HENRY = high income, not yet rich
Yes, if I was a "HENRY," I'd be angry and want the super-rich to be taxed more heavily. But for the most part, this class of neo-bourgeois white-collar professionals are complaining about higher taxes after decades of being the beneficiaries of US economic policy. Private school? People in my class -- the overeducated, overworked, and the underpaid -- are going without health insurance and can't even afford kids, or any savings. The HENRY class swims in a world where everything is geared toward their want and need, and now they can't be at the level of wealth they thought they'd be. But the cleft between their "dashed hopes" and the majority of Americans -- people trying to hold on to their dignity after a job loss, people who have seen relatives die without health insurance -- and the HENRYs makes the latter look like, to use a slang parlance, weak-ass sniveling would-be sans-culottes.
I first wrote extensively about the HENRYs in a November, 2008, cover story called "Look Who Pays for the Bailout." It described the plight of a strata of affluent Americans I called "High Earners, Not Rich Yet," or the HENRYs for short. They're the doctors, attorneys, accountants, owners of real estate agencies and security firms, who earn -- or used to earn -- between $250,000 and $500,000 a year.
These aren't investment bankers, hedge fund managers, CEOs, trust fund babies or other members of the super-rich. No, the HENRYs are generally folks in their 30s and 40s who got the best grades in high school, worked their way through college, and logged long hours as law firm associates or consultants on the rise. In most HENRY households, the husband and wife both work to tally those big incomes.
When my story appeared, just before the presidential election, Barack Obama was targeting the HENRYs for big tax increases, declaring that families making over $250,000 a year were "the rich" and needed to "pay their fair share." Even then, I argued, the HENRYs were so squeezed between their big expenses for the things they considered staples -- private schools and day care for the kids, for example -- and an immense tax burden that typically took at $100,000 from a $350,000 income, that they not only weren't rich, but stood little chance of ever saving the big nest egg to qualify as truly wealthy.