Do we punish hard work, or success? If not, then do we kind of discourage them? I think it's a fair question for discussion. On The Cover/Top Stories When Work Doesn't Pay For The Middle Class Janet Novack and Stephane Fitch, 09.17.09, 08:40 PM EDT Forbes Magazine dated October 05, 2009 Middle-class folks are finding that a raise or second paycheck doesn't always mean living better. Time to work less? Judith Lederman would like to find another $120,000-a-year job. But Casey, her high school senior daughter, will qualify for $19,000 a year more in college financial aid if mom has to settle for half that salary. Eighteen months after being laid off, Judith Lederman, a 50-year-old divorcee who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y., is ready to consider jobs paying half the $120,000 she earned as a publicity manager at Lord & Taylor. That's mostly because she's desperate, but it also makes sense when you consider how this country punishes work effort. While the first $60,000 of her income would be lightly taxed, the next $60,000 would be hit with what is in effect a 79% tax rate. Given a choice between a part-time or easy job paying $60,000 and a demanding, stress-ridden job paying $120,000, Lederman would be wise to take the former. In the tougher job she would be contributing twice as much to the economy. But she wouldn't be doing herself much good. It would make more sense to take it easy and spend more time with her high school senior daughter, Casey. How did a middle-class single mom wind up with a 79% marginal tax rate? At $120,000 she would pay $16,500 a year more in federal and state taxes, wouldn't qualify for the five-year $12,000-a-year cut in her mortgage payments she's applying for and would be eligible for $19,000 a year less in need-based college financial aid. When Work Doesn't Pay For The Middle Class - Forbes.com I know people who refuse to fall behind on purpose, but as a result, don't qualify for modification.