Monday, December 6, 2010


It was announced today that Jason Werth, a baseball player who helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008, signed a free agent contract with another team. The deal was for 7 years, $126 million dollars. Reaction has been diverse, but the consensus is that Jason, having already won a World Series ring, signed with a perennial losing franchise because they offered the most money, period. While the sheer volume of money seems surprising (Jason was a very good player, but not a great player), most comments give Jason (and his agent) credit for getting his big payday. After all, who wouldn't try to get the most money they could if someone wanted to overpay for their services?

Perhaps that is the root issue of our problems. We believe so much in capitalism and the opportunities that it provides that we are blind to the shift in priorities that have taken place in the recent past.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy sports. In fact, I probably spend too much time watching sports on TV and I enjoy talking sports with my friends. When I was able to attend Eagles games through my previous employer, I did so happily. I appreciated seeing a game in person and participating in the cheering, booing and general camaraderie of the moment. Clearly, I am as much at fault as anyone in driving the value of professional athletes' services through the roof.

But I would also like to think that I have this part of my life properly prioritized. Proof can be offered that with my recent early morning work requirement, I missed many of the Phillies playoff games and the 2nd half of all of the Eagles prime time games this year. As this happens more often, I find that it is becoming easier to walk away from the games. I would hope that I have and will continue to walk away when my family needs my time, as opposed to the "fan" who can't be approached by their spouse or children when the game is on.

Flash to the current debate over the tax cuts and unemployment compensation. Republicans want tax cuts for everyone, even those earning in the top 5% of incomes. They don't think it wise to raise anyone's taxes in a recession despite the added billions of dollars this will add to the deficit. Extending unemployment compensation however, is not OK with them unless we cut spending somewhere else to compensate for the added cost. Democrats want to raise the taxes of the rich but continue giving unemployment to people who have been receiving this aid for 99 weeks already. Each political party uses the rising deficit as a defense when the spending is for something they oppose but what do they value?

I believe that there is plenty of money in this country but that it is being disbursed in an extremely inequitable fashion. It is documented fact that the standard of living for the middle class (as defined by an income in the $40-90K range) has stagnated, while the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. What does that say about our values?

I don't consider rich people immoral or greedy bastards. I don't think Republicans are stooges for the wealthy or unfeeling for the plight of the less fortunate. Nor do I believe that Democrats are only concerned about the downtrodden and don't legislate with an eye towards those that control the purse strings of business. Neither party is consistent in how their values decide their policies.

In the end, the problem lies in the answer to the question; who wouldn't go for as much money as possible? If we all agree that we would do the same as Jason, then the fault lies squarely at our feet. When we begin to demand that decisions be made with regard to people and not just profit, when material possessions and obsessions become prioritized behind a happy family, good friends, strong neighborhoods, equality for all people regardless of how they might be different from us, then perhaps, contracts like the one Jason Werth just signed and debates that pit aid for the less fortunate against less taxes for the super rich, might be a thing of the past.


  1. Jason works in the entertainment business which historically has always paid well.

    You and I, or anyone one except Jason, will not in any way be impacted by the team he chooses, or the pay he earns.

    You may consider yourself liberal, but I submit that your taking a second job in response to an income reduction was a conservative choice. One of self-reliance, not looking to the government, or someone else, to provide. Good for you!

    Hope all is well. Take care.

  2. Tom,

    Thanks for the response and I appreciate that you are reading my blog.

    I believe that the pool of money that is available, like any resource, is finite, therefore when someone makes an exorbitant amount of money it reduces the available amount for the rest of us. Also, Jason's salary certainly affects ticket prices, the cost of food at the park, sports related products like shirts or hats, cost of parking at the game, advertising costs (airtime during the games) and the actual products that are advertised and purchased by all of us. At least that is my opinion. I would offer the simple fact that ticket prices for sporting events have risen in a percentage greater than inflation as proof that Jason's salary certainly effects us all. Also, check out sports salaries in the 40's and 50's and you will see that the average guy made a decent living but probably also worked a regular job offseason. Now, even the bench warmers make $300,000 or more, clearly not average worker salary. I would hope that you would agree that teachers or firefighters or policemen are more valuable to society by their contributions but not paid nearly as well as athletes. Perhaps I was not clear, but that is my point. Priorities!!

    Finally, I don't understand your connection with taking a 2nd job and being conservative, or not being liberal. Are you suggesting that only conservatives work hard or are self reliant? Frankly, I struggle to understand the conservative viewpoint that people who are less fortunate are lazy or somehow deserving of their plight.

    Hope you are well also,


  3. Joe,

    Conservatives do not believe that the less fortunate among us are either lazy or deserving of their plight. That's a bum rap.

    Conservatives do believe in self reliance - for those who are able bodied and capable - and to that extent, your choice to work harder is self-reliance.

    There is genuine suffering and many challenges being faced by folks. Conservatives value an individual's potential to face and overcome challenges. Contrary to what some might say, conservatives also believe in providing the variety of safety nets that our nation provides for people who need them.

    The salaries and benefits workers enjoy are a function of the supply of and demand for their talent within their a respective labor market. Companies decide what it's workers and executives are worth. Workers get to decide if the pay being offered is acceptable, or they may freely seek other work.

    One student studies geology and chooses to teach, another studies geology, goes to work for an oil company and will probably earn twice what the teacher would earn. People are free to make those choices. Team owners have operating budgets and can decide what they will pay their players. Fans can decide if the price of tickets, food, etc are worth the prices and either pay or not. I believe that free markets function better than the alternative of directed ones.

    There are many noble and honorable professions like police and firefighters. But salaries are not set by nobility and honor, they are set by labor markets.

    Not sure how much Economics you've studied. This simple little story I found illustrates how a fixed number of dollars does in fact support considerable economic activity. No one is worse off because of the money someone else has.


    It's a slow day in a little East Texas town. The sun is beating down, and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich tourist from back east is driving through town. He stops at the motel and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

    As soon as the man walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmer's Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her "services" on credit. The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.

    The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the $100 bill, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

    No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.

  4. Tom,

    Clearly we will have to agree to disagree. If a company has an accepted payroll of 1 million dollars, how it is divided among the workers will certainly affect the employees if the top 5% of the employees are paid 50% of the salaries. I have seen data that indicates that 30 years ago, most top level executives made 30-50 times the salary of the average worker in their company. Now, it is more like 100-200 times. I have also seen data that indicates that the standard of living for the middle class has stagnated while the standard of living for the rich has risen. If you take that same company where the top 5% earn 50% of the income and distribute it so the top 5% earn only 30% of the payroll, labor costs stay the same, but I believe that a) this will better reflect the post WW2 economy which produced the rise of the middle class and b) this distribution will do much more to boost employment because it will provide a quicker stimulus to the economy than this trickle down economics that has only produced richer rich people.

    My study of economics has led me to believe that if we allow the free market to act without regulation, the average person will suffer economically as the advantages gravitate towards those with the most resources.

    Personally, I would establish a national maximum salary cap. I believe that salaries above, lets say $5 million a year are not only bad economically for America but immoral. However, if you glance through my blog and read "The Change" you will see that I would much rather that the cap be voluntary rather than legislated.

    Great discussion; thanks