coming up with alternative solutions.

  62. That’s ridiculous, Murphy! Best of luck figuring out how to fight it- I have no idea what the process looks like. Hopefully at the very least you can band together with other neighbors who are presumably upset by this.

  63. Austin– When a median home is $720k and comes with an hour commute to where most jobs and schools are, buying a $500k home when you can afford more might be middle class.

  64. “I think a lot of what people here think of as middle class values are in fact overclass values.”

    I tend to agree. I think those particular set of middle class values helped me, and a lot of others, get from middle class to overclass. I am hoping that those same values will help my kids do better than I.

  65. Murphy – There are CA law firms specializing in eminent domain cases. Some come up on the Google search – probably not enough business for them to advertise on late night tv. And you likely can find personal referrals as well – going in as a group of landowners might be a good tactic. The firms don’t promise to prevent the taking, since the power of eminent domain comes from English common law (and just compensation for the taking of property for public use is required by the Bill of Rights), but sometimes just a lot of well organized opposition and the prospect of years of legal hassle will shift a project from an overclass area to an underclass one.

  66. ” I think the overclass values are: education, nice homes in a nice neighborhood that are well below what they can afford (but choosing a $500K house when you could afford more is not middle class), 401K/529 contributions and reliable cars that you can drive for ten+ years. ”

    Oops, it was Atlanta, not Austin, I replied to at 10:24.

    I think more generally, these are not so much overclass values as totebag values. We’ve all heard the stories of the overclass and up earners who spent as much or than they earned; those folks may have overclass values, but not totebag values.

    Also more generally, I’d characterize those values as living below your means, and practicing delayed grafification. Valuing education, the 401k\529 contributions, and keeping cars for 10+ years all fall into delayed gratification, with the cars also falling into the living below your means category as well.

    My guess is that a lot of totebaggers are in the overclass (I share mooshi’s dislike for that term, and also prefer UMC) in large part because they and their parents practiced those values.

  67. Murphy, my sympathies.

    This reminds me of what happened to one of my dad:s best friends. He and his wife had a great home; back when it was still the boonies, they’d bought 5 contiguous lots between the road and the ocean, and built a modest home on the lot nearest the ocean, and gardened the other lots. They planned to live out their lives there, and to leave it to their kids.

    Fast forward about 40 years, and they are no longer in the boonies. The county rezones their property from single family homes to multi-unit dwellings, and taxes them out of their home. She had just retired, and spent years trying to fight the rezoning, but finally gave up what they had spent their lives building. While they did get a bunch of money and a beachfront condo out of it, they lost their dream.

  68. “One of Murray’s findings is that marriage is more of an “overclass” thing– and interestingly, it seems to connect to class more than religion. Beyond that, the manner in which people find spouses today (“assortative mating”) encourages more selection by class.”

    It seems a reasonable hypothesis to me that a large factor in the UMC\”overclass” separating from the rest of the MC is not just the tendency of UMC to marry other UMC, but to also stay married.

    My guess is that a lot of UMC folks who married each other, but did not stay married, tend to drop out of the UMC at higher rates than those that do.

    While we have some counterexamples here, I’d also guess that their totebaggy values are (or were) large factors in them staying in or attaining UMC.

  69. Murphy, we are near a high voltage power line and just signed the easement for them to cross our property to do periodic line maintenance. What voltage? AC or DC? Because of the efficiency losses associated with longer routings, courts usually uphold eminent domain on high voltage power lines, my professor mentioned in power class. I expect that to continue with increased concern about carbon emissions.

  70. Aren’t all power transmission lines, or at least all that would warrant eminent domain, AC? That facilitates transmission at high voltage to minimize resistive losses, with transformers stepping the voltage down near the point of use.

    My guess is that if it calls for eminent domain, it’s a very high voltage.

  71. Then there is Indian Chinese food. I would say it’s a spicy version of American Chinese. On my most recent visit, almost every generic restaurant served Indian Chinese. After a few times, I was ready to move on from spicy dim sum.
    I grew up going to one of the few Chinese restaurants at the time. The owner was Chinese and his dishes at the time were far different from what they are today. A few high end Chinese restaurants have started to serve more authentic Chinese food.

    http://travel.cnn.com/mumbai/none/indian-chinese-food-598134/

  72. Re: “middle class values”: I think of them as MC values because I grew up MC, and those are the values I was taught. They are, fundamentally, the values that enabled my mom to go from LC to MC to, now, the “overclass,” and that allowed me to do the same. I think they are distinct from the mindset of the permanent underclass, where it is illogical to delay gratification and save, because you will never escape anyway. And they are distinct from the mindset of the oligarchy, because we will never be able to save-and-thrift our way to a family foundation, so our focus is on preparing our kids for careers and a lifestyle that will allow them to be safe and comfortable; we don’t have the financial freedom to support our kids as artists or to set up our own charities, and we’re usually more focused on our own lives than on getting super involved in politics and wanting to run the world.

  73. Murphy, assuming the state and utility are successful, I’m assuming that they would compensate you for the portion of the land that they take, and the costs to rebuild your house farther from the lines?

    “I think more generally, these are not so much overclass values as totebag values.”

    What do you do IRL when you’re trying to say “Totebaggy” but nobody will understand the reference? What’s the best synonym?

  74. Murphy – so sorry to hear that. I don’t know enough about that area to give good advice, but if you google the Northern Pass project in NH, you can find out more about what the towns are doing in opposition. With enough organized opposition, you may be able to get them to bury the line and/or change the route such that it won’t impact your property.

  75. the Northern Pass project in NH

    How does everyone expect this electricity thing to work if they aren’t allowed to connect power plants with those who consume power?

  76. I think the whole income labeling exercise is an excuse for redistributing the income after the labels have been attached.

    My grandparents lived under high voltage wires for decades.

  77. How does everyone expect this electricity thing to work if they aren’t allowed to connect power plants with those who consume power?

    They want them to make the connections, just not in their backyards.

  78. “income labeling exercise is an excuse for redistributing the income after the labels have been attached”

    Perhaps that’s why he ignored the $300k-$1M group, since he’s most likely in it.

  79. “A parent” and Milo with nice points! Extending them a bit: people generally want government to deal with other people– whether direct redistribution, protecting one’s industry from competition, or questionable decisions that lead to paternalistic policies.

  80. One of the big expenses that is often overlooked in retirement is dental care. My parents are experiencing this now as my dad, who is in his mid seventies, needs some extensive dental work that will all be out of pocket and in $20,000 range. They now have to decide do they pay for it or forgo the care. Oral health is so important and bad oral health can lead to other medical issues. Medicare and other health insurance will not cover any of these expenses. Thus the decision is between paying a huge sum of money, losing one’s teeth or settling for a solution that is not ideal and will continue to cause issues. Yes the money can be financed but it is a huge bill they were not prepared for.

    My parents did budget for cleanings and other smaller expenses but did not consider basically needing to replace all of one’s bottom teeth due to aging. Now that my siblings and I are aware of this eventuality, we will plan to budget more in this area.

  81. Murphy – The key is to get your neighbors together and present an organized opposition. I’ve never fought a power line, but my neighborhood successfully “persuaded” a student housing developer to give up on trying to rezone adjacent property. Individuals leveraged their own skills & knowledge to prepare reports from various angles (stormwater, traffic, market analysis, environmental impact, etc.), which we submitted to the town for the project record. Others helped to mobilize & publicize the effort and create a website, petition, Facebook page, etc. We spoke at every planning commission and town council meeting we could attend, and people also met one-on-one with members of those bodies. Granted, local zoning is very different from eminent domain, but a rapid, organized response can show them what kind of fight they’re in for and maybe push them toward Plan B.

  82. Murphy, that stinks!!!!

    The cost of dental care is a big problem. We have some dental insurance through DH employer, but it covers anything major at 50% and it max per year is low. We already hit it for this year, so all 3 of us have some major work scheduled for January.
    I just don’t understand why this is still separate from medical work. It is preventative care and/or medical procedures when there is an infection.

    It is a very unfair system.

  83. I am wondering what kind of dental care costs 20,000? Implants? I would be inclined to consider going to Mexico/Thailand for that extensive of service. Dental extractions and well fitted dentures cost significantly less than that – if Medicare/private insurance covered dental care for the elderly, what level of care would we want them to provide?

    The thing about dental care is that anything expensive is mostly not emergent (does not need to be done in the next day or two), and has many levels of service. Sure, cavities need to be filled, but in the next few months. It is an expense, like car maintainence that can be planned for and financed, to some degree. If you have a bad tooth, do you get a root canal or an extraction? For most dental problems, there are cheap, but less optimal solutions. There are a lot of people in their 30s/40s with few natural teeth remaining because they don’t have the money for crowns and root canals.

    Most emergent dental issues (abscess, fractured tooth) have stabilizing care that is covered by primary medical insurance. The key difference is stabilizing, not definitive, care.

  84. One of the big expenses that is often overlooked in retirement is dental care. My parents are experiencing this now as my dad, who is in his mid seventies, needs some extensive dental work that will all be out of pocket and in $20,000 range. They now have to decide do they pay for it or forgo the care.

    Our generation is going to be much better off in this regard because (as a generality) we’ve had much better dental care through our lifetimes than our parents generation had.

    Also, an option for them to consider is having the work done in Mexico. My dad lives in Southern Arizona so it’s extremely convenient, and he gets his dental work done for less than half the price by going across the border. Even if they have to fly, if it’s a one-shot set of work, they could save a lot of money going down there. Of course if it will require repeated visits, then it wouldn’t be worth it if they’d have to fly down every time.

  85. Rhett – see also Cape Wind.

    IIRC in the Northern Pass project, the original route was shortest/cheapest but didn’t take advantage of existing easements/ROWs for existing power lines, and the NH environmental groups and the state politicians (governor and at least one senator?) all lined up against the proposed route.

  86. Thanks for the sympathy. DH and I spent the afternoon on phone and email alerting the neighbors. It looks like our best hope is if the project goes thru one of the oligarch’s properties, and if the oligarch hasn’t made a deal. The project is to import power from out of state to one of the metropolitan areas.

    Milo, if they were going to pay what the land is worth, they wouldn’t need eminent domain.

  87. Milo, if they were going to pay what the land is worth, they wouldn’t need eminent domain.

    Sure they would, because otherwise they couldn’t force you to accept the offer.

  88. This is Northeast prices and yes we shopped around and that is a “reasonable” price for the area. And it may be time to search out other areas. This is for extraction of all bottom teeth, planting 4 posts and then the implants, which would be the optimum treatment. This allows your teeth and jaw to function as normal resulting in using your teeth as if you had no dental issues at all. This price includes both the surgeon, who places the posts and the dentist who does all the other work.

    Dentures for bottom teeth have significant issues because of the jaw moving and can on a day to day basis cause irritation and jaw pain. Doing two posts, which my aunt did a few years ago for $13,000 results in some moving of the plates which causes her some pain and some issues with food particles getting trapped under the apparatus.

    It boils down to a quality of life issue. Do you want “teeth” that work with no issues but you will pay for it and have to forgo other things that make your life easier more enjoyable. Or do you go for the other treatments which may result in poor quality of life as you experience pain and have issues eating food – at first it might be food that you really enjoy like steak or other hard to chew items but you can eventually experience issues with soft foods. You then start to think about all the what ifs….my father is a very active person who is reasonably healthy. Paying that amount of money for teeth that work for the next 20 years seems reasonable but what if he doesn’t live that long? Has my mother been stuck with a bill for treatment that ended up been unnecessary? Then again, facing jaw pain, irritation and not enjoying your meals for the next 20 years will be miserable.

    DD, I agree that our generation may have had better dental care but some of it just comes down to were you born with strong or soft teeth. My father has done preventivie dental care for at least the last 40 years of his life. His teeth are just soft and worn out. Like I said, it has become apparent to his three kids that this may be an expense we will to keep in mind sharing half of his genetic material.

  89. $20K is a lot to pay up-front, but if you finance it, wouldn’t it be similar to the cost of having a 5-year car loan? I guess it depends on how tight of a budget one has.

  90. Murphy, the way the power company representative explained it to us, the “norms” for payment set by eminent domain are based on how many meters of line cross your property. Whether it’s directly over your house or across a ravine you don’t care about doesn’t matter. Eminent domain payment norms also don’t reflect the fact that, in our area, enough people are worried about electromagnetic fields from high voltage lines to affect property values.

    We’ve discussed before how I think utility distribution is an appropriate government role, but there are clearly trade-offs between eminent domain and not having the utility company pay so much for land that the elderly can’t afford their electric bills. Utility company profits are highly fixed, so if there costs go up, rates go up as well.

  91. Tangent: article on environmental vs. intrinsic factors affecting cancer risk. Obviously the percentage of cancers due to environmental factors (like smoking) should decrease as people engage in less risky behaviors. The harder statistical question is how to consider factors (like radiation at high altitude or radon gas in basements) that are intrinsic to a geographical area.
    http://www.nature.com/news/cancer-studies-clash-over-mechanisms-of-malignancy-1.19026

  92. DD, I agree that our generation may have had better dental care but some of it just comes down to were you born with strong or soft teeth. My father has done preventivie dental care for at least the last 40 years of his life. His teeth are just soft and worn out. Like I said, it has become apparent to his three kids that this may be an expense we will to keep in mind sharing half of his genetic material.

    As I said, it’s a generality. But from what you’re saying, he didn’t start preventive care until he was well into adulthood. We (especially those of us in the totebag demo) have had the advantage of childhood dental care, braces, most of us had fluoridated water from birth, etc. and I think that will go a long way to preventing teeth from becoming soft as we age. Obviously time will tell.

  93. If it is a societal good that elderly people’s power bill are not too high, why shouldn’t Soviet as a whole subsidize them?

  94. If it is a societal good that elderly people’s power bill are not too high

    It’s more employers fleeing CA due to high power prices caused by NIMBYism. In NH they said it would cost $3 million a mile to run the cables above ground vs. 15-20 million to run them underground. That’s fine if that’s what people want to do. Just don’t complain about excessive gov’t regulation driving up prices.

  95. Murphy, the poor can’t afford $15-$20 million/mile for underground cables and would rather have that money to buy groceries. The rich are delighted to pay $15-$20 million/mile to avoid looking at unsightly power lines. But we all share the same grid. It’s a conundrum.

    Power grid choices are UNLIKE the unfunded mandate that all parents buy and use car seats, a choice which should be made by families and not government.

  96. WCE,

    Since taxpayers will be on the hook for the lifetime care of brain injured children, should parents be required to buy an insurance rider if they don’t want to use car seats?

  97. Or, alternatively, private insurers could charge higher rates to those who don’t use car seats and refuse to pay claims if the seats weren’t used for those who claimed to use them?

  98. I’d need data on how many children wind up dead vs. brain-injured with and without car seats. Being dead is far cheaper than being brain-injured. Have you read the Freakonomics analysis of car seats?

  99. Or, arguably, under-massed vehicles due to CAFE standards or under-enforcement of deportation laws against illegal immigrants who cause accidents or a culture that tolerates drinking and driving or…

    Car seats are only one way to approach the problem of vehicular accidents and injuries.

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