So here’s a nice little thinky piece on income disparities and how the merely wealthy see themselves as not especially rich, particularly not when compared to their obscenely wealthy friends. It takes as its focus New Jersey Gov. Christie, whose family income came to a mere $698,838 in 2013 ($160,054 from his job as governor, and $475,854 from his wife’s income at an investment bank), according to his taxes. And yet, even though that’s definitely enough to put him into the top 1 percent of earners, Chris Christie doesn’t feel rich, as he explained in New Hampshire Friday.
“I don’t consider myself a wealthy man,” he said, and frankly, we believe him!
As Daily Beast reporter Olivia Nuzzi explains, this shouldn’t be too surprising, because compared to all his pals and supporters, Chris Christie is just barely scraping by with an estimated net worth of $5 million. Which makes Christie “exactly like many other technically rich people: not very self-aware.” That seems like a pretty compelling reason to support his candidacy: He’ll at least be in touch with the anxieties of the people he’d actually represent, though he may not quite be as in touch as Ted Oh God No Cruz, whose 2012 annual income was estimated at a bit over $1.2 million. (For comparison purposes, the amount we rounded by was a hair over $53,000, which as it happens is right around the median household income in the USA.)
But the point here, as Christie explained Friday, is that it’s really hard to be at the very bottom of the One Percent:
Listen, wealth is defined in a whole bunch of different ways, and in the end, Mary Pat and I have worked really hard, we’ve done well over the course of our lives — um, but, you know, we have four children to raise and a lot of things to do, so, no, I don’t, I don’t consider myself and I don’t think most people think of me that way.
By any objective measurement, Chris Christie is a rich man. But no, he does not feel like a rich man, because his bestest pals are fucking obscenely rich, while he is merely richer than 99 percent of Americans. There’s just such a big range of richness among the very, very rich, and even though a helicopter takes him to his kid’s ball games, poor Chris Christie feel like he’s just barely making it:
He has flown on private planes provided by Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and Republican donor, and Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. And he has been the guest of King Abdullah of Jordan—“a friend,” an aide told The New York Times — who put him and his family up for a weekend in a hotel with rooms costing $30,000 a night.
Get used to that kind of friend, and you’re going to feel pretty darned strapped when they ask you to pick up the check. Heck, you might as well be one of those minimum-wage workers who have to live an entire year on about half the value of your hotel room in Jordan. And even as a poor struggling U.S. Attorney, Christie liked to stay at the Four Seasons in Washington, which was pretty much a Motel 6 by comparison, costing only “several hundred dollars per night.”
Are you ready for the best paragraph in the whole piece?
“I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can,” Christie told The New York Times in 2014. “I really relish these experiences and exposures, especially for my kids.” In other words, Christie would like to scale back government spending — except on himself.
Nuzzi points out that Christie is not the only rich person who feels like they’re just one paycheck away from … well, not the streets exactly, but maybe having to drive those streets in a slightly smaller Mercedes:
A 2011 Gallup study found that people earning over $250,000 a year (i.e. rich people) were utterly confused about their taxes.
The majority of them believed they were being taxed too much, but the majority of them also believed that “upper-income people” (i.e. them) were paying either their fair share or not enough in taxes.
In any case, Chris Christie just wants you to know that he isn’t a rich guy. And the truly disgusting thing is that considering the company he keeps and whose money he would really like access to, he really is the pauper at the table. Still, it’s nice to know that he’s concerned with how well all Americans do, wherever they might fall within the top 1 percent of income.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is rich, too, and she should feel pretty stupid about her claim that after leaving office, she and Bill were “dead broke.” And yes, Barack Obama is rich, although as a black president, he really isn’t allowed to have nice things. But neither of them is talking about how we need to slash taxes so that America will be prosperous again, so that counts for something we guess.