SF Mayor: Middle Class Means Earning $80,000 to $150,000S

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco by the grace of that city's deep-pocketed technologists. He continues to return the favor in both deeds and rhetoric: a new interview with Time has Lee explaining that his city's middle class isn't like yours:

We might have a broader range of defining the middle class, as compared to maybe Oakland or San Jose. I'm talking maybe $80,000 to $150,000. I don't think we paid attention, as a city, historically, to that level of income earners. I think we missed some steps there … There's always the potential, that as we're building a strong economy, that we could trip over that success.

The American middle class is impossible to pin down exactly, but it usually draws some meaning from being in the middle of the income range (median income for California is around $61,000, around $53,000 for the whole country). As the San Francisco Examiner points out, however, Lee's pretty far off:

The most-recent U.S. Census Bureau figures peg the median income in San Francisco at roughly $73,000. That means more than half of earners here aren't fitting the mayor's middle-class definition.

Why would you ever admit your city's middle class is shriveling up when you can just call something else the middle class? This also, conveniently, pegs San Francisco's burgeoning junior techie class as the new middle class—the employees of the men who got Lee the job can now be rebranded as America's most sacred demographic. There's not a politician in the union that'll speak out against initiatives for the middle class, which means Lee can directly serve his donor demo.

Tax cuts for Twitter? That's a middle class initiative. Letting private tech shuttles use public transit stops for peanuts? Just helping the middle class get to work.

You might argue that with income and prices both on the rise, what might have once passed for upper class is now upper-middle, or just plain middle—and everyone gets a demotion in turn. But, no, that's not what middle class means at all. If San Francisco's true middle-earners are endangered, reclassifying them into obscurity won't be much solace.

Photo: Getty