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December 2nd, 2012
07:20 AM ET

Letters to the President #1413: 'Rich and Richer'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is hard on the trail of the wealthiest Americans, intent on tapping their wallets for a bit more in taxes…but who exactly is rich?

Dear Mr. President,

I noticed that you were out in the country meeting with people and making your pitch about this idea of taxing the rich a good bit more. I’m not entirely sure why since the polls suggest most people are on board with that idea anyway, but it’s your schedule so good luck with that…

I do have a question, however: Do you think you’ll have to find some other way to define rich?

The question occurs to me because you current definition is a might broad. Here is what I mean: You seem to be calling anyone who makes more than $250-thousand as a couple “rich.” So yes, Warren Buffet is rich. He is one of the wealthiest human beings on the planet, and he shows up on lists of billionaires all the time. He could win the Powerball lottery and not even notice the change in his bank account. That is rich. Really rich.

But under your definition, here are some more rich people: Dave and Susan live in a modest house outside of New York which, because of the cost of real estate is valued at a million dollars. They have both worked hard all their lives to reach a point in their 50’s at which they each make about $150-thousand dollars. They are putting two children through college and trying to save for retirement. They would like to take a vacation now and then, but it is always somewhat limited because they take their financial responsibilities seriously. They are, by your terms, rich too. But they are in no way, shape, or form anything like Warren Buffet, and I suspect many of them, especially near large cities where the cost of living can be terribly high, don’t find your idea of “fair” to be so.

A mouse is a mammal, and so is an elephant, but you can hardly suggest they are the same thing.

Anyway, I’m not telling you how to handle this. Perish the thought. Were the country in my hand for twenty minutes I’m sure calamity would follow. Still, it might help if you made it a bit clearer that you are aware of…and prepared to deal with the details…of the very different differences between the rich and the really rich among us.

Call if you can. My Saints are pretty much out of the playoffs, so I’m available to chat.

Regards,
Tom