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Friday, October 14, 2011

Crop Picking

When I was growing up in corn/grain country, teenagers eagerly signed up to detassel corn because the pay was awesome. The work sucked - out in the sun, hot, dusty, and corn leaves are surprisingly sharp, but the money was great. Parents dropped off their kids or the older kids drove to a central meeting point where buses picked them up and took them to the fields for the day.

Of course, back then, our parents didn't just hand us $100 and the keys to a new car and send us off to Bridgestreet Mall to hang out with our friends getting our hair and nails done. So, we actually had some incentive to earn our own money. It's past time for us to get back to that ethic. The reason we have so many lazy adults in this country is because we make so many lazy kids. When you spend the first 18 years of life being indulged and pampered, you're unlikely to rush out the door on your 18th Birthday to find some good, hard work to do to earn your own way.

So, I guess my point is this: We need to send not the unemployed, not the welfare cases, not prisoners out to the fields to get the crops in. We need to send our teenagers.

(Now watch as the comments about child abuse and child labor pour in!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy ESPN

Why are we occupying Wall Street? There's no clear objective. To me, this is all just pointless venting against income disparity with no proposed solutions. The whole movement is misguided. If you're pissed off that someone makes more money than you do and more money than they'll ever need, you should be "occupying" arenas and stadiums where the MLB, NFL, and NBA play games, not business districts where people actually do work.

I'll be among the first to say that pushing papers around on a desk or creating PowerPoint presentations for one meeting after another is not exactly "work." But, neither is playing sports. Nobody ever says, "Let's go work football." You PLAY football. We call football games GAMES - not jobs.

According the an AFL-CIO executive paywatch website, the average pay for CEOs at S&P 500 companies is a touch under $11.5 million per year. Chief executives on the AFL-CIO's 100 Highest Paid CEOs list rake in between $17.5 to $85 million per year. That's for CEOs - very likely the very highest paid position in any corporation. But, it's still quite a bit LESS on average than many professional ball players, golfers, etc.

Average salaries for sports players? NFL: about $1 million to $2 million per year depending on position. MLB: over $3 million per year. NBA: $5.2 million per year. NHL (which I consider underpaid relative to all other sports): $2.6 million per year. That's average. Plenty of individual players get paid a LOT more than average.

Tiger Woods got paid $97 million in 2006, more than the CEO of Viacom - the highest paid CEO in America according to the AFL-CIO. Tiger got to knock golf balls around for his full time job. Mr. Dauman at Viacom probably only managed to squeeze in 18 or 36 holes per week.

David Beckham signed a $50 million/year contract to play soccer for a professional soccer team in LA. Hardly anybody in America even watches soccer unless their kids play. Which begs the question, who is paying this guy $50 million per year to play a sport that hardly anybody in America even watches?

Kobe Bryant, who was actually charged with rape, brought in about $35 million back in 2007. Michael Vick, notable animal cruelty offender, signed a 10-year contract in 2004 for $13 million per year. Vick got paid about $5 million for his first season back after spending 2 years in jail. You can argue that many CEOs are criminals, but not many CEOs get their jobs back and get a raise after they get out of jail.

Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay) brings in a cool $55 million per year just for letting advertisers use his assumed name. And, he doesn't even have to take a punch. At least Michael Schumacher (F1 race car driver) actually put his life on the line for the $80 million he netted in 2006. Most pro-sports types risk little more than a side-lining injury - and they still get paid even if that injury takes them out for the entire season. Steve Jobs kept working with pancreatic cancer, right up until he died of respiratory failure.

I could go on. And on. And on. While I've only cited a handful of the very highest paid athletes, the point is that there are hundreds of them and they all get paid more in a year than you or I will likely earn in 20 years. And, that's if we are both well paid and very lucky for 20 years in a row. They get this money not for doing anything resembling productive work but for playing sports.

Most of the companies represented on the AFL-CIO's list of 100 Highest Paid CEOs are good, solid American companies like Ford, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, CBS, Coca-Cola and Disney. These are BIG corporations that have been around a long time and virtually NONE of them are banks or investment companies that conjur up visions of "Wall Street." These companies employ thousands and thousands of people. Which is why their CEOs get paid. A lot. Even though the actual day-to-day work is done by employees and front-line supervisors, manning the helm of a corporation that size is a pretty big responsibility.

So, tell me again why it is that we're so angry about a relative handful of white collar workers who make more than we do when there are hundreds of sports figures who make even more?

Think about who pays the multimillion dollar salaries of these sports figures. YOU do. Attending an NFL game will cost you around $75 - minimum - just to get a seat. I know people who pay this kind of money regularly to watch something that they could see on TV for free. Then they'll pay another $70 or so for a (fake) jersey to wear to the game, $25 for a foam finger, $20 for a hat, and $8.00 for each beer. I don't pay anywhere near that amount of money in bank fees in a year. If you do, perhaps you should be more mad at yourself than at the bank. Maybe it's time to check into switching banks. But, I just don't see the point of occupying Wall Street when the big money is at Yankee Stadium and other places like it.