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$400,000 Annual Household Income and Still Struggling?

September 29, 2010 ·

A University of Chicago Law School professor complains that he is struggling to get by with a $400,000 annual family income. IPS Fellow, Sanho Tree, has a two line response for him.

Todd Henderson, a corporate law professor at the University of Chicago, claims that he is struggling during these tough economic times--despite the fact that he has an annual household income of $400,000.

According to Fox News:

“A quick look at our family budget, which I will gladly share with the White House, will show him that, like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t,” Henderson wrote.

[Henderson] said he and his wife, a doctor, paid $100,000 in federal and state taxes last year and $15,000 in property taxes. He wrote that they have a mortgage on a house they own a short distance from President Obama’s home, and they are paying off $250,000 in student loans. With an annual income of more than $250,000, he wrote, he and his wife are  far from super-rich.

Although many people on the Right are using this story to advocate for a full-on extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, and to reject any proposals that would tax the "super rich," these numbers are incredibly misleading and ill-informed.

Like what Professor Bradford Delong of University of California at Berkeley had observed, Henderson doesn't acknowledge the fact that he is among the select few in this country. The only reason why he has so much cash output is because he has the capability to buy and pay for a nice house in a bougie neighborhood (only a short distance away from the Obamas!), and to send his kids to expensive, quality private schools. These are privileges that only the super-rich enjoy.

With our unemployment rate currently at 9.6%, and with so many people out there struggling to pay for the necessities to keep themselves alive, I wouldn't consider Henderson's situation bad at all. 

Nobody says it better than IPS's own Sanho Tree when he heard the story: "Half the planet lives on less than $2/day. It gives new meaning to the expression, 'Eat the rich!'"

So maybe Henderson should have thought twice before he decided to complain about his $400,000 annual household income.


Kevin Shih
Newman Fellow