Socially Distant Money

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Money. It’s on a lot of people’s minds these days, and as so much of the time, it’s an infuriating notion.

I doubt that it’s really a secret, but in a perfect world, I would be a socialist. A true Marxist (despite never reading his work), not a Russian communist nor a disciple of Mao, or a follower of Hugo Chavez or any number of other “socialists” for whom the notion means “equality for everyone, but especially me.”

It’s not a perfect world, and I am not a socialist, and often the words of my friend Jeff resonate. Jeff’s political views are a lot more conservative than mine, although after he got airlifted out of the valley during cardiac arrest, he became a firm believer in a more equitable health system, such as universal care. But in some discussion somewhere along the line, he pointed out that not everyone works equally hard, so why should everyone be paid the same?

During that discussion, I immediately flashed to my days as a seasonal ramp worker at the local airport. I did that for 16 years, and there were several reasons I left, but one of them was a college boy whose name I don’t even recall. Early on, that last season I worked, he looked around and realized that he was going to get paid for a shift whether he carried his weight or not, so he took it to the max: ostentatiously pulling up a chair in the bag room to watch the rest of us lump bags, shirking as best he could out on the ramp. He seemed to revel in his nickname: “Slacker.”

Jeff was completely right. I deeply resented that Slacker was getting paid not quite as much as me (I had seniority and a sub-management position). It pissed me off so much that it numbered high among my reasons for not going back, this only the most blatant example of the many I worked with over the years who had no compunction about doing less than their co-workers while collecting the same pay.

So, not really a socialist, no matter how much I think I want to be one.

But enough of one that this sort of story pisses me off as much as Nameless College Boy still does: CBS Denver has discovered that some hospital chain in the area (Denver Health One? Centura? I’m sure it’s on their website) has asked people down on the floors to take unpaid time off — at the same time the upper echelons are collecting bonuses on top of their already-extravagant pay.

I’m not sure who the spokeswoman who agreed to be interviewed was, but she showed no shame at all as she detailed how very hard these six-figure administrators are working to justify their five- and six-figure bonuses. ($270,000 for the woman making $980,000. I’m sure she’s worth every penny.)

And, the spokeswoman recounted, some of the executives are taking PAID time off to help with the budget crunch. I may not be the smartest numbers person out there, but I’m uncertain as to how taking paid time but not working helps the situation at all — especially when your hourly workers (whose entire year of pay likely doesn’t add up to even the lowest of the bonuses) are taking their time off UNPAID.

I have yet to meet the person who thinks they get paid too much. And I’ve been in line behind a teacher now a county commissioner, who was sure he was the most poorly paid person at the Democratic luncheon. (Not even close, buddy.)

This is the same county commissioner who apparently got quite indignant recently when a constituent, a business owner completely closed down, pointed out that the commissioner was going home knowing he had a salary to wake up to the next day. Like hospital administrators in Denver, he feels he’s working plenty hard for the money that I’m sure still isn’t enough to cover his worth.

I’ve also been around a longtime Forest Service employee, well up there on the federal pay scale, to listen as he complained — with a perfectly straight face — about how poorly federal workers were paid. He issued this complaint while standing on Main Street. Do you know the median income — I was going to say today, but I mean pre-covid — in the City of Gunnison is something like $20 – 21,000? That’s the median: half of everyone makes less than that.

To everyone’s lasting surprise, I’m sure, it turns out that the federal bailout money isn’t really working as intended. More large restaurant chains, whose employees are out of work but whose balance sheets are in the hundreds of millions, if not billion, are giving back their PPP loans. I doubt all of them will do that.

One of my friends yesterday said some firm in Boulder got $3 million from the PPP, and the owner straight up told a reporter: “I don’t really need this money.” Thinking back on the application, I don’t believe you had to show any sort of financial hardship — you just had to be a business in a closed-down area. Like Slacker, who is probably now a hospital administrator, why work if you can get money for free?

In the meantime, the national news yesterday featured an interview with a Pat’s-size small business in Arizona (I think): she looked into the camera and said, “I have $10 in my pocket.” Her PPP application had yet to be processed.

Last night, because I could (as an ex-committee member still on the e-mail list), I watched a recording of the last Cattlemen’s Days committee meeting. While cautious, and even as every rodeo around them closes down this year (not every: Cheyenne Frontier Days is moving forward, although the Calgary Stampede, same weekend as Cattlemen’s, has called it off), our committee is moving forward as if they’re going to be a go.

They had a lengthy discussion about sponsorships and asking businesses for money this year. One member noted the rodeo is a break-even proposition: some years they make a little, some years they lose a little. But there’s nothing to pay for this if they don’t make their sponsorships and their gate. They are well aware of their flagship status in the Gunnison summer, and hoping against hope that they can offer the economic revival this area is definitely going to need by July.

Because it all comes down to money, right? Or so it seems, these days.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid: According to Vanity Fair, Republican pollster Frank Luntz recounted to one of their reporters that when he asked the president what his middle initial (J) stood for, the Stable One answered “Jenius.” So while just yesterday he was suggesting you inject or ingest sanitizing fluid to fight covid-19, I — middle name same as my mom’s, Lee — am recommending you not do that. Dr. Deborah Birx will thank me.

One thought on “Socially Distant Money

  1. It’s been my observation that Leftists who are also business owners have some perspective into what of their tribe’s ideology might most accurately be considered aspirational.


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