More, More, More

doodle-1016-money-bagsI guess I have to accept society deems some people more valuable than others.

  • CEOs in the US make over 350 times as much as the average employee, meaning an employee has to work a month to equal a top executive’s hourly wage.
  • Though the average college graduate leaves school owing $35,200, presidents of some of the most expensive universities could erase a student’s debt every week.
  • Compensation for health care executives rise almost twice as fast as health care costs, with some executives making 15 times as much as doctors caring for the sick.
  • A professional athlete in a major sport—baseball, football, hockey, basketball— makes as much in a year as, at my present salary, I would make in 64 years.

Their incomes, I suppose, could be explained away by citing the monetary contributions these people make. They are only, they might say, taking their share of the pie. And yet their share is eight slices… before anyone else takes one.

Who can eat so much, want so much?

They counter that their expertise brings in so much more than they’re paid, and, as the elite of the elite and special in every way, they do what few can. Expressed as a percentage of their impact, they shout, “We’re bargains!”

To be fair, some of them might accept they work no harder than a single mother with two jobs or a middle manager logging 70 hours a week, but, really, it’s the ideas, the ideas!

No single mother has energy or time for ideas.

A few shrug shoulders at how crazy their compensation is. Yet, human nature being what it is, not many are ready to take less or give their money back. Money is abstract, no longer the same stuff some folks fret over. It’s easy to lose proportion, equity. It’s society—and not them—at fault.

They want what others like them earn. The scale stretches, higher and higher. Away from the rest of us.

I might not blame them if I made as much, but I don’t, so I do. I have no desires for myself—I make enough, more than many. I want no more.

Is it terrible that what I want is less for them? It’s an ugly wish, I’ve been led to believe. Everyone wants the possibility of earning so much. However unlikely wealth might be, the goal is a world where such riches are possible.

“As long as our civilization is essentially one of property,” Emerson said, “of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there will be bitterness in our laughter; and our wine will burn our mouth.

The rest of society may say possibility must exist. Without the unfettered freedom to excel, they may say, no one will. I wonder if that can be so. Do we have no desires besides those that eliminate others’ desires? Do we have no aspirations greater than personal aspirations?

Perhaps if I made more, I might accept inequity. But I’m one of the undervalued and can’t help feeling differently.

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3 Comments

Filed under Ambition, America, Arguments, Desire, Dissent, Doubt, Envy, Essays, Identity, Jeremiads, Laments, Modern Life, Persuasion, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Worry

3 responses to “More, More, More

  1. Peter Newton

    David,

    Love the Emerson quote. I do believe the next, and current, civil war in America is that of class. Sparked by organic movements like the Occupy Movement which was a gut response by a small number of people, originally, who said: “This is not fair.”

    Accountability is what’s lacking. Every time I read about JPMorgan-Chase ponying up another billion dollar+ fine I think it’s laughable. A shilling to the peasants. I don’t so much want less for them. But fairness. Oversight.

    The whole 2008 economic meltdown was a failure of imagination on the part of regulators, policy makers. Greenspan never imagined bankers/traders/Wall Streeters would be willing to rise to such heights through such creative depths of greed.

    Okay: off my rant. I am no economist. I work hard, save my money and try to speak up when I think it’ll make a bit of difference. Suffice to say: we should all hold our government accountable. And our government is either held hostage or in cahoots with large corporations who call the shots.

    Some things to occupy our thoughts. Let’s not fulfill what Thoreau once said: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. Gotta go to work. Yes, I know it’s Saturday.

    –Peter

    • dmarshall58

      Your comments are always so thoughtful. Thank you. I’m teaching two sections of US history this year–we’re at the end of the 19th century now dealing with people like Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller. It seems America has always had an uneasy understanding of how individual and concern for others can coexist. If Greenspan didn’t imagine the greed of the financial industry, he should have. We’ve certainly had plenty of precedents. My worry is that we’ve also exported our attitudes and wonder what will save us now. But, like you, I have work to do. –D

  2. Peter Newton

    what will save us now?
    a few old poets
    talk money

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