Flaunting Our Riches

Happy Friday everyone. Remember the game Where’s Waldo? I have one for you. Where’s the Butterfly? You don’t have to look too closely to see the purple bunnies in this picture, but where’s the butterfly?

These flowers are planted in the front flowerbed just outside my office window, and I delight in seeing how many butterflies it attracts. Most of them are tiny, but I keep hoping to see a Monarch one of these days.

Now on to  the topic of this blog post.

Jacksonville Jaguars’ Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey arrived in training camp earlier this week in a Brinks armored truck; his message, “I want more money.” He actually didn’t say that, but the message was clear, and you can read the full story reported by Debbi Taylor at Forbes.

Ramsey is entering the fourth year of his four-year $23,351,000 rookie contract with the Jaguars that includes a $15,182,546 signing bonus, $22,901,000 guaranteed and an average salary of $5,837,750.

And he thinks he should get more? His rationale is that he should be paid as much as other top cornerbacks in the NFL.

I didn’t know about this incident until I saw a Tweet by a fellow-writer, William F. Aicher yesterday morning. He posed the question on Twitter, “Can we start hating overpaid athletes as much as we hate overpaid CEOs?”

I responded to Bill by saying that while I don’t promote saying we should hate people, as there is way too much hate being thrown around in our world today, I did agree that the amounts of money being made by some athletes and entertainers and top CEOs of large corporations is totally obscene.

How did we get to this place where salaries keep rising, and the gap between the wealthiest and the middle class keeps getting wider and wider?

Perhaps it all started when it became okay to talk about how much money you made. When it became okay for a person to ask this question at a  party, “Well, Joe, how much money did you make last year?”

There was a time when that was considered the height of rude behavior. Now it seems like people want to brag about their annual salaries as much as they brag about their kids. Maybe more.

I spent my entire life not knowing how much money my father made in a year. It was just never said, or asked. And I remember being stunned when the question of how much money I make was asked during a presentation at an author event. I stuttered and then finally blurted, “Enough.”

But I digress. Let’s get back to football.

It’s true that salaries for athletes who only have a short time to earn money on the field needed to improve from the earliest years of football when a player might make $6,000 a year. That was back in the 50s and early 60s. Then in the late 70s and 80s conditions improved with players getting an average of $750,000 a year, more benefits, and a piece of the revenue pie normally eaten by the owners alone.

It was during the 70s and 80s that I learned to enjoy watching pro football on television. It seemed like the players were there because they loved to play the game, not just for the money. They seemed to really enjoy being part of a team that pulled together to win. Not an individual resenting the fact that someone else on the team made more money.

What if nobody knew what players made? Then a new recruit might be more focused on the game and not the money he’s missing out on.

In the Twitter conversation, many folks posted the opinion that players deserve these high salaries because they play such a risky game, putting their lives on the line. Plus they only have a few years to earn what would be their retirement fund.

Both statements have veracity, but do the players need $15,000,000 a year in order to do that? What if they were as fiscally responsible as many of us have to be in order to have a retirement fund?

I think my friend Bill’s primary concern, which is also my concern, is where does this end? Or is there even an end?

It’s worth noting that we are not the only ones alarmed about escalating salaries. In 2014, I wrote a blog post “Too Much Money” in which I quoted a former hedge-fund executive, Sam Polk. He wrote a column in The Dallas Morning News, in which he was honest about how he, and others like him, made money in 2008, when so many of us were watching our retirement fund wither away to practically nothing. He thought that that disparity was perfectly okay until he heard a callous remark by his boss about the financial crisis. “All I’m concerned about is how this affects our company.”

Then he noticed “the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash.”

Polk then wrote, “I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them and for me. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.”

Polk referred to his, and others, desperate need for more and more money, as a greed addiction. Have we become a country filled with people who are addicted to money?

That’s a good question for us all to ponder as we move into the weekend. I’d love to know what you think? And whatever you you have planned for this weekend, I hope it is fun and restful. Be safe. Be happy.

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