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Are 50% Of Americans Lazy Slacker Socialists? How Much Money Do People Really Make?

One of the consistent themes that has emerged from many Republican pundits after the election is that Obama was elected by the 50% of America that is on the public dole; lazy socialist slackers that suck money away from hard-working, job-creating Americans and keep the country in perpetual debt.

Or as the Right also calls this group…..people that make under $50,000 a year.

I grew up in a middle to lower middle class neighborhood in Montana.  Most of my friends came from very average families, with parents that worked as mechanics, carpenters, nurses, salespeople, and other jobs that did not place them high on the income scale – jobs that in today’s dollars probably paid a lot less than $50,000.  But in those days the middle and lower middle class was respected and protected.  There was dignity in just trying to do any job well, and the fact that someone was not enormously financially successful did not make them an enemy of the state and anti-American.

It occurs to me that the media is giving us a warped view of just how much money most people make.  Anti-tax activists are making the point that the commonly-held “high income” level of $250,000 a year is too low (FYI – only 1.15% of Americans make more than $250k a year), and that tax increases for the rich should really start at income levels of $1 million a year or more (which accounts for 1/4 of 1% of the population).  I will admit that given my own professional success and good luck over the last couple decades I don’t have a good feel for how much people make, so I decided to to a little research.

First of all, here is the national wage index courtesy of the Social Security Administration for the last five years:

2006                               $38,651

2007                               $40,405

2008                              $41,335

2009                              $40,712

2010                               $41,674

2011                               $42,980

So it would appear the on average, most Americans make substantially less than $50k a year.  It is also interesting to note that with the exception of the beginning of the recession following 2008, wages have been increasing.

But just who are these average Americans that only make around $43k a year?  Are they just working at a “McJob” to bring in a few bucks and then drain the system for free health care and other perks the job creators are providing?  If you make under $50 grand are you a parasite on society?  Well, judge for yourself.  Here are the average salaries for a variety of jobs (based on the US Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2011):

  • Grade school teacher – $33,450
  • School Social Worker – $33,620
  • Mental Health Counselor – $42,380
  • Childcare Worker – $19,560
  • Taxi Driver – $21,020
  • Registered Nurse – $58,480
  • Minister or Clergy – $59,960
  • Security Guard – $27,910
  • Fast Food Cook – $19,010
  • Aerobics Instructor – $36,410
  • Bus Driver – $22,010
  • Policeman – $56,260
  • Financial Strategist – $90,900
  • Chief Information Office – $161,509
  • Fire Chief – $72,020
  • Insurance Broker – $62,970
  • Plastic Surgeon – $273,000
  • Math Professor – $74,460
  • Architect – $79,300
  • Hedge Fund Manager – $4.935 million (this was the mean –  the highest paid made $2.5 billion)

OK, so there are potentially dozens of interesting conclusions we could draw from the above data (and I will leave the important ones to my economist friends). but a few very random thoughts…

  • Could one of America’s problems possibly be that we value our aerobics instructors much more than we value the people that transport, take care of, and teach our children?
  • The person that pumps botox into your face makes 400 – 500% more than the person that saves you from a serial killer or pulls you from a burning house.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m just saying…..
  • What would happen if we fired 10 Hedge Fund managers and used the money to hire 700 math teachers?  Would America be better or worse off?

In any case, it would seem that a lot of America is operated on a daily basis by people that make around $50k year in really important jobs – and in fact many really crucial positions pay far less.  Attempts to portray the working class of this country like some kind of societal blood suckers are misguided.  There is no correlation between salary level and patriotism.

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One Response to Are 50% Of Americans Lazy Slacker Socialists? How Much Money Do People Really Make?

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for putting an important issue into perspective.

    Note, however, that a plastic surgeon generally is not going to spend his/her time pumping Botox. That is done by aestheticians, nurses, and technicians. It would be interesting to see how their average income fits into your list above.

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