Once again Parade Magazine has blessed us with a glimpse of what workers around our country earn for a living. That is, when they are employed. Some of the faces on the front cover of their weekly magazine feature may have recently found COVID-19 to be their demon of unemployment.
I’ve always found this survey to be interesting. In a way, it’s comforting to realize that not everyone is making absurd incomes like entertainers, sports figures, and CEOs. On the other hand, it might well be the first step to the dreaded sin of paycheck envy.
Let’s look at some numbers from Parade’s, "What People Earn: Our Annual Report."
Rush Limbaugh tops the front cover list grabbing an estimated $87 milliion annually for political gabbing. Luke Bryan, country singer, earned less than half that at $42.4 million. Outlander stars Sam Heughan and Caitronia Balfe each pull in $100k per episode of a show I’ve never seen. Nice work, if you can get it.
Now back to the real world. JoAnne Engelhardt earns $13,794 a year as a theatre critic. But how does that happen? She’s obviously horribly paid or is part time. Julie Stripland is a high school band secretary. At $22,614 she’s paid less annually than a full time $15 per hour employee! And Rick Resnick, a Chicago tour guide, is being taken for a ride at $34,500!!
Aside from our curiosity on what the job market serves up, why our fascination with knowing this information? I’m sure at parties it’s a good conversation bit to say, “Can you believe what that Limbaugh makes?” (Or any major CEO of a company.) To which the reply is usually, “NOBODY is worth that kind of money!”
People are not really paid what they’re worth. Some are paid WAY too much. Some are paid WAY too little. How do we really measure the value of the services being rendered in this time of sheltering-at-home?
Some nurses and doctors are doing life-saving work. Some young folks are filling up grocery delivery carts for pickup. Some Starbucks employees, while already getting paid whether they work or not, have decided to show up and get extra pay so we can indulge in lattes. All of them are currently involved in “risky business.”
There is one more aspect of income comparisons that we find a more sinister plague on our soul. That of the earlier mentioned paycheck envy. In this wicked twist, we somehow conclude that the abundance of wealth has made the high rollers a happier lot. More possessions and financial success mean the freedom to buy what we want, travel to exotic locations, and live like kings and queens.
It hits us closest to home in our own workplaces. That’s when we find out how income inequality may have burned us. A coworker makes more. A promotion goes to the undeserved with a fat raise. A better job offer comes to a younger and less experienced employee. We quietly seethe.
Once after John the Baptist finished preaching, the crowd asked how to better live out their faith. He told those with two shirts to share with the person who has none. He told tax collectors to only collect the required amount. And to the soldiers he said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:10-14 (NIV)
Apparently, paycheck envy goes way back. And if it wasn’t a paycheck, it might have been property. Or the amount of livestock owned by the neighbor. It’s all the same.
Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Margaret Thatcher advised, “The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build.” They’re both right.
While thousands are losing their jobs this week and next, now is a very good time to be thankful for the job you have. It is not a good time to be comparing.
Even in the good times, the thief of joy is always lurking around the corner.
That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.
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