America's new aristocracy: the 9.9% and their delusion of hereditary meritocracy

Originally published at:


The Great Shitsby.

The end…


Frank divides the millionaire crowd into 3 wealth segments:

Lower Richistan…$1-10M
Middle Richistan…$10-100M
Upper Richistan…$100M to $1B


History repeats itself


This is going to come out a garbled mess, but I’ll try. Wife and I made the decision to not move into the gentrified neighborhoods we could afford in Denver, but instead live in a “sketchy” (69% latino, 10% black) neighborhood where the housing prices are far more reasonable and where we wouldn’t be walling ourselves off. The neighborhood has been great, and the reality of our working class neighbors lives and how this institutional racism came to be is getting clearer by the day.

Just last night the wife and I went to the school board meeting where we were given 3 minutes to talk, representing 33,000 households. The only successful middle/high school in about a 5-mile radius of our neighborhood (it actually shares its name with the neighborhood) was carved into a district that excludes our neighborhood so that it could serve the affluent neighborhoods to the north and west. We can literally see the school from our front porch, but instead my kid would be bused 4 miles to an under-performing school. Because the working class parents in my neighborhood can’t show up to school board meetings en mass, with their lawyer husbands in tow and get everything they want handed to them.

It’s but one example, but this shit adds up. It’s sad to see and it’s sad to see the pressure on those of us with privilege, at some point the only option left to me might be to move to an affluent neighborhood and put my kid in the good school.


This is how gentrification starts, surely?


There are lots of places in the USA where a couple consisting of a OR nurse married to a firefighter would fall into this category.

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It’s curious that the cutoffs are where they are: 9.9% instead of 10%, $1.2 million instead of $1 million. Is there some abrupt cutoff at that point? I confess to curiosity.


Except that nobody is actually persecuting rich people in the United States. Quite the opposite really. Other than that it’s exactly like Dekulakization.



In not so many words, my Dear Wife and I did the same here in San Diego, East of Down Town.
We are past the our child rearing days and as it turns out several of our great neighbors are too.
I know all my neighbors, and we socialize together often, help each other when we can, and we VOTE. That one thing [voting] is our very evident common thread, it has changed our neighborhood for the better and we all have a say in the out come of this area’s future.

Long story short: Live where you can become part of the success story, get involved, do some good if you can.


How do you personally define “rich”?

(edit) I wasn’t the one who tagged this post with “guillotine watch”.

If a net worth of just over $1m (putting one in the “9.9 percent”) is the threshold, more than one of the BB editors and posters may be getting itchy necks.


Teapot Dome? I just learned about that going through back issues of The Liberator:

It’s actually a good read hat demonstrates how little has changed in 100 years.


No one in this country is persecuted in any meaningful way for being part of the rich upper class. That goes for ANYONE’S definition of “rich,” be they part of the top 10% or the top 0.1%.

Nothing happening in America today is even remotely analogous to Dekulakization.


I am guessing playing 99% for creative title reasons.


My kids went to a hippie alternative school for grades 4-8, then we sent them to the “ghetto school” during their High School years. I think it was good for them, although their mother disagrees.

But “bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Do what you need to do for your kids, but don’t be like most Americans and let tribalism make that into an excuse for supporting and strengthening injustice. I have no kids in school now but we still help out at the majority-minority high poverty public feeder school closest to us.


Consider yourself lucky you have that option, I guess.

I’m just guessing, but the missing 0.1% are the tippy-top rich. Them plus these guys equal the top 10%. I could be wrong.


Which would be a hell of a good reason for them to post articles like this one. If the French aristocracy had been more responsive to the needs of the peasants maybe we wouldn’t have the phrase “guillotine watch” to put on this post.


Part 7 about recognising one’s privilege (and the failure of this meritocratic aristocracy to do so) is particularly important. It’s all fun and games to call for (figurative*) guillotines, but many of us here need to remember that we’re in that 9.9% and that in a dangerously unequal society we could end up in the tumbrils as well. That’s why self-interested and aware members of this group like Cory and myself and many others here advocate so strongly for an equitable society and mixed economy.

Which brings us to Stewart’s point about resentment, so evident in these dangerous times of right-wing populism. When the Know-Nothings and MAGA types talk about the “elites” who aren’t “Real Americans™” they’re not talking about the billionaires (real or pretend) they worship but rather about financially comfortable and happy urbanites with college educations, white collar jobs, good health insurance, and relatively stable families.

As the author states in the opening, someone reading the Atlantic article is likely to be in the 9.9%; only slightly less likely is a BoingBoing reader being in that same group.

Could you expand on that? While the author describes the role the state plays in cementing the privileges of the affluent group he describes, it’s quite a different thing from dekulakisation.

Perhaps you’re talking about the part neoliberal and neoliberal-lite governments have played in destroying the blue collar middle class over the past 35 years while simultaneously cutting holes in an already threadbare (esp. re: health insurance) social safety net.

On the first I think he’s making a play on the 99% vs. 1% formula, instead positing 90%, 9.9% and 0.1%. The $1.2-million figure probably comes from an Oxfam or similar study.

[* let’s not get into another tiresome discussion about Cory’s citing of the guillotine being anything more than a cautionary tale]


I think you misunderstand - the 9.9% equal the top 10% minus the tip-top .1%.


… Including me, living on Social Security and a few hundred a month from a stint working for a European company. I live in a mud brick house built before electricity or indoor plumbing and the per capita income here is around $10K. I like it here. Sure beats the relatively pricey neighborhood in Phoenix we lived in until I retired. Nice neighbors here, I get to hear at least three languages every day.

That, and a good university where I can do science again.

Somehow I don’t feel terribly rich though.