An American buying a Lotto ticket seems a bit redundant. After all, in the millions of years of evolution (or few thousand years–depending on which Texas schoolbook you’ve got approved) what are the odds that you’ll be born in a century with indoor plumbing, electricity and fabric softener?
Then factor in that you’ll most likely not be born somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific, north of the Rio Grande. Instead you’ll land where 50% of the world is born–a place where you survive on $2.50 per day or less–or nearly three scratch-and-wins. (source)
So as you tsk-tsk high gas prices and the lawn-service guy who’s ripping you off (causing you to get so upset you nearly spill that $4 mocha) remember the cost of being in a club.
Not far from my house is the prestigious Oakland Hills Country Club–or to golf fans, “The Monster.” It’s been the site of US Opens, the PGA, even a Ryder Cub-shellacking by Europe. It also is a place where I’ll never have the pleasure of hooking one into the pond. I can’t afford the dues. I get it. But one day I did ride my bike up to the fence and looked through a gap in the hedge to see Phil Mickelson stroll by. Its members don’t mind paying the dues because of the prestige and the riff-raff kept at bay behind the fence.
My local movie theater has a caste system that used to be reserved only for concerts and plays. You can pay the groundling-price of only $9 or you can pay another $5 to get a reserved seat in the nice section. There’s even a bouncer in each theater to make sure you don’t presume to move your seat once it’s dark–I know, I considered it.
One if my favorite Carol Burnett skits sums it up pretty well–35 years ago!
Get on an airplane and you get to stroll by the first-class reclined folk drinking from real glass glasses. I drool a little when I think of my legs not pressed against the magazines and being able to get off the plane immediately. But I also, sadly, can’t pay the three seats worth of money to do that.
To quote Spiderman’s soon-to-be-dead Uncle Ben. “With great power comes great responsibility.” You’re the United States. Eventually you entered two world wars to make the world safe for democracy, to get some respect and and took over the role of the only superpower in 1991, when Boris Yeltsin and company put away the sickle. The famous Top 3 List of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom allows Jeff Daniels’ anchor to rant why we’re a bit full of ourselves.
So we lead the world in incarcerated citizens, belief in angels and defense spending. But it kind of makes sense that our defense spending should be so high. Remember that country-club and the riff-raff? It’s not cheap to have a home-security system, let alone feed and clothe the armed guards.
So, if you’ve got the money join the golf club, pay for first-class, drink your Starbucks and get that nice seat at the movies without arriving early. You get what you pay for, right?
And if we look at taxes instead as dues, rather than some optional, arbitrary penalty by the government it might be an easier sell. After all, if Thurston Howell III forgot to pay for his and Lovey’s seat at the opera, he’d expect to not be admitted–at least until greasing the usher’s palm.
But for some reason, roads, schools, hospitals, suspension bridges and getting the grass cut at the park ought to take care of themselves. Taxes really are taxing. But dues are what you should do.
Perhaps Kid Rock understands. His innovative concert tour last year (Free Press) featured many new ideas, but perhaps the most unique was his notion that the folks who could afford it pay what they can afford and let the middle and lower class enjoy the show too. The country-clubbers got their quality seats…
Also crucial would be sales of about 1,000 quality seats for each show via Live Nation’s Platinum Ticket system, where prices shift in real time based on demand. Many have ranged from $100-$200.
But the rest of the people only had to pay $20 for tickets and $4 for beer. The system worked, his concert attendance was way up and he is heralded as an everyman. But he’s an even better everyman–he made a huge profit.
It all stems from a novel deal with promoter Live Nation, quietly hatched by Rock last year. Rather than operate with a traditional guarantee — a set fee for the artist — Rock and Live Nation would split revenues from ticket sales, concessions, merchandise and other ancillary revenue. Success would hinge on getting more bodies through the turnstiles.
So it is possible to include the middle-class and still enjoy the nice seats. It’s possible to enjoy your first-class tickets, still have folks in second class behind you AND have enough fuel in the plane to avoid landing in the ocean.
So doesn’t it seems silly to be a Sam Walton family member earning $25,000 per minute and far more realistic to be Jim Sinegal, founder of Costco, who keeps his employees’ wages respectable, offers them health care without instructing them how to use the government to do so, and still squeaks by on $350,000 per year. (source) Poor Jim is only worth $2 billion compared to the Arkansas gang’s $24 billion or Amazon’s Steve Bezos with $27 billion. But, as reported on 60 Minutes, he’s very busy developing a drone air force so you get your package in 30 minutes instead of forcing you to wait overnight.
If you’ve got to have a helicopter drop off your kids video game in under a half-hour kick in a little more for Social Security than the $113,000-income limit. Otherwise there’s something a little screwy here. We need a few more millionaires like Kid Rock who realize they can still get richer and not leave the rest of us like Tim Conway and no parachute.