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Despite 1% status, Christie says he's 'not wealthy'

Is $700,000 in annual income a lot of money? For nearly everyone, the answer is, "Yes." For Chris Christie, the answer is ... a big political mess.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a town hall meeting at Londonderry Lion's Club April 15, 2015 in Londonderry, New Hampshire
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a town hall meeting at Londonderry Lion's Club April 15, 2015 in Londonderry, New Hampshire
The median household income in the United States is about $52,000 a year. Politicians would be wise to remember that.
One Republican congressman last year said lawmakers "don't make a lot of money," despite his $174,000 annual salary. In 2011, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) complained about driving "a used minivan" and how much he "struggles" to pay his bills, despite his large congressional salary. Around the same time, another GOP lawmaker, with a net worth about $56 million, said he and his family were "struggling like everyone else."
And yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) joined the ignominious club.

Nov. Chris Christie insists he's not rich, but is nonetheless confounded by the complexity of his tax returns and again hinted that he might back a simplification of the U.S. income tax code should he run for president. "The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick ... is insane," Christie told the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader on Monday, holding his thumb and forefinger several inches apart. "We don't have nearly that much money," he said.

Actually, the Christies are very well-off. According to the governor's 2013 tax returns -- the most recent information available -- the Christie family's annual income is about $700,000. That's not just 1 percent status, that's 0.8 percent status.
The report added that Christie makes more than eight times the median household income in New Jersey.
If the Republican governor and likely presidential candidate genuinely believes his household is "not wealthy by current standards," he should probably elaborate a bit on these "standards." If Christie is comparing his wealth to that of his campaign benefactors, it might seem modest.
But if the GOP candidate is comparing himself to the American norm, Christie is in rarefied economic air. Unless his income fell dramatically last year from 2013, it's both factually and politically wrong for him to say he's "not wealthy."
In a speech on entitlements this week, the New Jersey Republican said, "Let's ask ourselves an honest question: do we really believe that the wealthiest Americans need to take from younger, hardworking Americans to receive what, for most of them, is a modest monthly Social Security check?" He added, "I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non-Social Security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out Social Security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income."
In other words, Christie this week defined "the wealthiest Americans" as those who earn far less per year than he does.