Archive for August 1st, 2002

Working Together

Thursday, August 1st, 2002

The following essay discusses some rather large dollar amounts. These large numbers are meaningless to most humans. They are so commonly talked about in government and the media, that soon they seem common place and ordinary.

To give the reader some perspective. I will speak in multiples of millions. A million dollars is a lot of money to most humans. We have all watched Regis Philbin’s Do you want to be a millionaire?, so we have some sense of what that might mean.

In 2001, the average NFL football player made $1.1 million a year. If you were paid a million dollars in one year for working a 40 hour week that would be $83,333 a month, or $20,833 a week, or $4166 a day, or $520 an hour. For baseball in 2001, the average pay for a New York Yankee was $3,541,674, or $1844 an hour.

The highest paid NFL player was quarterback Brian Griese of the Denver Broncos who was paid over 15 million, or $7800 an hour.The highest paid baseball player was Texas Ranger Alex Rodriguez  who received $25,200,000 or about $13,104 an hour.

By comparison, the last year Vice President Cheney worked for Halliburton he received $34 million dollars in compensation. Now if we assume a 40 hour work week, although he probably worked less. Then he made $2,833,333 a month, or $708,333 a week, or $141,666 a day, or $17,708  per hour. By the way many of America’s corporate leaders made much more. Larry Ellison of Oracle was the highest paid CEO in 2001 making $706 million dollars for the year, or  $367,701 per hour.

Primary care physicians–Family Medicine, Internists, Pediatricians, Urgent Care Specialists, etc..–provide the majority of  health care in our nation. In 2001, their average income was $150,000 for the year, or $75 an hour. To make the salary paid to Larry Ellison last year a primary care physician would have to work 4706 years. Another way of thinking about this is that our political-economic system finds Larry Ellison more valuable to our nation than 4706 physicians.

Our government says the average working American makes $30,000 a year. Which is $2500 a month, or $625 a week, or $125 a day, or $15 an hour. To make the salary paid to Larry Ellison last year, the average American would have to work 23,533 years. Assuming a working life of 50 years for the average American, then our political-economic system finds one year of Larry Ellison’s working life to be more valuable to our nation than the entire working lives of 470 average Americans.

Now all these earnings are before taxes. But our government and corporate leaders pay a much smaller percentage of taxes with the help of their well paid accountants and attorneys. The news is full of examples of how successful corporate America has been at avoiding taxes. Now taxes are important because that is the only source of funding for all government expenditures.

Now the above comparisons are interesting in their own right, but I have included them here to help us distinguish the difference between corporate America and the average American.

Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney are from corporate America. Bush was a Texas oilman and Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton one of the biggest contractors servicing the oil industry. 

Corporate American which includes Big Oil have decided that it is time to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. We all know that there is a new Sheriff in town. Sheriff George W. Bush and Deputy Dick Cheney have proposed a new war with Iraq and the costs of that war will have to be paid with American taxes.

Do the Math! Let Free Enterprise Rid Us of Saddam

Timothy Wilken

As reported in the New York Times Tuesday, the direct costs (adjusted for inflation to 2002 dollars) of Desert Storm were ~$80 billion (80 thousand million dollars) of which our allies paid 80 percent. So America paid only $16 billion (16 thousand million dollars).

Estimates of the direct costs for the proposed new war with Iraq range from $80 billion (80 thousand million dollars) to $120 billion (120 thousand million dollars) of which this time our allies may pay nothing.

Estimates of the human costs are unknown, but estimates of the number of Americans soldiers that could be involved range from 25,000 to 250,000.

Then there are the indirect costs such as 1) the effect of the war on the stock market, 2) the increase in cost of oil during the war, 3) the potential cost of putting out oil well fires, if the Iraqis torch the oil fields as they did in Kuwait in 1991, 4) the medical and psychological costs of the American war casualties, 5) the financial and emotional costs to the families of the combatants, 6) the risk the war could spread–Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Etc., Etc., 7) the risk that while at war with Iraq, we might be attacked elsewhere including here in the United States, 8) the risk that the war might go nuclear, 9) the damage to the environment, and 10) other risks we may not have thought of or even imagined, etc., etc., etc..

So the total costs to American, including both the direct and indirect expenses of a new war with Iraq, might exceed $1 trillion ( 1 million million dollars) plus the unquantified suffering of the American combatants their families, and the rest of us.

President Bush’s stated purpose for a new war with Iraq is to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Now my argument is not that we should ignore Saddam Hussein. I agree he is a very dangerous person who should be removed from power. But I think we need to let free enterprise do the job.

I propose that the United States offer a reward for Saddam Hussein, dead or alive. It would need to be substantial. I think at least one billion dollars, (1 thousand million dollars) maybe even more. The only condition for receiving the reward would be delivering Saddam Hussein dead or alive into the custody of the United States government.  The opportunity would be open to mercenary teams throughout the world. But ideally, a group in the Middle East or even from within Iraq would accept the challenge, and deliver Saddam to earn the reward.

Now these teams could act on their own, or apply for mercenary support from the United States military and CIA. Those applying for support would need to be certified by the Pentagon as militarily competent, and once certified would be eligible for weapons, transportation, and intelligence support as deemed appropriate by the Pentagon. Uncertified teams would still be welcome to seek Saddam and the reward, but would not receive mercenary support from the United States. Now, let’s imagine that each certified mercenary team received $10 million in mercenary support. The cost of funding 400 mercenary teams and paying the $ 1 billion (one thousand million dollars) reward would total $5 billion (5 thousand million dollars). 

That is 1/16 of the lowest estimated direct costs for war with Iraq, and 1/200 of the potential total costs of war with Iraq. So do the math! By letting free enterprise rid us of Saddam Hussein, we can save money and help the economy at the same time.

Next: The Rich American Challenge: How much is your country worth?