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MUSINGS:

The $6 Million Social Worker

by Walter Brasch
6 January 2009
Every TV celebrity judge makes more than the $208,000 that a Supreme Court justice makes.
The New York Yankees just bought a first baseman for $180 million. For the next eight years, Mark Teixeira will earn about $22.5 million a season. The week before, the Yanks bought seven years of pitcher CC Sabathia’s life for $161 million, about $23 million a season—and five years of A.J. Burnett for $82.5 million, about $16.5 million for each season, according to the Associated Press. None of the salaries include any incentive pay or outside endorsements, which add millions to each salary.

The three new pinstriped multimillionaires join third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has a 10-year $275 million contract, and shortstop Derek Jeter, whose 10-year $189 million contract ends in 2010. First baseman Jason Giambi, who won’t be with the Yankees next year, picked up about $23.4 million during the 2008 season. Although the Bronx Bombers bombed this past year, and didn’t even make the playoffs, they are on the fast track to the World Series of Obscene Salaries. They aren’t the only ones in contention.

America pays major league professional athletes far more than even the most efficient long-term factory worker. For the National Football League the minimum wage is $225,000 a year; for Major League Baseball, it’s $390,000; for the National Basketball Association, it’s $442,000. Almost every athlete earns far more than the minimum, with most earning seven-figure incomes, plus endorsements worth another 6- or 7-figure income. Leading all athletes is Tiger Woods, whose team of accountants and business managers had to figure out where to put his $128 million earned in 2008. “Only” $23 million was from playing golf; the rest was from endorsements and business deals.

Although about 70 percent of the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild make less than $5,000 a year, A-list movie stars command at least $10 million a picture. Their worth is based not upon acting ability but upon their B.O.—box office, that is. Prime-time network TV stars grab at least $2 million a year. Charlie Sheen leads the list, with a salary of about $825,000 for each 30-minute episode, about $19 million for the 2008–2009 season, according to TV Guide.

Supermodels, whose main talent is to be anorexic and have high cheekbones, are pulling in million-dollar salaries, with Giselle Bundchen netting a very gross $33 million this year. Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio each earned $6–9 million this year, just for modeling. Supermodels average about $70,000 a day. That’s well above the average annual salary of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

Miley Cyrus, who’s just 16, raked in $25 million this past year, about double what the "High School Musical" stars each earned in 2008.

If you’re a rapper, it’s hard to be a part of the ’hood if, like 50-Cent, you earned $150 million this year. Jay-Z, who led the list in 2007, trailed with $82 million. The top 20 rappers each earned at least $10 million, and that’s a lot of scrillah fo’shizzle.

Rush Limbaugh, perhaps radio’s greatest comedian, has a $400 million eight-year contract that will carry his voice on 600 stations through 2016. Far behind are factually-challenged Sean Hannity with a five-year $100 million contract, and Bill O’Reilly, the bloviator-in-chief, who is cashing a measly $10 million a year.

Oprah leads the list of celebrity income—she got about $385 million last year. Every TV celebrity judge makes more than the $208,000 that a Supreme Court justice makes. Leading the pack is Judge Judy, whose screechy shouting on TV earned her about $25 million last year.

The president of the United States, even the most incompetent one, earns $400,000. Compare that to the average salary for the Fortune 500 CEOs, each of whom earns about $13 million a year, about 400 times more than that of the average worker.

If life was fair, and people were paid what they were worth, there would be only a very small pay gap between bosses and workers.

But, it’s the average worker who is the one who actually produces America’s goods, who actually helps other Americans. If life was fair, and people were paid what they were worth, there would be only a very small pay gap between bosses and workers. Here’s some news I think should be published in the new year—but probably won’t be.

In a related story, Phillies pitcher Harry Horsehide became the highest-paid player in sports when he signed a three-year contract for $108,000 a year. The new contract will mean general admission ticket prices will rise to about $10, with premium seating at $30, according to Phillies management.

Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, and at the top of the salary schedule. After 28 years, his salary now exceeds what he earned before going into higher education. Dr. Brasch is also the author of 17 books, including the critically-acclaimed America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (2004); ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Government’s Response to Hurricane Katrina (2006); and the 560-page Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (2008). All books are available at amazon.com, and most bookstores. You may contact Dr. Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com, or by e-mail at brasch@bloomu.edu



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This story was published on January 6, 2009.