The latest hullabaloo on the campaign trail revolves around which candidate lives more opulently or some such. To wit, Mr. McCain couldn't say how many houses he has. I think to myself, there goes a rich man and a wealthy one, too. I learned a long time ago that rich and wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. Obviously, having that much real estate would indicate that someone is wealthy. The notion of rich, however, is something altogether different.
Although I've been more fortunate than many for most of my life, I have never, ever, been wealthy. And as a single mother for a while, I've occasionally strayed into strapped territory. That's the place where every single dollar coming in- none from the government- is allotted to a necessary expense and where replacing a shower curtain requires "saving up" for the Kmart luxe version ($16). It's where you measure increasing success by buying your child an Oriental fan she will never use again for her upcoming role in The Mikado, and she looks at you in wonder, stricken by your easy agreement.
Now, rich is when you could easily replace that same shower curtain at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, although by now bargain hunting is an ingrained habit. It is walking through Walgreens and picking up toiletries without thinking about the cost. There's the crux, not thinking about it.
Rich people don't think about money; wealthy people might. Think Scrooge- wealthy, but not rich. Now, Mr. McCain is obviously rich. Once you cross that "I don't know how many houses I have my name on" line, you are one lucky, rich, sob. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, made 4 million dollars last year, an amount which easily classifies him as wealthy. The question then is "but is he rich?"