Class War With a Twist: "Merely Rich" vs. "Super Rich"

At last, a class war with direct appeal to the Times affluent liberal readership.

With the Democrats taking power in January, perhaps the Times is more comfortable with blatantly showing the class-envy card, albeit adjusted for Manhattan reality. The inventive editors at the Times have found a battle that will appeal directlytoits affluent liberal readership: "the merely rich" vs. "the super rich."

Eric Konigsberg, an occasional contributor who is now reporting on a regular basis, makes the Sunday Week in Review with "A New Class War: The Haves vs. the Have Mores."

Konigsberg defines his terms based on statistics from an unlabeled liberal advocacy group, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and his own argument, full of class-war bromides about "income inequality" and "trickle-down" could also have been plucked from the CBPP.

"At this time every year, there's chatter about the magnitude of year-end bonuses in the financial sector, and the attendant fallout (or trickle-down): large tables at Peter Luger will be hard to come by in December; co-op sales will be healthy in January; and the gals who work the poles at Scores will receive more marriage proposals (and when the men who are proposing turn out to be already married, more jewelry) than ever before.

"This year's special contribution to the canon may be the argument that the moment has arrived for a battle that looks to most of the population like a battle among peers, which in a sense it is: the rich versus the rich, the meritocrats versus the meritocrats, the ambitious versus the ambitious. But it also pits two highly distinct groups, the merely rich and the superrich.

"Let's define the terms first, or at least make some attempt to. The merely rich are those whose income puts them in the top 1 percent of the population. According to a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, the average real income for the top 1 percent of American taxpaying households was $940,000 in 2004 - a difficult group to feel pity for. But to stand for a moment on its shores (let's pretend) and look toward the rapidly growing ranks of the superrich is to stare across a vast chasm indeed.

"The superrich might be the top tenth of 1 percent (average real household income for 2004: $4.5 million) or the top hundredth (the $20-million-a-year households). Income inequality is growing fastest the higher we go up the chart. While the percentage change in average real household income between 1990 and 2004 was an increase of 2 percent for the bottom 90 percent of American households, it was 57 percent for the top 1 percent; and shot up to 85 percent for the top 0.1 percent; and up to 112 percent for the top .01 percent. That is, the richest are getting richer almost twice as fast as the rich."

Now the Times can finally declare a class war on behalf of its own readership.