Jesse Ventura is a man without a country. He began his public life as a wrestler, then became an actor, and then served as the governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. His unlikely, yet successful, political career was launched by an even unlikelier political platform – the Reform Party – which, in the year 2014, holds no major political offices.
Since leaving office those 11 years ago, Mr. Ventura has remained an outspoken political activist, all the while publicly mulling a 2016 presidential bid.
Recently, Mr. Ventura took to Facebook to throw his support behind a contentious issue: salary caps. I’ll let you read the post for yourself:
Even though he singled out “billionaire sports team owners,” his language leaves little to the imagination; in Mr. Ventura’s America, we would cap salaries across the board in corporate America.
So what would this actually look like? And is it really the government’s concern what America’s businessmen earn in a year?
Sports and Salary Caps
If you ask the average person on the street what they think of salary caps in sports, most people would probably tell you they like the idea. When you type the word “overpaid” into Google, three of the top ten returned suggestions involve athletes. It’s an extremely popular topic, and one that Mr. Ventura is certainly not alone in attempting to apply to the rest of America’s top earners.
The National Football League has a salary cap of $133 million. Professional baseball has a similar cap, though it goes by a different name: the luxury tax. However you label it, both the federal government and the American people have thrown their support behind a simple idea: we want rich people to face the music, because we don’t like it when people make more money than we do.
Wealth Inequality in America
There really isn’t any question that America has a problem with wealth inequality. Everybody knows it, so the only question left to answer is how far we’re willing to go to level the playing field.
For the record, I agree completely with Mr. Ventura’s suggestion that even $3 million per month is a ludicrous sum to live on. What I’m more willing to admit, however, is that my opinion is based purely on jealousy, rather than on some warped idea of “fairness.”
And as long as we’re being honest, I trust the government even less with its war on greed than I do with its war on drugs, its war on poverty, or, in fact, war in general. Quite frankly, I think it’s hysterically funny to believe that the federal government – an entity that is, in the year 2014, little more than a tool of corporate America – could be trusted by anyone to legislate fairness into existence. It can’t be done – not even by the most well-intentioned and corruption-free government on earth.
The federal government can – and should! – tell America’s wealthiest that they need to, say, commit to better working conditions or pay their interns. As to what they do with the money they take home for themselves? Like it or not, that’s best left alone.
The Role of Government
The slippery slope argument doesn’t even apply to salary caps; it’s more like a cliff. No matter how many well-intentioned petitions get circulated, the whole argument is little more than the latest iteration of the haves and have-nots struggle that’s as timeless as it is pointless.
The government has four jobs: Police, National Defense, Courts, and Corruption. Salary caps fall under none of these, except for those cases in which America’s wealthy came by their fortunes by less-than-honest means. In such cases, the government is right to step in.
And it has. In 2009, Obama’s “pay czar” imposed strict salary caps for the highest-paying employees at a number of companies that had received federal bailout money. This is a good thing.
Corruption aside, wealth equality is one of those ideas that sounds great on paper until you start thinking about the practicalities. And let’s be honest: there are plenty of constructive things the government could do long before we even consider creating salary caps across the board.
I’ll get you started with two: the creation of a flat tax, and an end to the ridiculous tax credits and subsidies the government awards to oil companies and their ilk.
In the meantime, a politician – even a retired one – who calls out corporate greed and corruption is a pot calling the kettle black, at least as long as we have so many other problems to attend to first.