In The Australian’s piece, a couple on $200,000 a year (who admit they pay only 18 per cent tax) complain that they may be forced to get a nanny if their childcare subsidy is reduced.
Now, The Australian itself has called for reductions in ‘middle-class welfare’, so either the editors have changed their mind, or they have a misguided sense of what constitutes a middle income in modern Australia.
I don’t doubt that the family featured in The Australian’s story genuinely thinks they’re more-or-less typical, but they’re wrong. We all tend to judge what’s normal, or typical, with reference to those we work and socialise with. This leads the poor to underestimate the wealth of the rich, and leads the rich to overestimate the wealth of the poor. It also means that a lot of us tend to think we’re ‘middle class’ when we’re not.
Andrew Leigh (before he was an MP) wrote a great little paper on the effect that this misperception has on our public debate, called ‘The Political Economy of Tax Reform in Australia’. In it, he argued that:
Opinion leaders [do] not properly appreciate the distribution of income in Australia. For the most part, the taxation rates applying to most politicians, journalists, business executives and think-tank staffers (and indeed, to academic economists) are not those that apply to the average voter. In all these professions, six-figure salaries are common. Yet only 4.5 per cent of Australian adults have an income that exceeds $100,000 per year, and only 1.5 per cent have an income that exceeds $150,000 per year.
(The paper is from 2006, so the figures are a little out of date, but the principle hasn’t changed).
Leigh also, correctly, notes that “reporting of ‘average’ income in Australia focuses on a measure of earnings which is not that of the typical voter”. Journalists often use average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults (AWOTE) as a measure of a typical income. This is misleading for several reasons.
Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a very rare autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain. It is almost always caused by a mutation to the protein PrPC, but can also develop spontaneously in patients with a non-inherited mutation variant called sporadic Fatal Insomnia (sFI). FFI has no known cure and involves progressively worsening insomnia, which leads to hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states like that of dementia. The average survival span for patients diagnosed with FFI after the onset of symptoms is 18 months.
Harassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviour. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing.
DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim andOffender.
…I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower’s credibility, and so on. The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. […] [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. […] The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.
But if you live in a city and you don’t understand why taxes are necessary, then you’re just fucking stupid. When you leave the house, do you prefer to have a sidewalk out there, rather than a sea of mud? When you shit, do you enjoy having plumbing to flush your crap out of the room and a sewer system to take it somewhere far away so that it doesn’t accumulate outside your house? When you plug your wide-screen, flat-screen, 7-speaker plasma TV into the socket, do you enjoy have electricity come out?
You get pissy if there’s a power outage, but you refuse to recognize that pretty much the entire public infrastructure of New York needs urgent updating. You tell racist stories about the clerk at Best Buy to your yuppie friends over brunch, but you don’t seem to realize that sales clerks would be more articulate if the American public education system wasn’t such a fucking wreck. You demand maximum productivity from the workers you pay minimum wage to churn out profit for you, but you’re too dumb to understand that those workers would be more productive for more hours if they had reliable, quality health care. I argue for a living and I can teach an undergraduate freshman to read Hegel, but at a certain point even I hit a brick wall when faced with a degree of self-centered density that defies comprehension.
My problem isn’t so much that so much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in so few hands; it’s much more that so much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of people who are DUMB.
(14) This was my view upon first reading American Psycho, and part of the reason I was so shocked by that charge of filth on the bus. Once familiar with the controversy, I found this view shared by only a minority of commentators. Writing in the New Statesman & Society, Elizabeth J. Young asked: ‘Where have these people been? … Books of pornographic violence are nothing new … American Psycho outrages no contemporary taboos. Psychotic killers are everywhere’ (24). I was similarly aware that such murderers not only existed in reality, but also in many widely accessed works of literature and film – to the point where a few years later Joyce Carol Oates could suggest that the serial killer was an icon of popular culture (233). While a popular topic for writers of crime fiction and true crime narratives in both print and on film, a number of ‘serious’ literary writers – including Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Kate Millet, Margaret Atwood and Oates herself – have also written about serial killers, and even crossed over into the widely acknowledged as ‘low-brow’ true crime genre. Many of these works (both popular or more literary) are vivid and powerful and have, as American Psycho, taken a strong moral position towards their subject matter. Moreover, many books and films have far more disturbing content than American Psycho, yet have caused no such uproar (Young and Caveney 120).
Yet, the morality of Ellis’s project is evident. By viewing the world through the lens of a psychotic killer who, in many ways, personifies the American Dream – wealthy, powerful, intelligent, handsome, energetic and successful – and, yet, who gains no pleasure, satisfaction, coherent identity or sense of life’s meaning from his endless, selfish consumption, Ellis exposes the emptiness of both that world and that dream. As Bateman himself explains: ‘Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in. This was civilisation as I saw it, colossal and jagged’ (Ellis 375). Ellis thus situates the responsibility for Bateman’s violence not in his individual moral vacuity, but in the barren values of the society that has shaped him – a selfish society that, in Ellis’s opinion, refused to address the most important issues of the day: corporate greed, mindless consumerism, poverty, homelessness and the prevalence of violent crime. Instead of pornographic, therefore, American Psycho is a profoundly political text: Ellis was never attempting to glorify or incite violence against anyone, but rather to expose the effects of apathy to these broad social problems, including the very kinds of violence the most vocal critics feared the book would engender.
This article gives an opinion of American Psycho that I very much agree with. The book is clearly a critique of consumerism and materialism, which is demonstrated through several literary devices used throughout the novel such as the ad-like prose in Morning (the second chapter of the book) and the repeated cases of mistaken identity.