Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

She's Just Not Very Bright

Megan McArdle is not very intelligent. She talks a good game but we all know people who pretend to be smarter than they are, who can talk so fast and so voluminously that they can fool people into believing they are smart, but when pinned down reveal that their facts are erroneous and their reasoning skills are non-existent. Let's watch Megan McArdle demonstrate her complete inability at reading comprehension. The important parts are bolded but we present the complete context so you can see why McArdle's readers don't notice her errors; most of them aren't very bright either.

Leon Jones 1 day ago in reply to plamus

yeah, reagan was promised 280 billion in cuts for closing 98 billion in tax loopholes. The Dems got the tax loopholes closed but the spending cuts never happened.

When will the Republicans realize they are dealing with the Politburo?
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Eric Treanor 1 day ago in reply to Leon Jones
Maybe around the time Republicans realize that when they were in power, they turned a trillion dollar surplus into a trillion dollar deficit, kept two wars off the books so they could pretend they were fiscally responsible, and took us into the worst economic crisis in 80 years.

Maybe the biggest difference between the two parties is that at least the Democrats don't pretend to be what they're not.
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ajwpip 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor

This is awesomely silly. Did the republicans use dissapearing ink when the funding was written into "the books". Good thing you were too smart for 'em!

It was also really awesome when Clinton had that trillion dollar surplus. It was just piled up on the whitehouse lawn and Hillary swam around in it like Scrooge McDuck.
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Eric Treanor 1 day ago in reply to ajwpip
Of course it was silly. It's awesome silliness doesn't change the fact that war funding under Bush was always part of what were called "supplementals" and were never included in the official government budget. So until Obama assumed office their cost were never part of the official yearly budget deficit.
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ajwpip 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
Umm, no. All spending was included in every year's historical spending. It wasn't sitting in a secret file sprung on Obama when he took oath. The wars were accounted for each and every year towards the deficit.

Not as important but funding something like a war broken out into its own supplemental is actually good accounting (people can argue this either way). Rather than hiding it a supplemetnal appropriation highlights the spending. Think about it - is it easier to hide the funding of a war if you fold it into the general defense funding or if you make everyone vote on it all on its massive lonesome.

Also - the Clintons had about an $18 billion dollar surplus for a brief moment. There was never anything even close to a trillion dollar surplus. And the surplus we had was only possible if you didn't account for Social Security liabilities (which you can make an honest case shouldn't be counted till they are due).
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Eric Treanor 1 day ago in reply to ajwpip

With all due respect, you're simply wrong. Bush's war spending was always submitted as "emergency supplemental spending" and was never part of the federal budget. This allowed him to bypass the federal debt ceiling which is presently the cause of much debate.

Google it.

Or read this, if you'd like:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroo...
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JoshINHB 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
You're just flat out wrong.

Funding the war through emergency supplemental appropriation did not prevent the public from knowing the cost of the wars, nor did it exempt the war funding from being subject to the debt limit.

What it did do was prevent the funding from being built into the next year's baseline, as happened with Obama's stimulus.
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Eric Treanor 1 day ago in reply to JoshINHB
I didn't say that funding the war through supplementals necessarily prevented the public from knowing the costs. I said the costs weren't included in the federal budget and, as a consequence, weren't subject to the debt ceiling. Both those claims are indisputable historical facts.

Follow this link:

http://www.boston.com/news/glo...

Or at least read this, from the article:

"Why is a supplemental request the budget vehicle of choice? Because as an emergency measure, it doesn't count against the budget ceiling that Congress adopts to guide spending, and therefore isn't figured into government estimates of our annual budget deficit. So, for the last four years, these emergency spending bills have helped President Bush obscure the true cost of the war."
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Trimalchio 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
Indisputably incorrect. The supplements are in addition to the discretionary budget authorization from Congress, but are absolutely subject to the 14th Amendment. Your citation says nothing about the debt ceiling.
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JoshINHB 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
Because as an emergency measure, it doesn't count against the budget ceiling that Congress adopts to guide spending, and therefore isn't figured into government estimates of our annual budget deficit.

That is true as far as it goes.
But that does not mean that the funding was not subject to the debt ceiling.

And it also is only relevant to the projected deficit during an ongoing year.

The costs of the war are most definitely accounted for in the historical budget deficit statistics and in yearly net debt levels.

Look, I was and am a huge opponent of all of Bush's wars, but this line of argumentation has always been idiotic.

The cost of the wars was not hidden in any meaningful sense. Yes it was not included in the deficits of the budgets passed by Congress, but it was always included in the estimated deficits that were routinely reported in the media and it was included in the actual yearly deficits that were recorded after the fiscal year was closed.

It's important to realize that the budgets passed by Congress are an estimate, the actual revenues collected can and do vary from those estimates and actual expenditures vary also.

Accounting for the wars in supplemental appropriations was a way to prevent their cost from being factored into the baseline budget for the next year and also a way to isolate all of the expenditures for the war. Ultimately, it may or may not have been the ideal way to account for those costs, but the idea that it was "hiding" the cost of the war is just plain nonsense.
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ajwpip 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
The debt cieling was raised every year Bush was in office. Obama even voted against it for that brief moment he was in the Senate.

The only substantive debate about how to account for the war was whether you think it should be part of the baseline. On one hand you can say it is a discreet event that won't last forever so we shouldn't have the Pentagon expect his level of funding in perpetuity. On the other you can say that the war will last a long long time and we should account for it as the ongoing semi-permanent thing it has turned into. Both have their trade-offs. What you cannot do is say that the cost was hidden. that is just plain wrong.
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Eric Treanor 1 day ago in reply to ajwpip
I guess that in order to debate me you find it necessary to distort—or to willfully misread—what I've written.

I never said that the cost of the wars was "hidden." In my initial post I said that Republicans "kept two wars off the books so they could pretend they were fiscally responsible"—a claim I stand by. As that claim seemed to have confused you, I clarified that by it I meant that war funding wasn't included as part of the federal budget until Obama became president. You can walk your way around that fact as much a you'd like, but it doesn't change the fact that Republicans used "emergency supplemental spending" to make their deficits look smaller than they were and to be sure that war spending didn't "count against the budget ceiling that Congress adopts to guide spending," as the Boston Globe editorial states.

TreeJoe 22 hours ago in reply to Eric Treanor
Eric,

You've been rebutted on several of your assertions (which you are no longer making, so I can only assume you realized you were in the wrong). But let's go to the next step.

Several people have outlined the reasons why you'd make war spending a supplemental spending item. In addition, supplemental spending gets its own vote - so what you are saying when highlighting it is that Republicans advanced a supplemental spending bill every year that highlighted the war's cost independent of the overall budget? And this continued after the 2006 elections when the Democratic congress & senate took control of their respective processes?

Just to be clear, people have told you the reasons for putting war spending either in a yearly budget or in a supplemental spending bill. There are good reasons for either.

In both cases though, the deficit is always clear at the end of the year - and has always been reported. A deficit planned at the beginning of a year is a joke, considering how much supplemental spending occurs in general as well as how much tax receipts fluctuate.

Your argument is nothing but partisan talking points, and that has been illuminated here by people whose policies represent both sides of the aisle. Why don't you cease, as you are simply hurting your own credibility.
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McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Eric Treanor
With all due respect, you're wrong. This is a weird meme that shows up regularly on the left, having mutated from a reasonable complaint that Bush was submitting budgets that didn't include the cost of the war, to a ridiculous belief that that war spending somehow disappeared down the memory hole and was never accounted for anywhere. If anyone says this, they do not understand how the budget works.

It's entirely true that most of the war funding (not all) was done as supplementals, and wasn't accounted for in the prospective budgets that Bush submitted. But it was always tallied in the historical figures, which is what we use to discuss the Bush budgets now, since he isn't submitting any more of them. Any comparison of Obama to Bush includes the war spending. The OMB did not just pretend it didn't happen. And the Congressional Budget Office, whose forecasts are generally used in preference to the OMB (White House) forecasts, hasn't changed their methodology for this stuff either.

We know how big the Bush deficits were, including the war spending. And the Obama deficits are several times larger.
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susanoftexas 23 hours ago in reply to McMegan
You misunderstand.

"This is a weird meme that shows up regularly on the left, having mutated from a reasonable complaint that Bush was submitting budgets that didn't include the cost of the war, to a ridiculous belief that that war spending somehow disappeared down the memory hole and was never accounted for anywhere."
Eric Treanor did not say that the war spending disappeared down the memory hole and was never accounted for. He said it was kept off the books to avoid budget ceiling debates. If you read the linked articles you will see that the accounting tricks also prevented Congress from debating non-emergency military spending slipped into the emergency spending.

"Some of the so-called emergency replacement items in the 2007 request won't even be available until 2010 or later. We've been asked to replace two $20 million fighter aircraft with $200 million Joint Strike Fighters, which are still in development.
At the same time, the emergency request skimps on equipment badly needed by troops being deployed to Iraq as part of the surge. Why was Congress told that the Army can't even meet the basic needs for these Iraq-bound units?

Millions and millions of dollars are included in supplemental appropriations requests that should be spelled out, prioritized, and justified through the regular congressional authorization and appropriation processes. Instead, they are hidden behind an emergency label." (US Representative Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.)
Whether or not the spending was later tallied in historical figures is irrelevant to the issue. The spending was put off the books to eliminate Congressional oversight over the Pentagon's spending decisions, pad the appropriations, and help Bush avoid politically dangerous battles over the debt ceiling and the Administration's priorities in fighting the war, such as scrimping on battle armor while funding spending on non-emergency Pentagon projects.

Both sides were upset by process; Republicans as well as Democrats don't like it when the president takes away some of their power.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., doesn't like the way the Bush administration is paying for the Iraq war. Neither does Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. Granted, the two don't agree on much. But they do agree that funding the war piecemeal and off the books -- through "emergency" supplemental spending bills -- is a phony way of doing business.
"It needs to be in the budget," said Coburn, a conservative budget hawk, in an interview about the cost of the Iraq war. Likewise, Obey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said that supplemental bills are "a good idea if you want to hide the cost of the war. It's a bad idea if you want to be able to offer an accounting of what our war costs are."
The Bush administration, with Congress's cooperation, has insisted on paying for the Iraq war through supplemental spending bills. The funding is not included in the president's annual budgets or, in most cases, in the congressional budget resolutions, and it is considered separately from the regular appropriations bills. The money is not counted in the budget deficit estimates that the administration routinely releases. Nor is it counted against any budget caps that Congress has set for itself to abide by throughout the year.

Since U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, Congress has approved about $250 billion in supplemental spending for the mission. Now, with another big wartime supplemental pending -- the House signed off on a $91.9 billion bill in March, while a $106.5 billion package awaits Senate approval -- the talk is increasing on Capitol Hill about ending the shell game.
"At the outset [of the war], a justification could be made that it was an emergency," said William Hoagland, budget adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. These days, Hoagland added, "it does seem that this is not something that is unexpected."
But if Congress and the White House actually put the Iraq war properly on the federal books, other budget priorities -- not to mention local pork projects -- would feel the squeeze. That explains why, particularly in an election year, the game is likely to continue.
The status quo is fine with the Bush administration. Although the Congressional Research Service recently estimated that Iraq war costs would come in at $9.8 billion a month beginning in fiscal 2006, administration officials continue to insist on paying for the war in small chunks. They say that war is unpredictable and can't be budgeted a year in advance.
"The traditional annual federal budget takes up to 12 months to formulate, it takes another eight or 12 months to pass Congress, and then it takes another 12 months to execute -- a total of something like two and a half to three years," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee in March. "Needless to say, in war, circumstances on the ground change quickly. The enemy has a brain -- is continuously changing and adapting their tactics."
Despite Rumsfeld's entreaties, a growing number of lawmakers -- Republicans as well as Democrats -- are raising objections to war-by-supplemental. "Last year, we were pretty clear, on both sides of the aisle, in this and the other body, that we think supplemental funding needs to stop," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, at a February hearing on the defense budget. "Congress and the American people must be able to see the full cost of the war, and it must be done through the regular process, not through supplementals."
For his part, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., fumed in a March interview with National Journal: "The administration is running two sets of books here.... There are two sets of books, and one is not subject to the budget controls."
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Eric Treanor 16 hours ago in reply to McMegan
I know they didn't disappear down a memory hole; I know they're part of historical figures. I never said otherwise. Kindly refute what I wrote, not what you read. Sadly, those appear to be two different things.

Thank you, susanoftexas, for saving me the trouble of once again spelling it out.

Poor thing. McArdle tries hard, but what can she do when she is not able to understand what she reads? It is no wonder she is wrong so often, but surely pride should keep her from frequently demonstrating it in public? She makes from about $1-200,000 a year from The Atlantic, plus speaking fees and a $25,000 fellowship, yet she can't even understand what she reads. It's a wonderful time to be a pundit, but it's a terrible time to depend on a pundit for information or opinion.

30 comments:

R. Porrofatto said...

Splendid. But how unfair of you to use facts and point out yet again how McArdle misrepresented the original comment, which seems to be SOP for her, despite the fact that her wet-noodle arguments can't even skewer her own straw men targets. I can't tell if it's bad reading comprehension or simply intellectual paralysis in the face of any well-constructed argument that conflicts with her own petrified dogma, but it's always a treat to see how you make her look ridiculous without even breaking a sweat.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

...but surely pride should keep her from frequently demonstrating it in public?

Requires self-knowledge not in evidence...
~

Anonymous said...

needs more civility and charity Susan!
*snark*
mythical libertarian charity!

Downpuppy said...

Eric did screw up early on -I said the costs weren't included in the federal budget and, as a consequence, weren't subject to the debt ceiling

Instead of debt he meant budget, or some of the pay as you go rules that have been added as gimmicks various times.

She's wrong, of course to compare recent deficits with anything before 2009, Bush's last budget, after the crash.

Benjamin said...

Well the topic of the war, and in particular the means by which it was/is financed, has always been megan's strong suit.

I mean, really, if you were one of those that either suggested the war would finance itself via oil revenues or, like Megan, claimed that it would not be a dead weight on futures budgets, then you really should just accept the verdict of history and move on. I know she won't, but still

Anonymous said...

she is an eager little errand girl who thinks she'll eventually fail her way to becoming an overlord. this is why she takes such exception to pointing out she's an errand girl or kochwhore or just plain wrong.

Batocchio said...

Nice job.

When you're the brilliant McMegan, you don't need to research facts or even read your opponent's argument, because surely he must be wrong. That knee-jerk response is accentuated when she likes the target: banksters, glibertarians, Republicans, etc. Her fanboys will rally to her, after all. It's just interesting that she waited so long to weigh in, and then does so so weakly, repeating an already-discredited point. McMegan in peak form bullshits through jargon and/or volume, the better to wear down her opponents.

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, Batocchio.

It's hard to believe such errors. Sometimes the only proper response is a facepalm.

Myles said...

It just occurred to me that Megan's problem is actually that she has no high-level, professional-equivalent skills. (A MBA is not a professional equivalent.) She isn't a CFA, a lawyer, CPA/CA, whatever.

This is actually a bit frightening to comprehend. THis pretty much explains why she just gave up after her initial investment banking internship, because to her there was no other decent career track open. (If she went to work immediately for a business without a career-track rotational, her career would have been over before it even began.

Anonymous said...

Myles, clearly you know a lot less about Megan than the rest of us.

Downpuppy said...

There's a ton of financial credentials anybody can pick up, and an MBA will get you into most of the tests.

http://www.cfp.net/learn/knowledgebase.asp?id=15

The ones worth having do have moderately hard tests, but plenty of fools have passed them with a bit of hard work.

Oops, I said the "w" word that triggers her allergies.

Anonymous said...

Has it ever occurred to you that deliberate denseness is a Republican strategy? Show them an orange and tell them it's an orange and they'll say over and over again, "It's an apple...it's an apple....it's an apple...."

That way, they're never wrong, even when they are, and you just can't win an argument with someone who simply brushes aside the actual facts.

And of course,if they repeat "It's an apple...it's an apple...it's an apple...." enough times, well they end up convincing an amazing number of people that it really IS an apple, despite what's actually in front of them, if they cared to look...

Susan of Texas said...

That's what makes this fun--someone tries to tell you that an apple is really an orange, and you tell them they must be an absolute idiot if they think they have an orange. What can they say? Nobody likes to look stupid and be laughed at, but they are trying to convince everyone they'll holding an orange and can't defend the indefensible.

The people who are afraid to acknowledge that it's an apple, not an orange, are sometimes beyond help, but sometimes they just need someone else to say it first.

Myles said...

There's a ton of financial credentials anybody can pick up, and an MBA will get you into most of the tests.


She didn't do any of them (as far I can tell), though? I mean I do feel bad for her because it's actually one of those US-specific rather than Megan-specific things. (Upper-middle class as opposed to hedge-fund-assholes finance jobs are basically an expat racket and are heavily concentrated in places like Singapore, Switzerland, Dubai, etc. Americans, having for some reason a built-in aversion to going expat, are generally underrepresented in this crowd.)

This ties into things like rigorously taught (rather than PhD-track) finance MSc's, etc., which are pretty essential to that whole setup, but again are generally unfamiliar even to upper-middle class Americans, who generally prefer to just either do law school or business school.

Myles said...

(And I just looked on the CFP Board website. Ehh. They don't mean much. Those certifications in and of themselves don't make for solid, reliable career tracks. They just let you advertise yourself as selling financial services. You need actual, solid, rigorously taught programs from reputable institutions, like NYU Stern or HEC or whatever, for them to actually count in a big way.

Unfortunately, American business schools, such as NYU Stern, actually seriously try to force you to go into business-y/entrepreneurial stuff, even for their finance program, so the whole thing is structured in a really horribly messed up way, given that people go to good business schools largely to go into finance, not business.)

Anonymous said...

keep working that pivot myles. you are totes mcgoats fooling everyone. its not mcmegtard's fault. you convinced me.

Anonymous said...

Myles just pulled the equivalent of the McMegan "no one can know anything ever" with his "it's not her fault because it was not in her control, even though it ostensibly was"

Taryn Hart said...

You're doing God's work Susan. :)

Downpuppy said...

Myles, you were the one who mentioned CPA & CFA. Whether they are minion track or inside track has nothing to do with how good your academic program was.

N O T H I N G.

Megan had every chance, based on family connections & the right schools, to succeed. It requires a special level of innumeracy, laziness, & foolishness to fail as quickly as she did. Basically, she got thrown out on a walk.

KWillow said...

...it is no wonder she is wrong so often, but surely pride should keep her from frequently demonstrating it in public?

I don't think ArgleBargle has any real pride, just lots of conceit and a big (if fragile) Ego. She doesn't care about being right she only wants to look clever and sneer at anyone who disagrees with her.

John E Williams said...

Megan doesn't have to be 'right'; modern discourse isn't about accuracy or truth, it's about sustaining a point of view that subsumes and then becomes reality. She's probably going to win in the end because all the smart, snarky blogs in the world can't stack up against her Tea Party/hubby/family connection/Atlantic support system.

Myles said...

Megan had every chance, based on family connections & the right schools, to succeed.

I'm not so sure this is the case. Look: she went to Chicago MBA. Which is a pretty damn good program, but East Coast people generally don't go to Midwestern MBA programs unless they couldn't get into tier-one programs on the East Coast. It's just not as good for your career. So we know that Megan never made it to tier-one to begin with.

High-level, rigorously taught finance education in the U.S. is actually quite sparse to an very under appreciated extent. The top program is NYU Stern. Megan doubtlessly couldn't get in, and even if she did she would have faced the massive pathologies and internal inconsistencies that I noted above.

The next step down within the US, believe it or not, is the finance program at Boston College. (I'm not joking.) That's the very best Megan could have done, in the best of all worlds. At approximately the same level is the program at Vanderbilt. It's a great program, but it's still in Tennessee. As you go any further down, it's all Random State U programs that are obvious jokes that don't deliver solidly upper-middle class careers.

The BC program does place people into pretty good careers, but it is pretty much the only one (aside from NYU Stern) in the entire continental US. The point is the options for a comfortably upper-middle class career with advancement track, in that sector in the US, are not that great. Partially this is because bullshit business programs crowded out any space for decent finance programs.

Now, were Megan willing to go abroad, she probably could have gotten pretty good finance education in London or Switzerland. Americans have a generalized aversion to going expat, and these generally go hand-in-hand with going expat.

By the way, there's an erroneous perception that business education in the US functions as a substitute for finance. The average undergraduate business graduate (that's where sub-Wall Street level finance-track recruits are often found) in the US can't be relied upon to do multiple regressions properly. That's obviously not going to cut it. (A lot of Frenchmen are imported to partially make up the shortfall.)

Batocchio said...

What I find particularly adorable is the suggestion that McArdle really wants to be accurate. She is a hack, and often an inept one at that. Susan of Texas, Tom Levenson, CBPP, Brad Delong, Matt Taibbi, Hilzoy and many others have thoroughly debunked, rebutted and exposed her countless times. How many more examples of bad faith and dishonest shilling from her do you need?

More creative trolling, please.

Myles said...

By the way, even just on the CPA, CFA, etc. thing, it's probably relevant to note that CPA is not as highly regarded or rigorously applied as the standard certification (CA) in Commonwealth countries, and is generally regarded as less of a solidly professional track. And accounting is one of the big professional streams. So this is part and parcel of what I was saying.

Lurking Canadian said...

Myles, I'm going to regret this, but what would you consider a "solidly upper middle class" income? I live in a rural part of Southwestern Ontario (like, two horse rural) and I personally know no fewer than five financial planners, all of whom are living what I would consider a solid upper middle class lifestyle. I also went to grad school (not in finance, not at BC or NYU) and two of my friends got jobs in finance starting over 90 K per year.

I suspect you are defining "solidly upper middle class" as "makes upwards of half a million dollars, owns a house in the Hanptons and a chalet in Aspen and has a $10000 per week expense account for hookers and blow". Otherwise, I simply refuse to believe that it's impossible to make a decent living in finance unless you went to one of two schools.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the part where Megan claims to have been unable to find a job after her analyst position she had lined up was cut after 9/11 and then landed in financial journalism instead.

Possibly feeling shabby because she didn't have new clothes in like...a YEAR or maybe TWO...I don't even...

Myles said...

Myles, I'm going to regret this, but what would you consider a "solidly upper middle class" income?

At Cdn. tax rates, 150k in pre-tax outside of metropolitan regions, 250k in pre-tax within metropolitan regions.

Also, Southwestern Ontario (London, etc.) is one of the richest regions of Canada, and upper-middle class jobs are particularly widely available there, especially given relatively lower living costs.

Lurking Canadian said...

Myles, that is a definition of upper middle class that excludes almost all engineers, almost all academics, most small business owners and even some doctors in general practice. I just found a 2009 article in The Economist that put the top decile of income in Canada at $90000. An income twice as large as the income that places you in the top 10% of the population is not " middle class".

However, with that definition, yes it's a pretty exclusive club and I can believe that it's hard to join.

Anonymous said...

The parallels between you and Megan astound me.

Myles said...

Myles, that is a definition of upper middle class that excludes almost all engineers, almost all academics, most small business owners and even some doctors in general practice.

Sorry, I mean to say household incomes rather than individual incomes.