David Miller posted a powerful statement on this site that's worth reading. I commented, but then realized I'd posted something on my own blog that looked at the problem from a more global perspective. The post follows:
I'm 56 years old. I'm about to go into semi-retirement because over the past 20 years, my wife and I have had jobs that, by any rational standard, have made us wealthy. We're selling our house in one of the most desirable cities in the U.S., and we're going to move either to the Richmond or Chapel Hill area.
Some years back, we were having dinner with some friends. He came from a wealthy family and is a very successful lawyer — he's probably worth $10 or $20 or $100 million dollars. I don't know, but at dinner, he said he thought he was middle class.
At first I was shocked to the point of outrage. He's a conservative Republican and one of the most thoughtful people I know; I'm a liberal Democrat. Then I realized that, in his world, he wasn't wealthy. He knew people with tons more money than he had.
We're both workaholics. Everyone I know thinks they work hard, but I'd be in the office somewhere between 8 and 9, leave at 6 or 7 or 8, and then work another hour or two at home. Before I left the agency I worked for, I couldn't remember a weekend where I didn't work at least 10 or 20 hours. I really did put in 60+ hour weeks. So did my friend. Few people I've known put in those kind of hours.
And because we're very good at what we do, we get paid outrageously large amounts of money — him more than me, but after all, he's a lawyer. I'm just in public relations.
I'm not bothered by the wealth we've accumulated by being fanatical about building our savings before spending anything. I'm proud of my career: Over almost 30 years in PR, I've never been asked to do nor have I ever done anything I think is immoral or illegal — although there are enviros out there who'd disagree. I'm not bothered that I can afford to retire at 56.
But I don't understand how I can do this while 45 million Americans lack health insurance — while 1/4 of America's children live in poverty — while the middle class, the real middle class, is being squeezed so tight that two-income families with two kids making $60 or $70 thousand a year are just barely making ends meet.