The lack of any negative comments about overpaid athletes following the signing of the largest contract in the history of the National Football League says something about how accustomed we have become to large sums of money.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees signed a five-year, $100 million contract that will pay him the highest average annual salary in NFL history — $20 million. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Brees is extremely good at what he does and would be foolish not to negotiate the best deal he could. But money has become the way to keep score.
With the amounts raised for the campaigns of President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney running into the hundreds of millions of dollars each, observers predict the totals by November could well surpass the $1 billion mark.
But what is it spent on?
The vast amounts raised for political campaigns could be justified if used for something worthwhile instead of being spent on millions for TV commercials. It could produce seminars and real debates where candidates are forced to deal with substantial issues.
The House Agricultural Committee proposed cutting $16 billion from the program once known as food stamps. Several Catholic agencies, in a letter to the committee, said the cuts “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and struggling workers.” The Senate’s version of the bill, passed in late June, cut $4 billion from the program. The committee said this could be achieved by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse with the nonchalance of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen’s oft-quoted line: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”
Through financial deals too complex to understand, we’ve become accustomed to large figures. Losses from a trade cost J.P. Morgan Chase Bank $5.8 billion so far this year. That loss could grow to as much as $1.7 billion more by the end of the year.
A cavalier attitude toward vast sums masks social priorities. Money as the score keeper skews priorities and values.
Should an athlete, actor or musician be able to command a salary of millions at a time when millions are jobless?
One professional athlete who gets it is John Jaso, a catcher for the Seattle Mariners who understands why people think baseball players are out of touch.
“Last year I realized how special the big leagues are,” he said in an interview. “We all sign out of high school or college, we don’t know what a 9-to-5 job is, we don’t know what it’s like not to have health insurance,” said the 28-year-old.
“I like to look around online, and I saw that a dentist will go to school for 8 years and make $130,000 a year. I’m making the big league minimum and make four times that much,” Jaso said.
Good for him.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.”
Show me the money? No, show me the values.
Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He can be contacted at: Considersk@gmail.com