Unexpectedly Intriguing!
January 11, 2011

The boss1, in his usual pithy way, sets the stage:

OBAMA MATH: $250,000/year for a couple is "rich," but $172,000/year for a White House flunky is "relatively modest."

It occurs to us that we have the ideal tool to determine where, by President Obama's standards, the annual income needed to be considered "rich" begins. Or perhaps more appropriately, the annual income the President believes to be where "relatively modest" ends! We ran it with both $172,000 and $250,000 entered into it, which we're including here so you can get directly in on the fun too!

2009 Cumulative Income Distribution for the United States for Individuals Age 15+

Annual Income Data
Input Data Values
Your Annual Income (Total Money Income)


Your Income Percentile Ranking
Calculated Results Values
Your Income Percentile
Approximate Number of Americans Who Earn Your Income or Less
Approximate Number of Americans Who Earn More Than You

Using the tool, we find that an individual with an income of $172,000 would be in the 98.35th percentile of all individual income earners in the United States (at least, in 2009), while an individual with an income of $250,000 would earn more income than 99.48% of all income-earning Americans.

By contrast, the median annual income for individuals in the U.S. in 2009, the most recent year for which the U.S. Census has reported this data, is $26,134. The median income is, by definition, the amount of money that 50% of all income earning Americans either made less than or made more than during 2009. (Note: our tool slightly overestimates the median mark, estimating it to be $26,260.)

But wait! That doesn't take into account the super "cushy" benefits that government employees enjoy. The ones that, in 2008, averaged $40,785 per federal government employee. That compares with the average $9,882 amount of annual compensation benefits enjoyed by typical Americans.

Adding that average benefit value onto the President's idea of a "relatively modest" annual salary of $172,000 produces a combined annual compensation amount of $212,785. Plugging that number into the tool above suggests that this amount of compensation is higher than that of 99.11% of all Americans!

So, by the President's standards, people who earn more money than 99.11% of all other Americans are people with "relatively modest" incomes.

Expressed differently, this result indicates that an individual can be counted among the Top 1% of all individual income earners in the United States and still be considered to be earning a "relatively modest" income by President Obama.

Coincidentally, according to John Quiggin, the total amount of income earned by all individuals included among the Top 1% of U.S. income earners is about equal to the amount of government spending planned by President Obama!

We stand by our basic assessment that Barack Obama is not a smart man when it comes to money. And quite possibly, if we consider the amount of spending he plans and combine those very large numbers with this discovery of how human perception of values becomes distorted when very large numbers become disconnected from any sense of scale on a human level, we can perhaps finally understand why.


1 Not really (check the date of the linked post to understand why!) But please do copy and paste the permalink for this post for use in the tool in the linked post if you'd like to incorporate the resulting Instapundit-style HTML code into your own blog post!

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Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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