Re: How One Becomes What One Is

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When out in the Pacific Northwest for a friend's wedding, I went to dinner with a bunch of folks I had gone to school with. One guy -- a fellow I had been vaguely friendly with and I thought of as sort of sweet and quiet -- had taken over the family biz and detailed his efforts to break his workers' union. This was sort of tough for me, and made more difficult by the fact that everyone chuckled merrily through his stories.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:02 PM
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I dunno the 600h is kind of a neat car, even if the mileage isn't really all that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:03 PM
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Oh, Ogged, you're gonna make me cry.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:03 PM
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Hell, look at me. I'm a net injury to society. I make up for it by being lazy and inefficient about the injury I do society, but that doesn't change the work I do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:06 PM
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he should have bought something else

Like a black BMW M5 for ogged.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:08 PM
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I think I was telling someone in DC about my best friend from high school, the Birkenstock-wearingest, granola-eatingest girl I know, who now does white collar criminal defense and says things like, "My client, apart from the massive fraud he's alleged to have committed, is a really nice guy!"


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:09 PM
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4: LB, have you heard of the book Bonjour, Paresse by a French woman who I believe worked for one of the utility companies? It was all about laziness and the importance of not doing one's job.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:10 PM
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White collar defense is really bad that way -- there's a terrible tendency to approach matters from the "Look at that suit. Look at that face. Look at these pictures of his daughter's pony, Sparkleypoo. This man doesn't belong in jail," angle.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:12 PM
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7: No, but I should read it. At work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:12 PM
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Most of my college friends turned into corporate lawyers or IT geeks. It's not the money, it's that they turned into Republicans. It's not always bad. Some are sane. But.

Me: shivbunny's thinking of learning Spanish.
Friend A: Why would you want to learn a language that's only good for talking to the landscapers?
Me: [bristles]
shivbunny: [calmly] A lot of the guys I work with speak Spanish and I'd like to be able to relay simple directions without having to rely on the bilingual ones.
Friend A: See? Only good for landscapers.
shivbunny: [calmly] I don't work as a landscaper. I play with dynamite. (subtext: You fucking idiot.)
Me: Way to generalize ignorantly, A.
Friend B & Wife of Friend B: [severe, much appreciated eye roll in A's direction.]


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:13 PM
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Lock Sparkleypoo up and throw away the key, I say. How mystifying is it that I am actually doing something socially useful for work right now? Really mystifying!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:14 PM
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LB, do you at least enjoy the hookers and blow?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:15 PM
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We are all equally tools & victims of the capitalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:16 PM
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Somehow, the hookers and blow haven't materialized.

Friend A: Why would you want to learn a language that's only good for talking to the landscapers?

Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Not that I'm suggesting you actually should have, but it would have been hard not to think it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:17 PM
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9: God, this woman, Corinne Maier, is awesome. She does nothing at her job (an economist for the electric co.) but:

She has found time to write eight books since 2001, including several works on Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst. Three of these come out later this year, two introductory books on Gaullism and Nazi Germany and "a more intello" book on Pasteur.

Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:17 PM
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14.1: shoot me an e-mail.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:18 PM
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See, Bob understands!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:22 PM
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BMW M5

Heh, that's what I told him he should have bought. (Or an M6; I'm not picky).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:23 PM
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14: Seriously. That and 'why the hell is my friend from high school acting like such a dick? He should know better.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:23 PM
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What if the $100k car is a Tesla? Then it's a morally superior way of blowing $100k, at least.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:23 PM
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10 is right. I don't have a problem with people doing whatever, with I guess a few exceptions. I do have a problem when they let their role influence their ideology and turn them into an asshole.

Systems are systems, people are people and need to have roles within systems to earn a living, good to separate the two. But don't let the system colonize your brain.

Besides that, people who get rich can do a lot of social change type good with their money if they don't turn into an asshole.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:25 PM
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This is why I'm studying English: there is no danger of ever buying a $100K whip. I must remain pure.


Posted by: Sharkey | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:26 PM
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Pwned by 13, and so pithy too!


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:26 PM
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On a lighter note, watching conversations between undergrads about what they intend to do is funny when the perpetual morality play begins: Rich Brat decides to look down on Modest Means Brat (when I'm grading, they're all brats) for trying for an i-banking job after graduation, when everyone knows what you're supposed to do is use your trust fund to write your novel and then go to law school, because that's how you keep it real, while Modest Means Brat calls Rich Brat a hippie.

This country needs a do-over.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:27 PM
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Heh, that's what I told him he should have bought

Damn, now I should predict who will win Iowa.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:27 PM
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Besides that, people who get rich can do a lot of social change type good with their money if they don't turn into an asshole.

This is an important point. As Friend B and I talked about this, he was feeling guilty about not giving more of his time and my response was, basically, fuck that, you have money, give money, it makes a big difference--don't not give money because you really should be giving time.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:27 PM
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Actually, I have a close relative who was influenced by left-wing pieties into going into a stereotypically low-paying career. This is an extremely driven, competitive, and talented guy who would have been extremely successful at anything he did. I'm always telling him I wish he had gone to Goldman Sachs so he could spend the second half of his life running the world. It would be a big improvement on the people we currently have doing it, and I'd have been happy to be his assistant.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:29 PM
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Seriously, though.

Well, actually, I don't know what to say seriously. Vague gesture in the direction of liberal guilt, hypocrisy, and so on. Now that's banal.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:29 PM
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I was talking to mrh about this sort of thing on the way back from DC. There ought to be a way to live decently and honorably and to make a good--even a very good living. I don't think that I want to live in poverty to save the world, and I think that unions are invaluable, but it ought to be possible to work for management without selling your soul.

There are two examples that come to mind. I'm inordinately proud of my paternal grandfather for being an honest businessman. He didn't go to college because of the depression, but he rose to be a VP for contracting and a controller. He was always tight on costs; he tended to get rid of executive perks at companies that were losing money, things like the free car washing service, but he also always ate in the employee cafeteria--in part, because he appreciated the cheap lunch, and in part to make sure that the food was good enough for the employees who reported to him. There's a wonderful story about him when he was negotiating a K (it might have been a government K) and somebody hinted that they might be able to skim a little bit off the top. My grandfather simply said that that was not the way he did business and that they had nothing more to talk about; then he left the room. The man was an Eisenhower Republican, and I respect him tremendously for it.

The other story was somethign I'd read about a then large-ish white shoe NY law firm that got written up in either the WSJ or the Times. The partners made less than most big firm lawyers (around $500k), but they didn't work quite as much, and associates generally got to spend weekends with their families. The story was abou how they'd essentially been taken over by hard-charging types who wanted to do big Wall Street deals and that several partners had been forced out. There ought to be a place for something between do-gooder and societal parasite.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:30 PM
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I solved this problem by "losing" touch with pretty much everybody I went to high school or college with, to such an extent that I would not be surprised to be greeted with "I thought you were dead" when next I fail to avoid meet some stray classmate on the street.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:31 PM
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I just got friended by an old college classmate on Facebook. He's a VP at Goldman Sachs now. That freaked me out like no other successful friend before -- other friends who are successful at least studied something else or got a MBA. This guy and I have the exact same training -- same school, same major, same college internships (my GPA was even higher!) And yet.

Then I think about what being a VP at Goldman probably entails and I realize I wouldn't want that anyway. But the 7 figure income would be nice.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:31 PM
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Reset switch.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:32 PM
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29: one problem with a certain type of leftie guilt is that it doesn't recognize that the ethic and values of the elite can have a significant independent effect on quality of life in a society. There are good and bad, corrupt and non-corrupt elites.

With that said, elite voluntarism alone is a lousy basis for building a decent society.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:33 PM
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31: Goldman Sachs is one of the most powerful institutions in American politics.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:34 PM
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I'm always telling him I wish he had gone to Goldman Sachs so he could spend the second half of his life running the world. It would be a big improvement on the people we currently have doing it

One wonders whether having gone to Goldman Sachs could possibly have left his left-wing pieties intact. I don't say it wouldn't or couldn't have. It is a question for many, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:36 PM
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But the 7 figure income would be nice.

I don't know how much title inflation there has been at Goldman, but this could very well be 8.

29: one problem with a certain type of leftie guilt is that it doesn't recognize that the ethic and values of the elite can have a significant independent effect on quality of life in a society. There are good and bad, corrupt and non-corrupt elites.

See also police. If being a leftie means that thinking all police officers are goons, it sets up a self-reinforcing feedback loop.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:36 PM
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31: An old high school boyfriend of mine is now Managing Director of IBanking at a very, very big place. He never wanted to do anything more than make shitloads of money and we would have screaming matches about politics (this was sort of the charm of the thing at the time) that inevitably devolved into his telling me that I would never have two nickels to rub together and he would make more money than God. He's right! But, seriously, he has a 7 figure salary, but chooses to vacation each year in Boca. Christ.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:36 PM
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10: You keep using that word, "friend". I do not think it means what you think it means.

26: Yes: if you're good at doing work for a nonprofit, do that. If you're good at making money in another line of work and willing to donate some of it to nonprofits, do that. The nonprofits need both kind of people.

My wife was looking at our stock situation and half-seriously talking about a Maserati. I realized that a $100K car is over the line for me and my liberal guilt, but a $50K car, while an unnecessary luxury splurge, is something I could be talked around to.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:37 PM
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36: Really? A VP would make 10 mil a year? That doesn't seem right to me.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:37 PM
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PGD, I don't think that my paternal grandfather was ever part of an elite. My maternal one was, but he eschewed law in favor of a career as an historian and archivist.

I wasn't making a point about elite voluntarism. It just seemed that it was impossible for them to maintain a very comfortable living doing interesting work. It was either ramp up the volume and pay or you die. That's messed up on so many levels. I don't want to work 80 hours per week, but I'd like to be able to lead a middle to upper-middle class lifestyle without being a SAHW.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:39 PM
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There ought to be a place for something between do-gooder and societal parasite.

I agree. Those jobs do exist; I've had several of them. But they're not widely acknowledged. I have not found journalists, career offices or professors to be well-informed about the fact that they exist.

There is also a weird effect of resetting normal based on your social circle. Most of the country could live extremely comfortably on $120K/year; within a few professions and geographic areas, that is not seen as a livable wage.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:40 PM
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36: Really? A VP would make 10 mil a year? That doesn't seem right to me.

Like I said, it depends on how much title inflation there has been. Also on your definition of "salary". But with a $19B bonus pool, 27k employees, and presumably some sort of power law distribution of bonus amounts, I bet there's at least 100 people who are going to take home more than $10M from Goldman this year, if not more.

38: Dear God, don't get a Maserati. They're like a more pathetic Ferrari.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:42 PM
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it's not like they turned into John Yoo.

That's the issue, to me. "Wealth" is relative, and anyone likely to be commenting here is absurdly wealthy by world standards.

Not too long ago, there was a discussion here regarding fancy cookware. I was a bit disdainful on the same grounds that ogged proposes, but really, wealth is generally a good thing. I wish there were more of it in the world, and I wish more people could buy fancy cookware, even if I find such purchases a bit bourgeois (sp?) for my taste.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:42 PM
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I like money, and am ready and willing to sell out for a very reasonable price. Just wanted to get that out there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:45 PM
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I like money, and am ready and willing to sell out for a very reasonable price. Just wanted to get that out there.

Undergrad in some computer sciencey thing, plus many years experience, right? Combined with a willingness to sell out and a way with words? You'll do just fine.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:46 PM
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41: Speaking of livable wages, in the public sector there are experienced top executives who manage billion dollar budgets and make significant differences in quality of life for hundreds and thousands of people while earning the same amount of money as a first-year associate in a top law firm. Some part of it is real estate prices in e.g. Manhattan, but it's still totally crazy.

Part of the issue is that it's a potential scandal when voters see a bureaucrat earning $150 K or more. People don't understand how completely elite salaries have diverged from what ordinary people make, and therefore how the private sector bids people away.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:47 PM
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Rich doesn't faze me--I have no desire to own a sports car but I'm sure there are other purchases & expenses that are pretty damn obscene when you consider what the money would mean to some people in the world; too manifestly a difference in degree to get all huffy about. I also think it's possible to be an honest businessman & that most people live in the world between do gooder & social parasite, & knowing someone's job title & salary doesn't necessarily tell you where they are on that spectrum.

The only person I know who really fazes me is a college friend I know--was a groomsman in my wedding--who seems to have slowly gone over to the dark side: I remember him getting outraged by the Clinton impeachment & taking a bunch of classes on urban poverty--but he went to law school at U. Chicago, clerked for a Bush appointee, worked for the Office of Legal Counsel, has turned all unitary executive-y (I hear secondhand, I don't see him often & I think prefer not to discuss any of this with me) & is now clerking for Scalia.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:47 PM
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46.2: I submit that it is a scandal because it's legitimately upsetting. I understand full well that elite salaries have diverged from what ordinary people make, and I'm not okay with that. Bidding public-sector salaries up so we can "compete" with private sector employers is neither a practical nor a moral solution.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:54 PM
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Years back (maybe eight?), I went to the wedding of my wife's best friend from college. The wedding took place in Seattle, where the bride and groom lived and live. One of the other guests, a friend of my wife's from college, had recently cashed in her MS stock for around $5 million. She had worked for the empire for about two years, if memory serves, and was "burned out." So she bought herself a house on Whidbey Island, a "tiny condo" in the city," and was "ready for what came next."


So far, so good, I guess. She was in the right place at the right time and then got out. But then she explained to me, over cocktails, that she was pissed. Why? Because she had "worked incredibly hard" and other people who had worked less hard had made more than her.

I was agog. So I said, as nicely as I could muster, "you're kidding, right?" "You worked for two years and have accumulated more money than 99% of the earth's people will see in the lifetime." She sneered at me -- really, she sneered -- rolled her eyes, and said: "you have no idea what you're talking about. You couldn't possibly understand how hard I worked in those two years."

Again, fine, right? The world has its share of assholes. Well, more than its share. But when I related the story later that night to several other guests at the wedding, they all said that she was right and I was wrong.

This is why I hate Seattle.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:54 PM
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48: 150k is really not that much money for somebody who manages e.g. $300 million in assets, which is how things often play out. If people can be mission driven and still make cash by the handful, I say let 'em.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:59 PM
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I'm feeling like a cross between minneapolitan and bob mcmanus. Or maybe I'm just ornery.

Look, there's nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the privileges of safe housing, well-running cars, delicious fresh food, high-quality healthcare, etc. I love those privileges. But there is a very great deal wrong with making $300K a year and keeping your part-timers as 39-hour-a-week contract employees so you don't have to pay them health benefits. Or nickel-and-diming your housecleaner.

I've sat through these exact arguments. I didn't find them convincing when I was 20 and I find them less convincing now.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:02 PM
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49: I'm on your side! And my shitty story up at 1 ALSO happened in Seattle! And all the merry chucklers were talking about when they would vest! Fuck off, 1999!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:02 PM
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50: Depends. As I understand it, there are a number of very smart people who at least used to think that the "manager" wasn't actually doing anything useful. $150K's pretty good for that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:04 PM
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Sifu, not a lot compared to what? The median household income in this country is about $50K. "He's in charge of a lot of money, and people who are in charge of a lot of money should be paid way, way more than they could ever possibly need" is not a compelling rationale to me.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:04 PM
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She sneered at me -- really, she sneered -- rolled her eyes, and said: "you have no idea what you're talking about. You couldn't possibly understand how hard I worked in those two years."

That was your cue to punch her in the face.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:05 PM
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My general thought is that a system that requires heroic individual effort is a bad system, be it emergency management or CEO-hunting.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:07 PM
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54: 150k also doesn't nearly qualify in my book as "way, way more than you could ever need", but I have generally lived in decadent coastal enclaves.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:08 PM
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If it helps, I vested underwater.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:08 PM
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57, see 41. Boston-area cost of living is nuts. Comity!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:09 PM
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Ogged, what's the chance (slim, I'm guessing) that this is just spending over their heads?


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:10 PM
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They can afford it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:14 PM
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59: that aside I think it's perfectly possible to make tons of money while advancing good ends without exploiting anybody, or at least anybody in your employ.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:15 PM
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You couldn't possibly understand how hard I worked in those two years.

Alternatively, I'm betting the average migrant agricultural worker trounced her ass in the hard work category, for more than two years.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:17 PM
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62: The ability to believe that is the first precondition to making a ton of money. Now you must work on the next step: wealth creators drive most of the good in the world and, if anything, are underpaid.

Tevya had it right: If money be curse, may the Lord smite me with it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:20 PM
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64: Salk made a ton of money. FDR made (okay, had, but he made a lot, too) a lot of money. QED.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:24 PM
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Larry and Sergey made a shit-ton of money before really starting to do what might be called exploitation, and even then they're mainly exploiting Ivy League graduates, who probably deserve it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:27 PM
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57: 150k also doesn't nearly qualify in my book as "way, way more than you could ever need", but I have generally lived in decadent coastal enclaves.

*Need* or *want*? I mean, I live in SF, and $60K a year would be more than I need.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:32 PM
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Look, there's nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the privileges of safe housing, well-running cars, delicious fresh food, high-quality healthcare, etc. I love those privileges. But there is a very great deal wrong with making $300K a year and keeping your part-timers as 39-hour-a-week contract employees so you don't have to pay them health benefits. Or nickel-and-diming your housecleaner.

Right on. This is why I tip like a motherfucker.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:33 PM
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51: I've sat through these exact arguments.

I haven't seen any arguments: I've seen "they deserve it for managing so much money" and "I worked so hard" and "the cost of living is nuts."

Put these together and they provide a rationale, but not an argument for extreme income disparities on a societal or global level. But I'm not sure if that's what's sought here. The original post was about how one becomes what one is, and (I presume) whether one can or should live comfortably with it: I take it that it's a question about perspective.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:34 PM
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52, 55, 63: In 1999, I had just started my first tenure-track job and was living in Norman, Oklahoma. My wonderful and long-suffering wife was a like the women in classic frontier settlement narratives: gazing east, wondering when the savages (Baptists, in this case) were going to perform some sort of ritual bloodletting on our front porch.

It was not the easiest time, even though the people at OU, it should be said, were great. Anyway, I kept getting e-mails from friends living in Seattle and the Bay Area. Several had started "awesome" business like Zipit.com*, a site that could deliver no goods and no services and had no way of generating revenue that anyone with a brain could discern. And yet, some bigger start-up had come calling and thrown millions in options at my friends, some of whom were smart enough to cash out before reality came calling. It was insane. But I was happy for my friends. I really was. At least for those who had the good sense to be humble and nice about their good fortune.

That was the context in which I went to the wedding mentioned upthread. That I didn't punch my wife's friend in the face cost my years of my life. Really.

* The names have been changed to protect the innocent -- and the guilty, truth be told. But I could tell some really great stories if I were writing anonymously.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:35 PM
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Most well-off people underestimate their position in the income distribution. Here's a test: without looking it up, how much money do you think your household would have to make in a year to be making more money than 95 percent of American households?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:36 PM
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71: 130K?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:38 PM
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About $65K or so?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:38 PM
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71: At a guess, I'm gonna say $60K.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:38 PM
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71: between 100 and 150 would be my wager, but again decadent coasts etc.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:39 PM
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Wow, I'm way wrong.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:40 PM
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90K?


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:40 PM
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Clearly LB and I are yuppie scum.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:40 PM
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Would it be wrong to talk about the caucus results? I haven't watched cable news since Kerry got swiftboated. And I just heard Chris Matthews say the word "dramatical." Is this now the norm?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:41 PM
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I would guess lower than 60K. Maybe 40K?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:42 PM
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Most well-off people underestimate their position in the income distribution. Here's a test: without looking it up, how much money do you think your household would have to make in a year to be making more money than 95 percent of American households?

And something that's worth repeating is that the roughly power-law-ish income distribution combined with a generic class sorting means that the more you make, the less you make as a percentage of the richest person you know.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:42 PM
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LB wins. The answer is about 150K. (Roughly a third of households make more than 65K, btw.)


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:42 PM
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Here's the answer if you want to look. Maybe a moratorium on discussing it til comment 100?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:43 PM
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Also, can John McCain really claim victory with 13%? I'll stop now, I promise.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:43 PM
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I would guess lower than 60K. Maybe 40K

Median household income is about $45K.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:43 PM
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73, 74, 80: You guys are serious? I thought median household income was not that far off 50K.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:44 PM
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And I just heard Chris Matthews say the word "dramatical."

Right after MSNBC called it for Obama, he referred to Obama's "projectile victory".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:44 PM
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how much money do you think your household would have to make in a year to be making more money than 95 percent of American households?

Household?

$100K?

Of course 95% of American households means 99.9% of the world's households.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:44 PM
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82: Heh. I was actually going to guess 150, but lowballed myself in a hope not to look like yuppie scum.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:44 PM
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87: My son does that sometimes. Hard to clean up. Really nasty stuff. And I thought Obama was clean.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:45 PM
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Upthread the median was reported as $50k. I recall that the top 1% was somewhere around $300k. So 95th percentile I'm guessing around $150?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:45 PM
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to be making more money than 95 percent of American households?

This is so missing the point. The point is not that there are people poorer than ogged. You might as well bring up the starving children in Asia. The point is that people ogged knows are buying Ferraris.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:45 PM
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I just thought it was interesting in light of the repeated "$150k is not that much to live on" stuff above.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:45 PM
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I'm great at guessing the answer to questions when the answer is posted 10 comments earlier.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:46 PM
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Rudy just said, on CNN, "we didn't put a lot of effort into Iowa." You go, Rudy! Screw the heartland!


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:46 PM
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Yay empirical data.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:47 PM
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"projectile victory"

Olbermann laughed and congratulated him on inventing the term.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:47 PM
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I think national medians are a sort of broken way to look at income, though. If you live somewhere where the cost of living is high, it really is high; you're not just deluded about it because you're out of touch with the real America.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:47 PM
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Holy shit is Dean red these days.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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96 to 93.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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You guys are serious? I thought median household income was not that far off 50K.

I don't know what "household" means. I figure it consists largely of one- and two-person households, almost none of which make more than the median household income.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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Howard Dean really is a strange-looking fellow.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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$150k is not that much to live on

It's not that much to buy a Ferrari with.

More seriously, it's not that much to buy a house, two cars, a color teevee, have two kids, and send them both to a private university, while providing for one's retirement.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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Shorter Howard Dean: I'm very good at my job. Really, really good at my job. And please don't show a clip of the scream.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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93: I've got a certain amount of sympathy for it in terms of other opportunities and the people you have to work with. There's something weird about being in a federal courtroom where the judge makes less than the junior associate carrying the partner's briefcase (admittedly, the judge usually used to make a bunch more).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:48 PM
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... and Rudy closes his "Iowa ain't shucks" speech by saying he's running a fifty-state strategy. Awesome!


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:49 PM
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That didn't say 75% of households, did it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:50 PM
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102: I'm watching this on a projection tv at the condo in which we're staying. And Howard Dean's head is larger than life. Or maybe not. So, yes, quite strange looking. He appears to have had a bit of work done, no?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:50 PM
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There's something weird about being in a federal courtroom where the judge makes less than the junior associate carrying the partner's briefcase

Well, the judge can't be fired (probably worth $150k/year in salary), gets to wear cool black robes to work ($100k, easy), and has the wooden hammer that makes everyone shut up when he bangs it (worth $250k a year if it's worth a penny!).


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:51 PM
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Slol, find MSNBC. It's only fun if we're all watching the same thing. David Axelrod (and his mustache) are on now.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:51 PM
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Also, someone needs to paste the bit from Bonfire of the Vanities where Sherman McCoy explains exactly why it is you can just barely get by on $1M a year.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:53 PM
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Here's one tough s.o.b.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:54 PM
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Serious question: if Romney had run as himself, or whatever self he thinks is his, would he have won? And if that's the case, shouldn't the long knives be out for Team Romney not just Mark Penn? Also, I think Mathews just said that Obama won because young women want to fuck him. And he used "dramtical" again. And then follow up with "dramatic-pause-alternative," as though his producer said in the earpiece, "dude, stop saying dramatical! That's a dumb word."


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:54 PM
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103 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:55 PM
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I don't know what "household" means. I figure it consists largely of one- and two-person households, almost none of which make more than the median household income.

Here ya go, Ned.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:55 PM
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if Romney had run as himself, or whatever self he thinks is his,

The antecedent assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:57 PM
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Here's one toughbloodthirsty s.o.b.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:57 PM
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103, 114: Now we're talking about two different things. How much is $150K compared to what the majority of the country is trying to live on? Pretty nice income. How much is $150K given the comforts and security that many (most?) Americans would like for their families? Not as much.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:58 PM
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118: It depends on how normal it is to have huge debts.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:58 PM
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113: what, as a greater supporter of gay rights than Ted Kennedy who brought universal health care to Massachusetts? I doubt it.

He might have tried being a tiny bit less transparent, I suppose.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:58 PM
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118: well then, "more than you could possibly need" becomes "what most people believe would be comfortable", which is different. Should somebody working long hours to make a large, mission driven enterprise succeed earn as much as most people think would be comfortable?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:02 PM
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I was thinking of: I'm competent, capable, handsome, hugely rich, and share your core values. I had to run a librul state, but I deserve credit for doing it well. You might not like my views on everything, but I'm going to win. Big. Because I always do. At everyhting. And when I do win (wink, wink), I promise to appoint judges like Scalia.

I think he could have gotten away with that.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:04 PM
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This is why I hate Seattle.

Eh, I always assumed that most of the people in the Seattle area hated MS/Amazon employees for precisely this reason, but perhaps that's just my circle of friends.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:04 PM
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God, all the stuff about "the Villagers" gets a bit tedious. But then I watch cable news for the first time in four years, and it's so, so true. These guys will do anything to make McCain, with his 13%, the winner.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:08 PM
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I'm not a religious man, but I'm going to pray, just this once.

Please, God, don't let Obama fuck up. Please, God, just give me three hundred and some-odd days of Obama not fucking up. Please, God, don't let anybody shoot Obama. Thank you, God.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:08 PM
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"Please, God, don't let anybody shoot Obama. Thank you, God."

Let us all pray for that. Seriously. Such a thing is almost too horrible to contemplate.

Also also, God, make Chris Matthews go away. Or lose his voice for nine months.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:10 PM
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And by "pray" I mean "hope." Or "prey." Whatever your thing is.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:10 PM
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125: I'd like that embroidered on a sampler.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:13 PM
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Also, Edwards is positioning himself to be Obama's veep. At least that's how I read his ongoing attacks on Hillary. Really, why else would he do this? Regardless, more bad news for Hillary, I think. She needs Edwards to join her in attacking Obama, no?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:15 PM
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What the hell is that sort of sampler called a sampler, anyway?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:15 PM
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You kill Obama and we will BURN SHIT DOWN.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:16 PM
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By the way, I'd kill and die for that ticket, the most progressive of the last fifty years.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:16 PM
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We will BURN SHIT DOWN.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:16 PM
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We will be PWNED.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:17 PM
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Obama/Edwards and hire Dodd to go around fixing the Constitution and biting people who get in his way.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:17 PM
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Cala, Matthews says that you'd just burn shit down because of your lust for Obama. And so begins the jungle fever meme. Really, prepare yourselves for some awesome displays of coded racism. And not so coded.

And Edwards really is great.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:18 PM
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What the hell is that sort of sampler called a sampler, anyway?

It's for showing off your ability to do a whole bunch of different embroidery stitches.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:19 PM
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And it's small.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:19 PM
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Fuck Matthews.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:20 PM
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136: oh man, Obama vs. Huckabee would be the racism olympics.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:20 PM
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9: 7: No, but I should read it. At work.

My first exposure to Confederacy of Dunces was when a friend brought it to me at my desk and said, "This is a great book to read while screwing off at work." He was right.

I suspect that I am the result of a particularly weak conception on the part of my father. His sperm was probably emitted in an offhand manner.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:20 PM
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Edwards had to remember to say "it's not over." Seriously, he as much as said: I want to be Obama's veep. I love that ticket so much it hurts me. And John Edwards make me proud to be a Democrat. I hope Obama will do the same one of these days. He used to but hasn't for awhile.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:22 PM
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No coverage of the fact that lower-income houses don't often caucus. C'mon Keith, you're better than that.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:24 PM
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Boy if Matthews was sucking Obama's dick any harder he'd break a molar.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:25 PM
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ooh, I missed the lust thing. Okay, I retract my comment on the other thread--cut off his pixie sticks.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:26 PM
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140: Whoever is the nominee on the Dem side, I think we are in for one huge fucking fiasco of a campaign. Depending on the nominee, it will take different forms. Obama - the coded and not so coded racism, Clinton - completely uncoded misogyny and national political press hatred, and Edward - completely fucking insane crazed hatred from the national political press on the "hypocrisy" of a rich guy pushing economic populism, coded Breck girl narratives.

(And very sadly, I do believe either Hilary or Barack would be at great personal risk.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:29 PM
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Unfogged is such a shockingly wholesome slice of Americana. All this talk of samplers makes me think I'm back on the prairie with Laura and Almanzo, not to mention the damn horses.

But if it means a Democrat in the White House, I'm willing to embroider...


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:29 PM
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If you consider 150K enough, you can make that much as an engineer and you don't even need to work long hours. But you are labor and subject to the whims of management so in any given field its not clear how long conditions like that will be sustained. But the really great thing about being an engineer is that you can design things that people need. Instead of leaching off our bloated and corrupt legal system as a lawyer or participating in the world's largest extortion scheme which is Wall Street finance, you can make a positive contribution to society that even exceeds your pay. But I'm not sure how many of the people around here are Techie types.

49 The correct response was to say: I guess that means those other folks are smarter than you doesn't it? If you deliver it with the right tone of voice it'll feel really good, trust me.


Posted by: mpowell | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:37 PM
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PhDs embroider for Obama!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:37 PM
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Watching Chuck Norris standing, vacant-eyed and grinning, behind Huckabee is among the scariest things I've seen in some time. And I barely know fear.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:38 PM
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148: That's more-or-less my goal. Make useful stuff, get paid, try not to become pointy-haired. It's working pretty well so far, and I manage to keep my material desires down so that I feel like I have a lot of money.

The downside is that I live in fear of the hedonic treadmill.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:41 PM
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I find the bigger problem is the security treadmill. Not buying expensive stuff is fairly easy (oh, I'm flippant about cabs, and buy books at will), but I have this nagging worry that I should have two college education's worth of liquid assets socked away, because I'm going to need them in a decade or so. Let alone retirement.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:49 PM
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I should have two college education's worth of liquid assets socked away, because I'm going to need them in a decade or so.

I want to know the answer to this question: Let's say you are like LB and making good money. And you have kids so you should be saving for college. But let's say you blow lots of money on cabs, books and sundry other luxury items, or just sink all your money into your house. When the time comes for college, you submit your financial aid packet. Based on your income you should have lots of college money for the school your kids want to go to. But you don't have a red cent. What then? Do you qualify for financial aid anyway, or is there a moral rider in the deal that says if your income is x you won't qualify for aid regardless of your lack of assets? The latter seems wrong, as presumably the college can't tell whether you only recently started earning so well.

Basically I'm asking what the incentive is to save for college. Is the catch here that only very, very few elite schools offer anything like the sort of financial aid packages that could offset such parental spendthrifts, and you can't count on getting in? In which case, never mind the blow-it-all-on-cabs scenario: why not just sink your money into the house and borrow against that when the time comes, instead of accumulating a pool of cash for any college to scoop up at will?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:57 PM
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Median household income is about $45K.

No, it's around $60 K pre-tax, $50 K after taxes.

how much money do you think your household would have to make in a year to be making more money than 95 percent of American households?

It was $126 K in 2005, probably about $130 K now.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:09 PM
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Pre-tax is the standard way to count these things, so I should just have said about $60,000 for the median household income.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:11 PM
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I can see how the security treadmill gets you LB.

Most of the people I know who had six figure incomes skew a bit younger (or at least I knew them a while ago) and single. Their problem was that although they were making 3-4 times the salary I was at the time (which was still better than average household) they weren't saving any more than I was. They'd buy 75-150k cars, then get a new one a year or two later, taking a 20-30k hit. You could buy a decent new car every year and just throw it away on Jan 1 for the same money. One guy I knew told me: `holy crap, my accountant just figured out I spent over 25 grand in restaurants this year'. I guess he was trying to impress dates. They all just weren't paying attention, because they really didn't have to, and it bleeds away. Most of them bought houses they could only just afford on their salary. I understand not wanting to live like a student your whole life, but that's not the same thing at all.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:14 PM
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strange culture
gossips told by guys are weird and degrading
i always suddenly loose all my respect for the guy gossiping
just an observation


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:19 PM
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153: As of 1985 (not helpful, I know), a Seven Sisters school wouldn't give so much as a low interest loan to the daughter of a Blue Chip Transnational planner-type earning something like $100k. I suppose there were savings/stocks that make that situation different from what you're outlining, but it seems to me that, if you can service an open-market loan for college, you will be expected to do so, and the various low-interest loans are for people who couldn't pay off regular loans. Nobody gets grants/significant scholarships anymore (is my understanding). That Ivy League sub-$60k thing is a smokescreen. It's like 100 kids/year (groundless number, but not hyperbole).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:22 PM
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Isn't 60K the mean income, not the median?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:28 PM
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159: weird. OK. I was taking my pre-tax income number from a Congressional Budget Office publication that uses a mix of income from IRS administrative records, with data filled in for households that do not file taxes using Census Bureau data from the CPS. For 2005, the rough median off that was $58,000 (average income within the middle quintile, should almost exactly equal median), I figured by 2007 it'6 likely about $60,000. Here's the link:

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8885/EffectiveTaxRates.shtml

But pure Census survey data from the CPS for 2006 gives a median household income figure of $48,000, average income of $66,700:

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032007/hhinc/new01_001.htm

I knew the CBO methodology mixed IRS tax data with Census data but I didn't think the difference would be so great. The post-tax CBO estimate almost exactly equals the Census CPS figure, but I'm pretty sure the CPS question does ask specifically for pre-tax income. I know that there's always been some doubt about whether the CPS data really captures pre-tax income though, so perhaps that's an explanation.

Sorry to wonk out.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:47 PM
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just an observation

About life, read? Or this thread?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:51 PM
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I suspect it's this thread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:02 PM
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Basically I'm asking what the incentive is to save for college.

The incentive for saving for college is the knowledge that, for the past two decades or so, the costs of college have been rising, rising, rising, and with no end in sight. God knows where the money goes, and I'm pretty sure it's not directed toward the attraction and retention of full-time faculty...But anyway, it's not (or not really) about books or cabs or luxury items or spendthrift parents ... it's about dramatically increasing college costs and about not wanting your kids to mortgage off their futures for the sake of a course of studies in comparative literature or whatever might strike their fancy...

I could rant at length on this topic, but restrain myself out of a sense of decency...


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:07 PM
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sometimes i'm not sure I read read right.

I dunno how much of it was from what I said, but for what it's worth that was gender skewed but not just guys. Dunno if that changes anything.

The people I know with six figure salaries (or maybe higher these days, who knows) tend to be either physicians or tech types who were in a good place at the right time. The latter particularly skew young, but I've known a few newly minted attendings too.

I'd guess being young & single with that sort of salary often leads to just not paying too much attention to your money (unless money is what you do). Age and more responsibilities would tend to change that, I suspect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:10 PM
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The people I know with six figure salaries (or maybe higher these days, who knows) tend to be either physicians or tech types who were in a good place at the right time.

Six figures is really not that much in tech these days (at least, not on the coasts). I'd expect a mid-level engineer (say, 5 years' experience) to be making that much.

Of course, six figures is not what it used to be. According to this inflation calculator, $100K in 2006 dollars is equivalent to $78K in 1996 dollars.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:24 PM
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164 If you're making cash, its not really being in the 'right' place like you got a good stock deal. 100K is the going rate for a decent engineer with some experience. Better ones can probably make up to about twice as much (maybe more - I'll let you know in another 5 years or so).

152 The security treadmill bugs the hell out of me, too. I'm pretty happy with my income for now, but what about when I get married and half kids? Now I have to support a household, spend much more on housing and start saving for kids college education. Suddenly that 150K only seems sufficient, not comfortably plush.


Posted by: mpowell | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:45 PM
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165: That's true; I haven't been keeping up with trends. On the other hand, I'm mostly thinking of people in their early twenties making 150k+ when a really good entry level was, say, 55k. (i.e., 1996 dollars)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:46 PM
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hehe, should be have not half kids.


Posted by: mpowell | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:49 PM
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167: man was that ever fun.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:51 PM
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169: I caught the crest of it just out of undergrad. Didn't go for a really wild ride myself, but some of my friends did. One of them went underwater to the tune of 12m in 98... ouch, but he was pretty philosophic about it not being real money.

Strange times. Did you hold onto much? Or blow it like everyone around me seemed to be doing?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:54 PM
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Instead of leaching off our bloated and corrupt legal system as a lawyer or participating in the world's largest extortion scheme which is Wall Street finance, you can make a positive contribution to society that even exceeds your pay. But I'm not sure how many of the people around here are Techie types

This is such atrocious bullshit, by the way. I have no idea why fucking computer programmers have decided to become the new farmers (as in, people who randomly and ignorantly decide that they are the only "truly" productive labour in the world and that everyone else's jobs are worthless). I think the rot began to set in when we allowed them to call themselves "engineers".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:33 PM
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170: blew it on drugs and parties, baby. It was awesome.

171: I loved it when, one day, I got to call myself an engineer. Not for any reason, really. I just was one! Just like that! Neato.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:35 PM
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And now he can't even close an HTML tag, poor washed-up soul.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:37 PM
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Wow, I couldn't've planned that better, could I?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:39 PM
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I think the rot began to set in when we allowed them to call themselves "engineers".

Ha! Now that is truly funny.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:50 PM
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172: Ah, that's different then. As long as you didn't waste it! There were many excellent parties, as I (somewhat vaguely) remember.

Wow, I missed 148
But the really great thing about being an engineer is that you can design things that people need.

In theory, sure. That's not what most people in tech do. The idea that tech is a paradise of fulfilling necessary work is laughable. Holding it up as a shining example compared to legal and even financial work is really not going to work particularly well.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:54 PM
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177

If you want a supercar, but morality keeps you from breaking the $100K barrier, scoop up the new Nissan GT-R. On sale in Japan for the equivalent of a measly $70K in US dollars, it is the performance rival of a Porsche 911 Turbo.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 12:28 AM
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178

oh, soup biscuit asked me a question
just in general it was and about the post a little
ogged talked about how people he knows transformed into some new form :)
what caught my attention was the gossipy talk itself
but ogged is on the receiving side, not the telling
so he is safe from my harshities


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 8:03 AM
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179

Techies represent!

[Shorter 148 and 171: engineers are awesome! "engineers" are social rot!]

I try to work for companies that actually do something interesting and useful, but for every company that does, there are 10 that build ad beacons or web widgets for bored teenagers or whose CEOs endlessly blat on about Web 2.0. And for every thoughtful, intelligent engineer who's trying to build good things, there's another who's a viciously sexist egomaniac way overdue for a shower.

I like my job, but claiming that tech is either much worse than the rest of society or a noble and unsung calling is a stretch.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 9:44 AM
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180

Six figures is really not that much in tech these days (at least, not on the coasts).

Ah, a reminder that, despite being able to see the bay from my office, I do not live "on the coasts."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 10:07 AM
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Well, of course our friends are becoming "the elite"--we're growing up, and someone's going to take those jobs, and a lot of our friends are really fucking smart or ambitious. What's interesting to me about it is watching the way that people's sense of normal changes according to their peer group, and trying to stay really really conscious of how that works (and to make sure that one's peer group doesn't become too narrow).

That said, Ari's Seattle acquaintance is (1) a total asshole; (2) the kind of Seattleite that all the Seattleites I know (including a couple of Msoft millionaires) hate, hate, hate.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 10:21 AM
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182

How much is $150K compared to what the majority of the country is trying to live on? Pretty nice income. How much is $150K given the comforts and security that many (most?) Americans would like for their families? Not as much.

And therein lies the rub.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 10:33 AM
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183

Average income for a family of four if the sum total of U.S. personal income was divided evenly between all individuals in the U.S.: approximately $156,000.

Our vague sense that we ought to be rich is because we live in an extremely rich country.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 10:42 AM
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184

Average income for a family of four if the sum total of U.S. personal income was divided evenly between all individuals in the U.S.: approximately $156,000.

As a single adult does that make my share $39K or $78K?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 10:46 AM
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185

$39,000. This is based on the $11.7 trillion in personal income estimated to be earned in 2007, not full national GDP of almost $14 trillion. Total GDP per person would be up around $47,000. But you do have to do investment and such, it's not all income...best measure is perhaps between the two.

Personal income per adult aged 18-64 would be $61,500 were it divided up completely evenly, and GDP per adult aged 18-64 would be $73,500.

I'll stop now.
I'll stop now.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 11:10 AM
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186

As you can see, I'm very committed to stopping now.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 11:10 AM
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187

Actually, 183 and 185 sound incredibly fair to me. Communism, hurrah!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 11:18 AM
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188

I realize that 184 sounded potentially toolish.

The numbers are interesting, thanks for posting them.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 11:24 AM
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189

185, 187: Holy crap. I would never work again. I'd also pair up with someone I liked and start working on as many kids as possible.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 2:47 PM
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190

187 vs. 189 neatly summarize the debate over the costs and benefits of income inequality. Equity vs. incentives.

But don't worry Comrade Polymath. With no tyrannical market to force you to work, the state would step in to see that you did your duty.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 2:57 PM
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Biotech and pharma industry- pays not as well as some IT, but comparable to some of the numbers thrown around above. Science, bitches!
I make a good salary, but I also had support from relatives (inheritance, help paying for college), so I always have trouble judging whether I earned what I have or not- I bought an apartment for grad school because I had a down payment available, so I was paying a mortgage that was much less than others were paying in rent, and what do you know, I bought in 1999 and sold in 2004. (Of course, then I got right back in the market in a bigger place for a family, so that gain is up in smoke.)
At the same time, I'm also pretty cheap- parked at a meter today for a meeting instead of in a garage, don't get cable TV, keep myself from buying stuff even when I probably should. Heck, I'm pissed off at my bank because I recently deposited a check from a mature CD and they held it for 14 days because it's over $5k, and I'm mad at them about the interest I'm losing.
So overall I feel like I've saved money because of my work and habits, but I also am somewhat guilty because a lot of that savings was possible because I had some money in the first place. It's so much cheaper to live when you already have money. (Cf credit scores- you make enought money to pay off your debts? Here's more! You need money because you're broke? You can't have any for less than a 15% interest rate!)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 3:24 PM
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