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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/28/13

Where is the Outrage?

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Message Kurt F. Stone
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by A.P.

No wonder so many people dream about becoming professional athletes:

Just this week, the Boston Red Sox announced that they had come to terms with their all-star 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia on an 8-year, $110 million contract extension.  If the 5' 8" 165-pound Pedroia keeps to his career averages, this new contract will pay him $104,166.00 for per game, or $26,041.66 for every time he comes up to bat.  Oh yes, it also works out to $1,057,693.30 per home run.

This past season, Los Angeles Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant earned $30,453,805.00, which worked out to $371,387.86 for each game he played, and $14,277.45 for every point he scored. Then too, there's Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He earned $15,000,000.00 during the 2012 season, which worked out to $937,500.00 per game played, $426,666.66 per touchdown thrown. 

As a society, we have become so inured, so accustomed to the mind-boggling amounts that professional athletes rake in, that we hardly blink an eye when reading that a .250 hitter is "a real steal" at $2.5 million, or that an oft-injured, forward will be paid the "nominal sum" of $2 million. I guess they're worth the cost; otherwise their billionaire bosses wouldn't be paying them all those dollars. Whenever I read or hear items about how much ball players earn, I break down their salaries into what I call "achievement equivalents" -- how much per game played, per point scored, etc.  I do this in order to get an even better handle on just how high the sports stratosphere really is; of how much one can get paid for merely doing their job -- playing a game, hitting a double, sinking a free-throw.  I mean, it is truly daunting to figure out that if only one could hit but a single home run -- based on Dustin Pedroia's salary -- they would be set for life; that if one could somehow manage to run up and down a professional basketball court for just 10 minutes -- based on Kobe Bryant's salary -- they could stop working, take a six month cruise-for-two around the world, and still have money to burn -- and all for ten minutes worth of running!  Talk about an achievement equivalent!

But believe it or not, there is a much, much, MUCH pricier reality than the one occupied by the Pedroias, Bryants and Mannings of the world.  In this realm, the achievement equivalent is far beyond stratospheric; it is exospheric. In this "sport," we are the ones who own the "team"; we are the ones who hire the "players" and sign the checks. This team has 535 players; its name is The United States Congress.  Although no one knows precisely how much money it takes to run Congress -- both House and Senate -- per year, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz came up with the figure of $30 million per day. Now, from January through the end of July 2013, the 113th Congress has been in session precisely 85 days.  At $30 million per day, that works out to $2.55 billion.  (Just for yucks, at $371,387.86 per game played, Kobe Bryant earns more than twice what a representative or senator earns in two years -- $174,000.00.)

If the purpose of a basketball player is to score points, a quarterback to throw touchdowns and a sports team  to win games, the purpose of Congress is to enact laws.  Want to know about its "achievement equivalent?"  About how much it cost us for every victory or hit?  So far, the men and women of the 113th Congress have enacted precisely 18 laws -- an achievement equivalent of $141,666.666.00 per "hit."  And mind you, of the 18 laws sent to the president for his signature, several were the baseball equivalents of dribblers that barely made it up the third-base line -- such measures as:

  • H.R. 1246, The "District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Vacancy Act," which "amends the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to provide that the District of Columbia Treasurer or one of the Deputy Chief Financial Officers of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia may perform the functions and duties of the Office in an acting capacity if there is a vacancy in the Office ." (Signed into law 5/1/13)
  • H.R. 1071, which specifies the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins. (Signed into law 5/17/2013)
  • H.R. 258, The "Stolen Valor Act of 2013," which "amends title 18, United States Code, with respect to fraudulent representations about having received military declarations or medals."   (Signed into law 6/3/2013)

Without question, the 113th Congress is on a pace to become the least productive in the post-war era.  In 1947, Congress enacted 395 laws; in 1957, 316; in 1967, 391; in 1977, 223; in 1987, 240; in 1997, 153; in 2007, 180; so far in 2013 . . . 18.

Is it any wonder that Congress's popularity rating barely clears single digits? While they have managed to send President Obama the occasional bill (one of my favorites was -- I kid you not -- S982, the "Freedom to Fish Act"), on issues of major importance -- immigration, food stamps, education, jobs, infrastructure, gun control etc. -- they have dithered, obstructed, bloviated and failed.  In sports terms, the entire Congress has spent the lion's share of the season on the 60-day DL (disabled list); the team is languishing in the cellar, mired in the worst losing streak in recorded memory.

Moreover, every time the House votes to repeal Obamacare (a meaningless exercise meant to energize the Tea Party base), or holds yet another investigation into Benghazi or spends the better part of a legislative day reading the Constitution aloud, it costs we -- the team owners -- another $30 million. 

$30 million a day, $141,666,666.00 per law enacted.  How can a "team" that wastes so much money then turn around and demand fiscal prudence when it comes to the poor, the sick and the elderly?  They are failing us.  They are last in the league . . . by a huge margin.

And its not like we can look to bring up rookies from the political farm system -- the state legislatures.  In many ways, they are even worse.  In state after state -- Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio -- to name but a few, legislatures have rushed to enact laws restricting the ability to vote, to obtain an abortion, or to receive an adequate -- let alone a quality -- public education.  They are all using the same game-time strategy . . . the one created by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), the Koch-brother funded organization which takes what were once considered wacky, racist, far right ideas, and then pays state legislators to turn them into "mainstream" policy.   (You may wish to reread the piece I wrote on ALEC precisely two years ago.) 

So tell me: where's the outrage?  Where are the protests?  Where are the tens of millions of citizens who still believe that America belongs to the people . . . that we are the owners of the team? Why are we so sheepishly quiescent? How much longer are we going to be willing to shell out billions for players who are little better than pathetic amateurs who evince neither love of the game nor knowledge of its rules.

Where is the outrage?

-2013 Kurt F. Stone

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Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...)
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