$500 round trip commercial flight and $25,000 round trip private jet.
For those on the very bottom of the economic food chain, a cross-country flight costing $500 is out of the question, or a rare treat in their lifetime.
For a healthcare professional, a $500 flight ticket wouldn’t be a financial hurdle. In the luxury vs excess argument, the airline ticket wouldn’t be considered a luxury.
It wouldn’t make sense for a healthcare professional earning $100/hour to take Greyhound back and forth across the country and waste a week.
Then there are those who are far wealthier than the average healthcare professional and earn several million dollars a year. There are a couple hundred thousand such individuals living in the US – so not a small proportion.
These mega-wealthy might pay $25,000 for a private jet to make the same 10 hour flight round-trip. As for luxury vs excess, this is far beyond a luxury by anyone’s standards, it’s considered excessive.
- “they could do so much else with that money”
- “they are polluting the earth”
- “they are obviously earning too much if they can afford that”
The Economic Ratios
If I earn $100k a year as a PA and am able to sustainably spend $500 on an airline ticket then $25,000 must fall into that same ratio for the mega-wealthy, otherwise it truly is excessive and not sustainable.
The mega-wealthy would be earning $5M a year and, in fact, would be spending nearly the same ratio of their income for that $25k airline ticket. When you earn $400k/month, $25k is quite miniscule.
As a society we don’t value the mega-wealthy’s higher earnings the same way we are accept the higher earnings of professionals.
Luxury vs Excess
So from a bottom-up perspective, the mega-wealthy are spending in excess and wasteful and appear to be spending beyond their means. They even appear financially flagrant.
As healthcare professionals we are right in the middle of the luxury vs excess spectrum. We earn more than those considered to be living in poverty but we aren’t part of the mega-wealthy. Those from above view us as having luxuries (nice car, nice house) and those from the bottom consider us living in excess.
The mega-wealthy don’t mind spending $25k on an airline ticket. They worked hard for it and it’s a time-saver and something they feel they deserve. They can come up with 20 reasons to justify the expense just as the healthcare professional will justify their $950k single family home and their $125k automobile.
The healthcare professional is okay with spending $500 to fly across the country to see their family or partake in a wedding. They worked hard for their money and deserve to spend of it as they wish. If there are airlines willing to take their money and it’s legal to do it then what’s to stop them?
What if we adopted a bottom-up perspective from those in the lower-income groups. I would imagine for those who can barely afford gas for their car, a $500 airline ticket would be a rare luxury.
So should we be looking down as well and turning a judgemental eye on ourselves or just have an opinion of the mega-wealthy and their spending?
This discussion might matter because the wealth gap in the US is increasing quite a bit. Don’t confuse that with prosperity. It’s not a symptoms of a wealthy nation but a side effect of a poorly run economy. In the right circumstances it can also lead to enough of a divide to create internal political turmoil.
An Individual Decision
I don’t have to spend less just because others are earning less than I am. Nobody will fault me because I’m in the middle. It’s the mega-wealthy who have the spotlight on them.
And it’s the poor who believe they are victimized, shafted by the government, and a good percentage of them believe that they are owed something. That “someone” should do something to help them rise above mediocrity and poverty so that they can continue having more offspring, own a nice vehicle, carry a cell phone, and go shopping at the mall.
But if I were to live the kind of life that was more in line with those far below my earning levels, then I might feel less disconnected from them. Perhaps they, too, would feel more of a sense of tribe with me because I am choosing to not spend excessively.
Enjoying The Freedom We Have
I enjoy a freedom in this country that few in the world get to experience. I am earning more than many earn in the world. I get to cast a vote. I can express myself pretty much any way I wish without fear of a backlash.
I don’t have to worry about being kidnapped on the street because I drive an expensive car. I don’t have to worry about a corrupt government seizing my assets. And I can travel to any country except for less than a handful.
I can cross-dress, have a sex change, love another man publicly, smoke marijuana legally, and tattoo a swastika on my forehead.
Even more importantly, I have the freedom to spend less than I earn and visit the local libraries instead of the malls. I can turn off the ads blasting me daily and bury my head in books instead of misogynistic TV series.
It makes little sense to live in intentional poverty. Some healthcare professionals live in the cheapest neighborhoods and drive the shittiest cars not because they are economically enlightened but because they are cheapskates.
We only get 1 shot at this life and pretty much nobody is gonna give a fuck about how we live it. In fact, as healthcare professionals, we can live it in utter luxury and not go against any grain.
But we can also live sustainably and enjoy quite a few luxuries without taking any resources away from any of our neighbors, fellow citizens, and those in the rest of the world who we are oppressing in order to have cheap electronics and cheap gasoline.