Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Is More Important To America: Professional Referees or Public Elected Officials In Congress?

'Zebras are more important than
Congressmen and Senators in America!'
We got to thinking the other day about what was 'more important' to the United States of America:
Having great referees in our professional sports leagues....or having great representatives and senators in Congress in Washington?
Apparently, based on the way we pay our elected representatives versus professional referees, we 'value' the services of NFL/MLB and NHL referees at or around the same level as we 'value' our elected officials in this nation.

We know, we know: 'The market values rare talent'. Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James and Peyton Manning are those 'rare talents' and command massive salaries up to $25M per year. 'They put fannies in the seats and sell advertising on the tube!' team owners and general managers say to justify such exorbitant salaries.

Babe Ruth said it best when asked why he was paid more for hitting home runs than Herbert Hoover was paid for being President of the United States in 1929:

'I hadda better year than he did!'

People will say that we have to have 'the very best officials...because that is good for the game (of football/basketball/baseball)

If that is true for sports (and for the Las Vegas bookies), isn't that true also for our elected US Representatives, Senators and Presidents?

The new eight-year NFL referee contract gives the union referees a pay bump from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013. The pay will rise to $205,000 by 2019.

Umpires in Major League Baseball make around $141,000 annually. NBA referees make around $128,000 annually and the NHL officials earn around $139,000 annually.

US Congressman and Senators both make $177,000/annually. Which, when you think about it, is more than a little odd since a Senator in a state such as North Carolina now serves 13 times more people than a single Congressman or Congresswoman does. A US Senator in the state of California serves 53 times more people than any single Congressional rep does.

Maybe Senators should get paid at least double for the work they do on behalf of the entire state?

Let's compare the relative importance of professional referees/umpires and public officials:
  1. Referees and umpires 'govern' and 'regulate' professional sports games. 
  2. US Congressmen and Senators 'govern' and 'regulate' (sic?) our $3.7 trillion annual budget.
  3. NFL refs work 16 days per season, 4 hours at a time.
  4. Congress is in session for most of the calendar year.
  5. Refs and umps call fouls and strikes.
  6. Representatives and Senators decide about going to war and paying for our military protection.
  7. Refs tell irate coaches to shut up and 'you are outta here!' when they get mad.
  8. Reps and Senators bring Administration officials from the IRS to testify about why they target political groups solely for their political beliefs.
  9. Refs and 'Blues' (as some call baseball umps) have to avoid players spitting tobacco on their shoes
  10. Congressmen and Senators have to worry about crazy people attacking them verbally and physically.
You get our point. Our US elected officials are charged with doing very important work for us. Professional umpires and referees....are refereeing and umpiring older adults playing what essentially are children's games.

Now, we will be first in line to say that many of our elected officials are not doing a great job. In fact, over the past 10-20 years, the lack of success and progress on any major issue of magnitude we face as a nation makes it embarrassing to say we are paying most of the people in Washington anything when it comes right down to it.

A roomful of 535 chimpanzees with calculators and credit cards wouldn't have run up a $17 trillion national debt, would they? $6 trillion has been rung up in the last 4.5 years.

At least in some professional sports, namely football, you can cut a player right away for not performing well or missing 3 field goals from the 10-yard line. We assume professional refs and umps can be 'fired' as well for making bone-headed calls such as last year when the Seattle Seahawks 'beat' the Green Bay Packers

It is not so easy with our elected representatives and senators. Once they are elected, they assume the 'powers of incumbency' such as the ability to out-fundraise their opponents 10-to-1; the ability to mass-mail and mass-market their positions on the issues by the millions and the presumption by their constituents that 'they must know what they are doing or else they wouldn't ever have been elected in the first place!'

We only get the chance to 'throw the bums out' from Congress every 2 years and every 6 years for Senators. And Presidents (who make $400,000/year) every 4 years.

We also understand the point that the free market is paying the salaries of professional athletes and referees and umpires. They can be paid $10 billion as long as enough people pay high enough prices for tickets to the games and buy enough product to justify all the television ads they will have to sit through to watch a 60-minute game. It might take 24 hours to do so, however.

We do think there is some truth that paying our elected leaders higher salaries will attract a better crop of candidates to run for political office across the board. State elected leaders get paid paltry amounts relative to the time they spend in the state capitals. Mayors, city councilmen and county commissioners are essentially working for free when you tally all the hours they work and figure out what they are getting paid on an hourly basis.

It might have been a noble notion at the founding of the American Republic to have people want to serve our nation and states essentially on a voluntary basis and get paid as little as possible to serve in office.

It might be time to re-think that vision. Think we wouldn't attract a better slate of candidates for Congress across the nation if the base salary was $250,000? $300,000? $500,00 per year? Wouldn't you consider it at least?

That would take away 1 big excuse we always hear when very qualified people say they 'don't want to take a pay cut to go to Congress!'

Think about it this way: If we had paid 535 people $500,000/year knowing they knew how to balance the budget each year, we would have saved $6 trillion in new debt accumulation since 2009 alone. For $267,500,000 per year, we would have saved that $6 trillion in new debt and then some since supposedly they would also ferret out all the waste in the the federal government. (We know it is there)

$500,000/year is enough for anyone to leave their private sector position and maintain two households, one in the Washington, DC area and one back home.

Isn't it?

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