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.