The President says that income inequality is the greatest challenge of our time, the greatest threat to our society. I submit that income inequality is upward mobility and poses the greatest opportunity for all Americans.
In a free market each individual person can sell his or labor for he/she and the market agree it is worth. I might like to think that my writing is worthy of nice salary at well-respected magazine. But the market says that right now it’s only worth this blog. A free market takes into account different levels of skill, training and experience and values each accordingly. Those who provide the best products and services will receive the greatest value in exchange. Those who lack skill and training can choose to apply ambition and spend the time necessary to gain the skills and experience to provide a greater value in the free market and thereby earn a greater reward. At first those who lack skill and experience will be rewarded accordingly, but if they work and improve, so will their pay. If they don’t improve, their pay will hover near where they started.
Let’s compare successful actors like George Clooney and Will Smith who earn multi-million dollar pay checks for each film, and compare them to the struggling street mimes in Times Square. Who thinks they should be paid equally? No one in their right minds Passers-by tip the street mine a couple of bucks and tell him to take an acting class. When the faceless street mime’s performance rivals those of Daniel Craig or Robert Downy, Jr, then millions of people on every continent will pay to see his work.
Let’s turn it around. Who thinks that nameless girls with a banjo or guitar on the El-Train platforms in Chicago should be paid as much as P!nk or Tailor Swift or Kelly Clarkson? Tailor Swift, Kelley Clarkson and the other famous performers have all earned their fame and their wealth by providing a service (entertainment) that millions of people voluntarily spent their money to see, sometimes many times over.
We all have sports heroes and entertainers that we look up to say, “Wow, I wish I could perform like that.” And those of us who take our sports or singing seriously will find the time to practice more so that we can perform better. And we say the same thing to struggling musicians working the small venues in Austin or Atlanta, “Practice, create and one day you’ll have your fifteen minutes of fame, like Shawn Mullins.”
Now, who looks at fast-food workers, excuse me, fast-food employees and says that rudely entering orders incorrectly into a computer screen, or laying frozen burger patties on the flame broiler is somehow worth $15 an hour? Do you have any idea what your Big Mac or Whopper would cost if the struggling teenager taking your order or salting your french fries were paid $15 an hour? It would probably be around $8.50 or $9 for the sandwich and $12 for the combo. No one is going to pay $9.00 for a Big Mac. Okay, I might have paid that much for a Whopper in Kuwait at the end of my first deployment to Iraq, but those were different circumstances.
If the government or a union manages to require fast-food restaurants to pay their employees that much over market value, then the restaurants will either price themselves out of business or replace the employees with machines. Face it, if robots can weld trucks together at Toyota factories in Texas and Alabama, they can flip your burgers, too. And if you can order Dominos on your smart phone, you can tap your own order into a screen at Mickey-Ds or TGI Fridays. But if machines take over all the entry level jobs, how will people gain the experience and skill to do the higher jobs?
From the 1920s to 1960s, really from the beginning of America until the 1960s we all just understood that those had more talent, more skill, or were just willing to practice many more hours than the rest of us at a given activity would just be better, and receive a better reward. Therefore, those who were better at activities we all value would be paid more to do those things. The rest of us looked up to them and asked ourselves what we had to do to be like them.
In my case, I wanted to be an astronaut like Neil Armstrong. I studied hard in school and made good grades in science and math, but my eyes went bad. Did I get a victims advocacy group together for legally blind space pilots? No. Why would NASA put a man in space who can’t see the controls of the spacecraft or the experiments? Why would I expect them to do so?
I found another dream. I went to West Point instead of the Air Force Academy. Years later, I wrote the security plan General Cone signed for Bagdad and other large Iraqi cities in the winter of 2010. That’s one of my achievements. Next I want to be a news analyst and opinion writer for a major news organization. Am I going to form a victims advocacy group for those who can’t write and demand that the New York Times give me a column, even if no one reads it? No! I’m going to sit at my word processor and write this blog and post well reasoned comments on American Thinker until I get really good. Then, I’ll send my portfolio a news mogul like Roger Ailes or Matt Drudge or Arianna Huffington and maybe I’ll get a weekly column and then I will work my way up. I love that others, who are better than me, earn more than me; this gives me hope that when I improve, I will earn more, too. And maybe someday, I will save enough money to buy a day trip on Virgin Galactic Spaceways and experience low earth orbit for myself.
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The opinions expressed in my writings are my own, unless otherwise cited or attributed, and not necessarily those of my employers.