If You’ve Made Enough Money, Raise Your Hand

Once in a while, The Free Agent’s president gives her a gift.  Not a big gift such as he’s given the United Auto Workers or new federal employees.  But the gift of saying something so preposterous that it remains merely for her to lay her fingertips upon the keyboard in order for her blog to write itself.

During a speech in Quincy, Illinois, Mister Obama said, “I do think at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”  He didn’t specify what that point is exactly, but for argument’s sake, let’s say by the time a person has earned $5 million in a year, and candidate McCain would agree, that that figure would define a rich person, you’ve earned enough.  You now have at least enough money, not counting investment income, to enjoy fifty years at double the national average household income.

Mister Obama also failed to specify, perhaps because he was deviating from his prepared speech, what the economically beneficial course of action would be once a person believes him or herself to have made enough money.  It isn’t reasonable to assume people should work for nothing, so let us argue that individual should step aside and let a fellow American get a chance at one of “our” jobs.  What would the new virtuous society look like?

Professional sports, for one thing, would look completely different.  Kobe Bryant only has to play 16 games next year and he’ll qualify for the super-rich enemies list.  But he won’t be lonesome in retirement; the NBA’s average player earns over $5 million per year.  Clearing out all these selfish players will give short, monogamous fellows a chance at the court.  (Professional women’s basketball players, on the other hand, can play out their natural careers.  Only the shrewdest investments and old-fashioned home economics could set up those ladies for life, even earning the league’s cap of $52,000.)  The average professional football player, however only makes $770,000, so most of them can also play out their natural careers.

Most creative artists never fully support themselves on their earnings, but when one is successful, he or she can quickly trigger Mister Obama’s “Enough!”  Millions of girls the world over would never have been called upon to choose between teams Edward and Jacob if Stephanie Meyer had been satisfied with her earnings from Twilight.  Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson would have had to be killed off of “Full House” when they hit their ‘tweens, Elton John really would have been saying “Good-Bye, Yellow Brick Road,” and James Cameron never would have re-sunk the Titanic.

Other celebrities play dead convincingly yet will not roll over: late entertainers who still earned at least $5 million in 2009 include Elvis, John Lennon, and Charles Schulz.  Even Albert Einstein, who probably earned yeoman’s salary at Princeton, wisely got into posthumous showbiz and pulled down $10 million from sources ranging from video games to Happy Meals.  The Free Agent speculates that Ms. Clinton and others who constantly sniff around estates on behalf of the taxpayers, would not see a need for the departed to earn any money at all.

She also supposes that the people Mister Obama really objects to are business people. The FA won’t belabor the point that any business that pays its employees more than they earn over time will go bankrupt, not in these bailout times.  She’ll ask, rather, where over a hundred thousand employees of Microsoft would be working if Bill Gates had unplugged his IBM PS2 for good.  Warren Buffet seems to be a man on whom $5 million is wasted, but would thousands of Berkshire-Hathaway investors agree that he should have stopped there?  Back in the topsy-turvy America of 1907, J.P. Morgan bailed out Wall Street, several banks, and the federal government.  Given inflation, Mister Obama would have retired him when he’d earned $250,000.

Of course, there are examples which give one pause.  MTV’s Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is expected to earn over $5 million this year.  But The Free Agent stiffens her spine.  None of Mister Sorrentino’s numerous gym memberships come out of her reticule, nor is she his employer, so she will mind her own business.  Fellow $5 million-dollar-man Barak Obama, on the other hand . . .