Income Inequality is Not the Problem
14 Jan '15

Income Inequality is Not the Problem


If you are used to our normal blog posts on fitness and that’s what you are looking for this week, you might want to quit reading. Lately, all the press on income inequality has driven me to the point of wanting to drink incessantly.

Imagine if you visited a city where there was a bacterial outbreak and chest congestion was rampant. If all you could talk about was how we needed to get everyone to stop coughing without addressing the underlying infection, you would have the parallel with all the talk about income inequality.

You might ask what expertise does a fitness guy have on this topic? It just so happens that I have an advanced degree in the topic area of the root problem and spent 3.5 years in school earning this degree. Income inequality is not the problem, greed is. Since our entire society is built upon greed, it is hard to attack the root problem without damaging our economy, our legal system, and almost every major component that constitutes our society.

Greed is not exclusive just to those who have more than others. Some of the most greedy people I have ever encountered have little in terms of worldly possessions. First, let’s address the elephant in the room- income inequality. As long as we have the compensation systems we employ, we are going to have income inequality…it is a symptom of the fact that some people do work that is more valuable than others. For instance, if I tried to play in the NBA (trust me, they wouldn’t let me try out), the teams would pay me much less than Lebron James because the output of Lebron’s work is far more valuable than mine.

If I spent 10 years getting a medical degree and specialized training, I would expect to earn more than if I skipped college and decided that pushing a broom is my goal in life. There is not a problem with people doing what they want to do work wise, but those who spend the time to make their skill set more valuable will generally be compensated more than those that don’t. It is a fact of life.

My issue is the greed of many people. Leslie Stahl was interviewing Jeffrey Romoff, the CEO of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. When asked why he deserves $6 million a year and why 23 executives make over $1 million a year, his response was that the board of directors set the salaries. As an aside, Leslie Stahl makes $1.8 million a year according to Wikipedia.

To justify your salary by passing the buck was not the answer I was hoping to hear. Neither was Jeffrey Romoff’s other response that the compensation of executives was less than 1% of revenue. What is does not address is that his exorbitant compensation is done while many “non-profit” hospitals bill people $1.50 for a single generic aspirin or bill $10,000 a day for a room.

Compare that with the average Joe on the street. Our company vehicles have been involved in a couple of fender benders over the years. We had one that stands out in my mind where our employee’s foot slipped off the brake pedal and he rolled at about 2 MPH into the car in front of him. Both passengers immediately called one of the “billboard” lawyers and our insurance company paid a few hundred dollars to each person to get them to go away.

Wikipedia defines greed as “the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one's self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.” As the definition implies, you can be greedy in many areas of life and we see this all the time with politicians, executives, celebrities, and even clerks in a discount store.

Until we tackle the underlying problem of people who want to “get all they can, can all they get, and sit on the can (Adrian Rogers)” we won’t successfully address the symptom of the turmoil in our society today.

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