By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
This Independence Day, I took a moment to reflect on words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
How ironic then to the see in the July 3 edition of the New York Times that Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing talk show host, is soon going to earn $38 million per year, for a total of $400 million.
This country seems to have endless millions for the lucky few who become ultra rich, while we walk past homeless people who line the sidewalks of our big cities, and allow working men and women to lose their jobs at an astounding pace during yet another economic downturn. Without a hint of irony, the New York Times reported on Limbaugh’s bloated salary on the same page as it described the painful layoffs among Detroit autoworkers. Detroit has lost more than 100,000 jobs since 2006 and will lose another 25,000 this summer and fall. And these workers are among the lucky ones. Through union contracts, even though they will not be working, they will earn their salary for some period of time.
The Limbaugh article also noted the salaries other celebrities are earning: Ryan Seacrest, $12 million a year; Oprah Winfrey, $18 million a year for her three-year satellite radio contract alone; Katie Couric, $15 million a year; Jay Leno, $24 million a year.
What is wrong with our culture that we heap these financial windfalls upon a very select few, while gas prices, at an all-time high, force some people to choose between eating and getting to their jobs. Forty-six million Americans go without health care, millions of children attend crumbling schools and get a substandard education, and many working parents are paid less than $10 an hour in wages and are forced to take two, even three jobs to make ends meet.
What does one do with $38 million each year? Why does any one individual need that kind of money? I fear we’ve lost all our sense of outrage about the terrible wage discrepancies that exist. It turns out the founders were wrong – all men are apparently not created equal; some are entitled to make $38 million a year, while others, despite a lifetime of hard work at a factory job, just get laid off.