Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Do We Really Value?

Sunday's Parade magazine had their annual report on what people earn. While this is far from a definitive, scientific study (to the best of my knowledge), I always find it fascinating to look through.

Making the basic assumption that we pay more for what we value more, I actually took pencil to paper and listed out the occupations that our society finds most and least valuable....

Most valuable by far were TV and screen celebrities, well known sports figures, even a NASCAR driver. Also up there were CEOs, including those of Halliburton, Hewlett-Packard, and Sara Lee. Only one real innovator, so to speak, jumped out at me, the co-founder of YouTube, who was listed at being worth $341,000,000. (Is YouTube really worth $341 million x however many co-founders there are?)

Interestingly, we value Katie Couric and a Nascar driver, Jimmie Johnson, almost equally. Both are worth in the vicinity of $15 million.

Then I looked at jobs that I felt were actually the backbone of keeping our society running efficiently: teachers, nurses, Air Force personnel, ministers, letter carriers, engineers, child care workers, police officers, architects, judges, school lunchroom workers, computer techs, etc. etc. etc. As reported in Parade this year, these folks averaged $56,019 in annual compensation.

So, looking at what we feel it's worth to pay them, a big-time NASCAR driver is worth 300 times more than the average U.S. worker who keeps our country functioning. (For driving really, really fast going around a track many, many times? Oh, yeah, THAT's real important.)

Last of all, I looked at the workers that we pay the least. The ones that we feel aren't very important. Some of these I had no trouble with (bartender at $25,000, for example), but some really bothered me. As usual, child care workers are low: only one was listed this time, at $24,000. A taxidermist earned $40,000; a paralegal earned $42,000; an accordionist earned $45,000; and an adult who drives around a track going really, really fast earned $15.8 million. I don't want to hear how much we value our children in this country.

And, of course, a person (male or female) who opts to take care of his/her own family full-time gets paid nothing. Zip. Zilch. No social security benefits. No nothing. You can take care of somebody else's family and get paid, but not your own. You can receive economic security playing the accordion, stuffing dead animals, or going around a track really, really fast, but you don't deserve it if you take care of your own family.

So we value taking care of our own families as worthless.

And we wonder why there are school shootings, an epidemic of depression, as many marriages ending in divorce as staying together, and the host of other fantastic perks that accompanies our magnificent society.

Maybe it's time we took our heads out of the sports pages and turned off the TV and really started looking at what makes our lives worthwhile and happy. I wonder what we'd discover then.


qkslvrwolf said...

Damn, you're on fire. Nothing for like a month, and then all of this!


I would make one argument here. Youtube is a game changing shift in the way we absorb content. Ask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, after their resent (and surely only opening) exchange of videos on YouTube. Youtube makes for not only universal content consumption, but also universal content creation. It gets people involved and engaged, in everything from the banal to the socially important.

I'm sure there are plenty of folks who asked whether Henry Ford's assembly line was all that important, and I know there were plenty of people who questioned the value of the computer. This internet revolution is just as important, and I believe that it will provide many more positive advances for humanity than negative. :-)

Other than that, all I have for this post is "hear, hear"

Gaia gardener said...

I didn't say that YouTube wasn't important, just that I wasn't sure it was THAT important. "Is this one co-founder of YouTube worth 6,087 "normal" society workers?" is the question that I was actually trying to ask. And it's simply a question...for which I don't know the answer. Truthfully I doubt that anyone can actually answer this question until the future gives us 20/20 hindsight.

qkslvrwolf said...

Nope, I'm fully capable of answering it the answer is absolutely, they're worth 6000+ social workers. Because they will enable 6000 social workers to do more with their job. :-) You'll see!