Sunday, July 19, 2009

Over paid, under worked and distorting the economy

Today's title can describe any mass-market entertainer in the Western world today, including your favorite professional athlete. If there has been any force over the past thirty to forty years which has distorted the industrialized world's economy it is the inflated salaries of mass-market entertainers.

The trend is particularly acute here in the good, ol' USA. Why else would "aging" soccer star, or "footballer" as they call them across the pond, David Beckham sign a $250 million contract with the L.A. Galaxy, a struggling Major Soccer League (MSL) franchise in a "major" market? Certainly it wasn't for the shear love of the sport.

But overpaid, aging sports superstars isn't the topic of today's rant, overpaid, under worked aging pop entertainers is: To wit one Paula Abdul.

It seems that the 47-year-old singer-dancer is in a bit of a snit:
Paula Abdul may not return to “American Idol” for a ninth season, her manager claimed in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“She’s not a happy camper as a result of what’s going on. She’s hurt. She’s angry,” David Sonenberg, the “Idol” judge’s manager, told the newspaper on Friday.

Sonenberg, who said that he became Abdul’s manager just weeks ago, at the end of June, added that he has yet to receive a proposal for a new contract for Abdul., July 19, 2009
It seems that the "I'm not a pill popper" ex-pill popper is miffed that non-singing, non-dancing American Idol fluffer, Ryan Seacrest has pinned a $45 million, three-year deal to continue hosting the show. Allegedly the $15 million-a-year Seacrest is numbered among the "producers" of the hit Fox television "reality" show, being the rational for the big bucks. Seacrest, by the way, is the perfect right wing/libertarian/coordinator class personality Fox parent company, News Corp, owner and CEO Rupert Murdoch trawls for: White, suburban, two-parent household--daddy's an attorney, momma's a trophy wife--boy, who never did a lick of hard physical labor for a buck in his life though he will tell anyone who cares, and many who don't, that, now that James Brown's in the cold, cold ground, he's the hardest working man in show business. In short, Glenn Beck without the personality.

But of course this turn of events did not set well with Ms Abdul. Well, boo-hoo-hoo. I'd be happy getting a tenth of whatever Abdul gets for publicly making a stunning, middle-aged ass of herself on TeeVee.

But why should anyone care?

Ms. Abdul has fans who care and, like the aging diva, think she's getting a raw deal from Fox. And it is because of her fans that I care. So distorted has America's values become that legions of teenaged welfare-moms, minimum-wage divorced mothers and assorted under-paid and unemployed or under-employed fans think that it is just O.K. that a middle-aged woman with so-so singing and dancing abilities is remunerated beyond her true level of talent. In a sane world Paula Abdul would be making a decent in a Vegas lounge.

In a sane society Paula Abdul would be a nobody, but she is not. In all likelihood, should she follow through with her threat to quit the top-rated American Idol, she will sink into the obscurity she so well deserves so this is only a well coordinated stunt to get a few extra coins in her purse.

But we do not live in a sane least in the middle latitudes of North America. We honor and reward people for who they are, or were, rather than what they do. The only intrinsic thing that a Paula Abdul or a Ryan Seacrest does is make it possible, merely by being face-talent for a wildly popular television show, for Rupert Murdoch to remain obscenely rich. As long a King Rupert gets his substantial cut, more than likely Ms Abdul will be back on the American Idol panel with her equally over paid and under worked colleagues.

We Americans are conditioned to believe that the professional athlete, the television actor and the movie star is worth oodles of cash because he or she is the best at whatever it is that he or she does. This may or may not the case, the scale usually falls on the "not" side of the register.

There will always be a certain amount of income inequity in any economic and political system. Perhaps this is a good thing too. But what the enormous salaries of the superstar professional athlete, TeeVee personality and movie actor do is provide cover for the even larger, more obscene amounts of money their ultimate bosses in the corporate boardrooms receive. After all even Oprah works for some one else.

If anything, our over paid, under worked entertainment superstars are part of the minor nobility, along with doctors, lawyers and the occasional reservation-casino Indian chief, in what is evolving into a "free market" capitalist version of feudalism. The Rupert Murdochs of the world are our petty kings, their sons heirs apparent, and all the rest of the Wall Street nobility our petty princes, dukes, counts, barons and so on down the line. For the rest of us the future looks bleak indeed.

After all, say our modern kings and princes of finance, labor is a fungible commodity. And as long as the unwashed can remain deluded that it matters more to them that a Paula Abdul is paid millions per year for setting at a desk, judging the talented as well as talentless, than what Walmart pays them to stock shelves, mop-up puke and chase down shopping cart all will be right with the world.

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