Friday, July 2, 2010

All Hail ‘King James’?

In an age of corporate bailouts, and financial hardship for middle-class America, there’s a certain class of person who is still doing well - and actually striving. To join this elite club is not difficult; you don’t have to go to college, and while you may possess a certain skill, that proficiency doesn’t actually have to be of any use to the general public (i.e. craftsmanship, leadership, etc.) Want to know the secret? Just ask ‘King James’…

Who is this king? Why, I’m talking about LeBron James, of course! Apparently, he’s the absolute best free-agent player in the NBA right now, and cities across the country are vying for him to join their basketball team. Why? Because he’ll bring billions - yes, billions - of dollars to whichever city he decides to move to. That money will come from the fans who pay to watch the game, as well as to travel to that city in the form of sales tax (from hotels, food, etc.). That means the city LeBron chooses will have more money to spend on upgrading their sporting facilities (like New York’s Madison Square Garden facelift to the tune of $500 million - just to entice the ‘king’ to move there!), instead of providing real services to their respective communities.

For one more question, why is this a problem? Last year, Mr. James took in about $43 million. All of that comes from consumers who are willing to pay the exorbitant cost to see his sporting events and buy products for which he has advertised. Some of these consumers are just stupid and are willing to put themselves into debt just to go watch some men run around for an hour or so, throwing a ball around (mind you, if you really can afford it, fine, but tickets still cost too much). Just the other day one of these stupid consumers was highlighted on the Oprah show; the man paid $1,000 dollars for Chicago Bears tickets while contemplating filing for bankruptcy. And you’re surprised? While this problem seems like common sense to avoid, in reality, this is just one case of many.

This is the problem with the economy. It’s not the fault of some individual corporate executive, Wall Street swindler, the president of the United States, or even LeBron James, who this whole post started with. No, it’s the stupid consumers out there who buy things they can’t afford. I’m an open advocate of limiting the salaries of certain professions, or else taxing certain individuals who happen to make an exuberant amount of money annually. Those people are usually top CEOs and those working in the entertainment industry, such as sports and movies. However, there’s not a huge point of limiting the income of these individuals when many pay their normal taxes (instead of evading them, like some do) and give much of their wealth to charities (there’s a few people who come to mind who do this - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, for example - and they get kudos for that).

Here’s where my point comes in: when it appears so many people out there are so eager to get rid of their money, why not tax athletes, let’s say, an additional 1% of their income, with that specific amount going to fund charities or public works? Remember again that for what they’re paid for, celebrities provide little that’s actually meaningful to the public - other than a minimal amount of entertainment. Or better yet, instead of taxing the performers why not tax the tickets themselves? I mean, the cost to see a professional sporting event is so high in the first place, then are those going to see the game really going to be out much when they pay an extra few bucks to see it? And while focus here on sports and athletics, the same applies to rock concerts and movies. All these things cost as much as they do in order to pay the top tier performers the big bucks, plain and simple.

To rehash: A small minority control a large majority of the wealth, and a large portion of those are people who do little-to-no work to ‘earn’ it. These people sometimes give their wealth to needy groups, but more often only give a small relative amount or nothing at all. These people get paid by those who may or may not be well off enough to afford paying the rich for nothing. Since these people are already willing to pay so much - even if they can’t afford to do so - then why not use that wasteful spending on something a little more useful? Besides, if you made $43 million per year, what would you spend it on that wasn’t supremely over-priced? Would you really need that much money?

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