America's Entitled (And Doomed) Upper Middle Class

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The upper middle class is well and truly doomed by self-delusion and the pathology of entitlement.

Two recent articles describe America's entitled (and doomed) upper middle class: the top 5% of households with incomes above $206,500 annually and individuals with incomes of $160,000 or higher annually. (source: Historical Income Tables: Households Census.gov)

The first describes how businesses are responding to the new Gilded Age in which spending by the top 5% has pulled away from the stagnating bottom 95%:

In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat Companies are becoming adept at identifying wealthy customers and marketing to them, creating a money-based caste system.

With disparities in wealth greater than at any time since the Gilded Age, the gap is widening between the highly affluent — who find themselves behind the velvet ropes of today’s economy — and everyone else.

The Haven’s 95 staterooms were located so high up in the forward part of the ship that even guests in comparatively expensive staterooms might remain unaware of its existence. Depending on the season, a room in the Haven might cost a couple $10,000 for a weeklong cruise vs. $3,000 for an ordinary stateroom elsewhere on the ship.

Since the late 1990s, however, “there has been a huge evolution, maybe a revolution in attitudes,” Mr. Goldstein said. In addition to larger rooms or softer sheets, big spenders want to be coddled nowadays. “They are looking for constant validation that they are a higher-value customer,” he said. For example, room service requests from Royal Suite occupants are automatically routed to a number different from the one used by regular passengers, who get slower, less personalized service.

With a week in a top Royal Suite costing upward of $30,000, compared with $4,000 for an ordinary cabin, the focus is on “very affluent travelers, and we have no trouble filling these rooms,” Mr. Bayley said.

The second article is by an upper middle class writer who bemoans his declining income and status:

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.

We are naturally sympathetic to anyone describing themselves as middle-class who is in such dire financial straits that they don't even have $500 as an emergency fund.

But as we read further, we find the author is hardly a typical middle-class worker-bee: he was a substitute host on a national television program for a few years, received substantial advances for books he wrote (substantial enough for him to complain about the taxes due), got a Hollywood movie deal for another book he wrote, etc.

He was making enough money to suggest his film-producer spouse (yet another not-a-middle-class job) quit working, and to buy a house in the tony Hamptons which he poo-poos as nothing special. (A home in a pricey premier suburb is nothing special? In what circles is it nothing special?)

The solution to his poverty is obvious to the rest of us: sell his Hamptons home and moving to less tony digs. He could buy a house in a Midwest college town for a fraction of the Hamptons house and live happily ever after off the cashed-out equity.

The writer was never middle-class--he was upper middle-class, with upper middle-class income, assets and aspirations.

Then come his complaints: he made too much money for his kids to get financial aid to Stanford (fire up the sad violins of sympathy), so his parents had to pony up the $150,000 for each kid to attend an Ivy league university--oh, and then go on to earn Masters degrees or higher.

His wife, out of the work force for the years he was raking in big bucks, couldn't find a job as a film producer (how awful!)--and then she vanishes from the narrative: did she lower herself to take a "normal" job, or is she still a Hamptons Housewife? Are we not being told because it doesn't fit the "poor me" narrative?

His 401K retirement was sacrificed to pay for one of his daughter's wedding--and how much did that extravganza cost? Was that a wise decision?

The writer confesses he's made poor financial decisions, but he lays the blame on economic ignorance rather than the real cause: his overwhelming sense of entitlement.

This is not simply hubris; it is a pathology that characterizes America's upper middle-class, and those who aspire to membership in that class.

This article expresses the core belief of America's upper middle class: I deserve to make more money every year until I decide to retire. Then I deserve a well-funded retirement in an upper middle-class neighborhood with all the usual upper middle-class trimmings.

The list of entitlements is practically endless: my wife shouldn't have to work, even though writers' incomes are notoriously uneven; my daughters deserve to attend Ivy league colleges without taking on $100,000+ in student loan debt; they deserve lavish weddings that they don't have to pay for; I deserve a recent-vintage auto, numerous nights out to movies and dinner, annual vacations (we can assume overseas vacations, of course; how gauche to travel only in the U.S.), and so on--an endless profusion of entitlements that are completely unmoored from the realities of their chosen careers in writing (insecure) and film production (insecure).

Memo to the author: did you somehow not notice that the money to pay writers is drying up? Did you not notice that book advances are vanishing like rain in Death Valley? How clueless does a writer have to be not to be aware of the structural changes in his industry?

The writer sets out to illuminate the precariousness of middle-class life, using himself as an example: a high-end New York writer/author and his equally high-end New York film producer spouse, who made tons more money than the $50,000-per-year middle class household and managed to buy a home in one of the most desirable suburbs in America.

The writer is aware of the disconnect, and he attempts to mask this by downplaying his previous (high) income and the value of his Hamptons home. (I got the feeling he didn't even want to disclose he owned a home in the Hamptons.)

Given prices in the area, the writer is sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity--and if he had drained the equity, we can be sure he would have disclosed this poor-me factoid.

Is this a household that is flat-broke, or a house-rich, cash-poor household that spent far beyond its means for years in the belief that the upper middle-class were magically entitled to a high income, regardless of economic realities?

As we look at the economic landscape, we find this class the fantastically entitled bourgeois dominating the technocrat / managerial / professional layers of our economy--the people who pen the editorials and edit the news reports, the people with tenure or high-paying government jobs--the people who claim the mantle of knowing what's what.

The reality is this class of entitled bourgeois is utterly clueless about the financial realities that are about to hit the global economy like a tidal wave. The top 5% aren't prepared to weather a mild storm, much less survive a tsunami. They are well and truly doomed by their self-delusion and their pathology of entitlement.

With this clueless class in positions of leadership, where does that leave the nation?

Meanwhile, the economic realities that the top 5% have evaded (thanks to the "recovery" that benefits the few at the expense of the many) have pushed U.S. Suicide Rate to a 30-Year High.

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gdogus erectus's picture

Charles, that guy is not representative of the 5%. 5%'ers are more typically small business owners, doctors, lawyes or tech workers.

Just ignore articles from the unqualified. I guess you are allowed a good rant now and then....

John Kich's picture

Obama will not finish his second term! Banned independent documentary reveals the truth. This will scare millions!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8VdXZ_bi7M

HopefulCynical's picture

Every single bit of what CHS describes is the result of the financiers usurping the entire economy.

tenpanhandle's picture

I feel sorry for the described guy.  He now knows what a yuuuuge mistake it was to vote for Obammy twice.

WTFRLY's picture

Good. To quote a famous scholar.

"Welcome to the party, pal" - John McClane

nuubee's picture

I am surrounded by the kinds of people described in this article.

If I attempted to explain fully what I think about the economic future of the west, they would all think I was crazy.

When their lives are full of tears, and I'm cashing in my physical, they're going to *HATE* me for not trying to tell them.

At that point, I expect I'll have to move, and I'm prepared for that.

Stainless Steel Rat's picture
Stainless Steel Rat (not verified) nuubee Apr 27, 2016 2:18 PM

Fuck you, Charles, you whiny little proletariat. Why don't you spend a little less time bitch blogging and a little more time starting a successful business.

Tall Tom's picture

 

 

 

 

It is most unwise to start a business when THE WHOLE GOD DAMNED GLOBAL FINANCIAL COLLAPSE IS HAPPENUNG BEFORE YOUR FUCKING EYES.

 

That is just setting yourself up for a massive failure.

 

You just do not get it.

 

September cannot come soon enough.

 

I can hardly wait until the ATMs and Point of Sale Terminals do not work as everybody is so dependent upon them.

 

That is the effect of a Credit Freeze.

 

I will be laughing when you cannot get any gas to get home from work and you have to abandon your car.

 

Go ahead. Start a business. Or another business. Please. Work for absolutely nothing.

 

You can self destruct. I will just be laughing. You can be assured of that.

 

That is what it will take for you to WAKE UP.

D Nyle's picture

Well with "Lets make a Deal" Trump or "Ebay" Clinton going to be President, what can go wrong

jeff montanye's picture

read chapter six of bonfire of the vanities.

John Kich's picture

This is Donald Trump's most shocking statement yet,

However the mainstream media isn't saying a word about it!

What are they really trying to cover up?!

http://legitorscamreview.com/the-final-bubble/

Blankman's picture

Hypothetically speaking, what if you are wrong and the credit bubble continues for another 20 years? What if the guy wanted to open up a factory that produces bullets? Would you still hate him for starting a small business?

JohnG's picture

f'em.

I try to tell people - I get the glazed over eyes, some call me a crank....

f'em, and when they *hate* me later for having nice things like food, f'em then too.

DontGive's picture

I too would like to throw in the obbligatory "f'em".

Thanks you, have a nice day.

onthesquare's picture

Sometime, back in the late 50s there was a movie made with Burt Lancaster called the swimmer.  It is worth a watch and in reading this it came to mind.  Easy come easy go.  what goes up must come down.

PacOps's picture

68 ... 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063663/

When Neddy is ready to leave the garden cocktail party he has been invited to, he looks out across the valley and sees the row of pools, all belonging to his neighbors. He's obviously a poet, and sees the chain of pools as a river (Metaphor). He decides to swim back home. Little does he, or we, know at this point what going home means! He goes from house to house, he greets his friends and jumps into their pools. We become a little worried as things seem to get a little out of hand--a little more so at each house. It's not long before we realize that this "river" is (Meta-Metaphor!) a trip through time, through his life--and that he has made one fine mess of it. The ending is amazing, and almost unbearable.

durablefaith's picture

Luckily charles pointed out a lucrative option for aspiring writers. Apparently the .1 percent is paying writers to spew garbage in order to spread anger across the 5 percent.

SILVERGEDDON's picture

Charles don't know what tough times are until he has to jerk off the dog to feed the cat - until the cat gets eaten for dinner, followed shortly by the dog.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Well now THAT was a colorful phrase.

Citxmech's picture

Banned by whom?  Obviously not YouTube.

Asshole.

ClydeCrashcup's picture

Don't you know you're not supposed to ask questions, or think, in response to such posts?  You're supposed to immediately jump to the link in a panic and run around like your hair is on fire!

F0ster's picture

Exactly, and being one of those 'upper middle class' know nothings I have to say from my own personal vista that I'm far more aware of the economic realities of this world than my lower middle class cohorts. But, then again, i'm on this tin foil hat site (aka the real news) so i must be an outlier.

onthesquare's picture

The end of the nuvo riche.  

My son works at a car dealership and chats with the salesmen from time to time.  They take trade in sales for more expensive cars with more features and while the old cars have those features but the dumb money does not bother to read the owners manual.  Idots.  "I want cruise control on this new car and gps.  My trade in never had those things".  It did but they did not know how to operate them.

What does "pop the lid" mean?

astroloungers's picture

If times get tough, they will be long pig.

XAU XAG's picture

The solution to his poverty is obvious to the rest of us: sell his Hamptons home and moving to less tony digs. He could buy a house in a Midwest college town for a fraction of the Hamptons house and live happily ever after off the cashed-out equity.

 

Dear CHS

Do you have proof he has equity in his hampton house?

 

He just maybe like so many now..........I call it rent a life..........never ending borrowing to fund a make believe life they cannot afford...............all encouraged by dot gov, media and banks.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

Coming from a true working class/middle class background, I ran across these clueless type douche bags in graduate school (I paid for myself). The upper-middle class spends more than they make and have no clue how to survive on their own wits. They are ignorant and hateful of anyone else who does not meet their limited expectations. When the flush comes they will be the first to go. We at ZH should get a fund going for rope and a stand so they can take care of themseleves when the time comes.

Freddie's picture

True.  The thing about upper middle class and maintaining the lifestyle (unless there is a lot of inherited) - it requires that your profession and income are maintained to keep up with the lifestyle.

You also have to make wise financial decisions to remain upper middle class. Many people are financial illiterates who make mistakes and ZIRP has made it all even harder.  A favorable economic climate is also required to maintain an upper class lifestyle.  Look at Venezuela, Japan and now the West.

Open borders will help destroy many in the European and American upper middle class because taxes, other expenses, economic conditions will get worse.

It is like a three legged stool.  If one fails then it starts falling apart. 

Al Tinfoil's picture

I wonder what the Bilderbergers think of the common herd.  I assume the Bilderbergers know what is going on in the World, since it appears they are in control of most of it, and have their wealth and power to protect.  

They must get a good laugh at the pretensions of the Upper Middle Class, politicians, and academics, who think they are in control and wield significant influence in the World.  

I see the Bilderbergers as the zoo-keepers who watch, study, and manipulate the monkeys, chimpanzees, and baboons in their cages, throwing in food and the occasional stuffed Leopard to stir up some extra excitement.  The fights for dominance and sexual access are endless sport, and the successful get bigger piles of bananas and more supplicants grooming their fur for fleas.  The top simian in each cage probably is a legend in his own mind.

Gordon Freeman's picture

Fuck you, CHS!!!  Slamming the only people who pay income taxes in this country is pathetic.  Most UMC people work their asses off, just to pay for their own retirements.

 

What the fuck do you contribute, asshole??

Lorca's Novena's picture

Income taxes, are easily offset if you know what you are doing. Busness taxes, payroll taxes, fuel tax, etc... are every mans burden. I have no sympathy for these types of UMC as they are called, or just plain douchebags.

onthesquare's picture

Easy Gordo.  Those folks have to get their deductable expenses up.  But if they have already lowered themselves to the level of having to drink "tap water" then I am afraid the end is near.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"In addition to larger rooms or softer sheets, big spenders want to be coddled nowadays. “They are looking for constant validation that they are a higher-value customer,” he said."

We seem to have evolved into a species which craves affirmation and confirmation. All we want is masturbation 24/7 without all the mess and bother.

The end game of the entitlement mentality.

Sturm und Drang's picture

I'll take "Happy Endings" for $100.00 Alex.

Chuck Walla's picture

Where are the fecking trophies? Can't they just send special trophies to their rooms every day to validate them?  

FORWARD SOVIET!

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

It's a baby food world, where they don't have to chew their food or change their diaper, because they have others to do it for them. It won't end well and I completely lack compassion for their future outcome................

hongdo's picture

It's trying to buy a virtual world in reality before technology is advanced enough to create virtual worlds to hide out in.  Frankly, I much prefer the alleys of the real world.  Of course I have lived long enough to have gotten my  moneys worth already.

vulcanraven's picture

Damn straight, and social media has pushed the desire for approval into overdrive.

JamesBond's picture

And nowhere does it's affect show up more than with teens.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I know more than a few folks in their 60s that are glued to their fucking phones (like a teenager does) and it is so that they can look at and post shit to FaceBook.  Unbelievable.

I take people's phones during meals.

Freddie's picture

It is worse that that bro.  Thank Facebook and social media. 

Joe Cool's picture

I'm still making cities with SimCity 2000

Artemis Rand's picture
Artemis Rand (not verified) Joe Cool Apr 27, 2016 9:59 AM

Shoot buddy, I still play the old Sega Genesis. Best video game platform/console ever, IMO.

LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD (not verified) Artemis Rand Apr 27, 2016 10:22 AM

Pong.  Pong is THE only way to go...

Joe Cool's picture

SuperBreakOut...Atari Combat...Oh we Genxer's had the games...Oh ya...Warlords

Sometimes there were fist fights playing that one...

Artemis Rand's picture
Artemis Rand (not verified) Joe Cool Apr 27, 2016 11:18 AM

Adventure was a great game!

I wish Sega Genesis would of had an updated version of that one.