Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Fairy Princess Decree: $100,000 a year (at least) for every working adult

Let's end income inequality by equalizing incomes. Is that so complicated? .

     (Jan. 2, 2014) I have just now been informed that I am have been named the first Fairy Princess of 2014. I have 24 hours to announce my decree. Thanks guys -- a little bit of advance warning would have been thoughtful.
    But I'm ready for you, which you probably hoped I wouldn't be. I don't even need time to prepare:
    I decree that everyone who has a job -- and who does that job with energy, competence, good nature, enterprise and reliability -- be paid $100,000 a year. I don't care if you're an investment banker or a convenience-store clerk, a lawyer or a ditch-digger, a supermodel or a custodian, a bus driver or an advertising executive.
    Everyone deserves a GOOD DAY'S PAY for a good day's work. This is so elementary, my dear Watsons. There should be no such thing as the working poor -- why do we  need to keep saying that? I want everyone to have a HOME, plenty of wholesome food, decent clothes, and a chance to provide opportunities for their children.
   "Our tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth invokes deep psychological responses, feelings of dominance and subordination, superiority and inferiority. This affects the way we see and treat one also damages the individual psyche," Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, co-founders of the Equality Trust, a British-based think tank, write in an excellent essay (
    Inequality hurts people in ways most of us never imagine. It is deeply cruel.
    I want a level playing field: that virtually forgotten principle called "equality of opportunity."
   The field will never be completely level -- I know that -- because some of us are born with advantages: from attractiveness, to physical prowess, to marvelous talents and brain power, to natural resiliency and optimism,  to an enriched home environment. 
    But if we give every hardworking adult $100,000, it will help mitigate those inevitable inequalities, and it will give everyone the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to which we are supposedly entitled. 
    You are not superior because you have a high-paying job. Those who clean your office at night and rotate your tires deserve the American Dream as much as you do. We need to remember the old-fashioned concept that there is dignity in all work. We should reward all work, done in good faith, with generosity and gratitude.
    This idea is not stupid or naive, despite what all my Nobel-laureate fans, and my chums in Forbes "billionaires list" -- will claim. Think how much it would do for our economy -- not to mention our integrity -- if we gave every family the chance to have a good life. More people could buy quality food, travel, recreate and "buy more stuff." I know the fairness of it all would be a shock to the system -- Donald Trump would probably have to wear Depends and a Hannibal Lecter mask for a few days -- but I think we could adapt quite nicely.
    I know the fat cats would freak out at this whole concept. The would fight viciously to protect their exalted status, and the myth of their priceless contributions to society, and the LIE that we have to pay millions of dollars to attract good people to important jobs. If we didn't pay millions of dollars, who would take on these challenging positions?
    Do you really think that if a college president, or a football coach, or a Wall Street lawyer, or a neurosurgeon, or a Hollywood director, or a hip tech entrepreneur, was told, "Your pay has been cut to $100,000," that they'd say: "To hell with this -- I'm going to go flip burgers!"
    Do you think a movie star or media magnate, faced with a pay cut to $100,000 a year, would say, "Hell -- I'll go be a dishwasher or a security guard instead."
   The rich love the excitement and power of their jobs, the dynamism, the stimulating colleagues, the impact they have. It's a huge ego trip. It would still be a huge ego trip without all that money. They would still be the lucky ones. We have so many measures of "hotness" in this culture besides income.
    Do you really think a network news anchor or a couture designer, or a real-estate magnate, or a Senator, would quit after receiving the huge pay cut, and go work instead at a poultry factory or a customer-service call center? Would he rather stock shelves on the overnight shift at Costco, or be a faceless bureaucrat in some municipal agency, to earn his hundred thousand dollars? Would he like to be a receptionist?

    Would he like to clean hotel rooms instead, or sell cars or be a home health aide? What about being an agricultural worker -- all that sunshine! Would he like to be a bricklayer or pharmacy aide or a billing clerk, and still get that same $100,000 for doing such easy, low-skill work?
    Hell no! The irony, and the outrage, of our economic system (one of them, anyway) is that those who have the most interesting, rewarding, creative, prestigious jobs -- with lots of freedom, perks, beautiful surroundings, fancy social lives -- also get paid far more than other people. The law of supply and demand is somehow vaporized, as a few people -- in a country filled with talented and attractive people -- get to have it all.
    Meanwhile those who have the crap jobs are treated like crap. I believe that the average low-wage worker works harder than the average high-wage worker. Most do so with dignity and forbearance.
   It is obscene. It is cruel. And it is one of many things about America that is un-American.
    To those who say, "Well, if they can get a hundred grand for unclogging people's toilets, or doing rich folks' dry-cleaning, what would motivate them to better themselves?" Isn't the answer obvious? 
    Of course, there would be failures, and some inequality would creep back in. The former One Percent would find some way -- legal or not -- to parlay their income (and their inherited wealth) into a less "proletarian" existence. Some people would falter, as depression, substance abuse, serious medical conditions and other life-altering events threw a wrench into the Plenty For All scenario.
    But these exceptions don't negate the fundamental validity of valuing every human being and his labors equally.
   This will be such a cheap experiment, relative to the billions we throw around, and lose to waste and fraud, every year. Let's see what it's like to have a country in which everyone is taken care of, with this baseline income that gives each of us a sense that we are respected, contributing members of our very interdependent society.  
    And that, my Fellow Americans, is my decree, as your first Fairy Princess of 2014. No charge. I already got my $100,000, in the form of Christmas cash, just for being an inexplicably sexy old woman. I don't really understand it, but what can you do? Men are plain crazy!