by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
In contrast to your reader who felt like the poor kid in a very rich area, I was always teased as the rich kid in my rural Appalachian hometown. The markers of our wealth? A two-story house (a century old and under rolling renovation) and the fact that my brothers and I paid full price for school lunch, rather than free or reduced. In a way, we were rich: our parents were college graduates, we had all the books we could ever want and all three of us are in the process of being highly educated. But given my broader experience now, I know we were probably on the lower end of middle-class as self-employed farmers, in a county of the working poor.
When talking about cost of living difference between regions it seems that everyone becomes to focused on the highly variable costs like housing that they forget we live in an economy that is very much nationalized. An Ipod in San Francisco costs the exactly the same as it does in Idaho. This is true for cars, big macs, and a whole range of products that are marketed nationally. So even though $100,000 doesn't go as far in New York as it does in Tallahassee, in the national economy that $100,000 will still get you a lot of purchasing power.
Regarding privilege--today, if I wanted to, on a lark I could spin a globe, close my eyes, and point, and whatever country my finger landed on, eat fresh cuisine from that region at a restaurant within a bike ride of my home. My fiance has three living grandparents in their nineties. I know no one who has had measels, polio, or smallpox. Aside from my maternal grandfather (who was murdered in NYC almost ninety years ago for being a Jewish foreman on a Christian crew building an office on Park Avenue) and one or two freak heart-attacks, no one in two generations in my family has died before age 70. My political and personal freedom is all but absolute.
I own an inexpensive piece of electronics that can play for me nearly any work of music every composed, played by almost any musical cadre that has ever performed it, or at my whim instead play lectures by some of the preeminent teachers alive.
I could cut my salary (already below the median income) in half and all of this would still be true.