Friday, April 3, 2009
The New York Post (suggested motto: “Just as reliable a news source as Dilbert, on a good day”) alerted the world last week that one out of every three Americans thinks the federal government should cap earnings for professional athletes and movie stars at $1 million apiece.
I can’t decide if this poll is believable. Is the Post just pulling our leg again, or are 100 million of us somehow maintaining biological functions even though we have salad dressing for brains?
Sure, David Ortiz makes $13 million per year playing for the Boston Red Sox. That works out to more than 80 grand per game. And he doesn’t even have to field, because he’s a Designated Hitter.
Absurd? Of course.
But you won’t hear anyone complain about how much money Red Sox owner John Henry makes because Ortiz is on his team.
Millions flock to Fenway each year to see Big Papi swing the bat. Millions more put up with NESN for a facsimile of the same privilege. Every time somebody buys a David Ortiz shirt, money clinks into John Henry’s piggy bank. It all ads up to enough to make one player’s salary look like chump change.
I wonder how many people think we should cap earnings from corporate ownership at $1 million a year. Probably very few.
(Just to be sure, I conducted my own survey, and the results corroborate my suspicions. Three out of three members of my household agree that I should just say whatever I need to say so I can get this column done already and start dinner.)
Why the discrepancy? I suspect race has something to do with it. Owners tend to be white, and it’s rare to hear someone grumble about the money pulled in by hockey players or NASCAR drivers.
Okay, so it’s rare to hear anyone say anything about hockey players or NASCAR drivers.
But what about Tom Brady at $625,000 a game? “He earns every nickel.” Paul Pierce for $22,000 a game? “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
How much does Bob Kraft or John Henry make each game? I don’t even know what kind of search term I would type in to Google to find that information.
But there are dozens of sites that can tell you exactly how much every Red Sox player will make this season.
The players, like 95% of us, are just another gear in our economic engine, collecting (hopefully) our fair share of what people are willing to pay to benefit from our skills.
You’ve seen this bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when schools get everything they need and the Air Force has to old a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
Well, the Air Force gets everything it needs because of defense contracts that spread wealth to various congressional districts. Until public schools can generate profit, they’ll remain low on the priority list, right down there with veterans’ hospitals, municipal rec programs, and other pointless money pits.
If you continue to get paid even though you cost your employer money, you are either an executive in the financial services industry, or a teacher.
If you’re not in one of those categories, then just shut up and watch the game.