My first boss at Dow Chemical USA pontificated at my first three martini lunch, where he actually drank all three martinis, that the three most important things in life were money, prestige and power. His theory was that people seek either, one, two or all three, instinctively, he would say. I thought he was just a drunk with tiny hands (his nickname was Demitasse, in reference to the small cup used to serve Turkish coffee or espresso). As I matured and then worked on Wall Street, it was amazing how right he truly was. If he were still alive today, I would owe him a very sincere and deep apology.
If absolute power corrupts absolutely, if everyone gets 15 minutes of fame and money is the root of all evil, then we are in for a tough election campaign. The 2012 presidential election will be the most expensive presidential campaign in history with each candidate spending over $1 billion. You might be disgusted like me at the outrageous sum of money being spent or just shrug your shoulders as $2 billion was what five days of the Gulf War cost. I guess what disgusts me is that I do not see where this ends. Here is why.
Last week I wrote that as of 2009, the top five percent of people earn $154,643 or more and it was that same top five percent that consistently ended up paying over 60 percent of all the income tax collected. What to do? What can we expect from Washington? I am afraid not much, look at what our leaders make annually:
- The president makes $400,000, while the vice president (blue-collar Joe) makes $230,000 annually. The cabinet heads make $199,700. So we can conclude the executive branch is nicely and comfortably in the top two percent.
- The members of Congress, regardless of party, all earn $174,000 with the exception of the party leaders, who make $193,400 and the Speaker of the House who earns $223,500.
- In case you might think our Supreme Court is going to come to the rescue in their flowing robes, they earn $213,900 while the Chief Justice earns $223,500. Please note that every Supreme Court justice could and would have made multiples more money in private practice. I cannot state the same for the members of Congress.
So all these numbers made me think of what the total annual payroll is for those members of Congress, the judicial and executive branches that attend the State of the Union speech every year. The total is a staggering $115,941,200. Just to put this into perspective, $115,941,200 would employ more than 2,000 teachers, firemen, policemen …. You get the point. Two thousand teachers, fireman, policeman versus 560 — those 535 members of Congress, nine Supreme Court justices, 14 cabinet secretaries (in attendance), the vice president and the president.
Dear readers, our elected politicians will not be the solution to the problem, as they are great beneficiaries of the problem. How else can it be, when the average cost of a senate race is $8.5 million and the average cost of a house race is $1.4 million? Really? Who would make an $8.5 million investment for a $193,400 per year job? But it is not an investment, the $8.5 million is essentially panhandled from those who want and certainly will later demand access to those same politicians.
We are the ones who can make a difference. We need to be aware of the rhetoric, we need to be diligent in our correction of the facts in conversations with friends, Facebook and for goodness sake, let us not fall prey to the pandering. We as voters need to weigh the options, no politician as no political party is perfect. No offense, but if you agree 100 percent with any political platform, you are just hypocritical or not very smart.
As an example, I was not “overcome with emotion” when the president announced his “evolution” into support gay marriage. Frankly, I was disappointed, none of my good friends were “emotionally overcome” either because they knew the president already felt that way in 2007 before he went into the closet as he ran for the senate and was pandering to the black church leaders. Maybe my underwhelmed emotion was due to the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was already a supporter of gay marriage in 2008.
One-issue litmus tests for electing our Congress and president are as dangerous and wrong as the abortion litmus test is for Supreme Court justices. The justices are smart, maybe the smartest people we have in government and they all have a “work-around” answer to that litmus test question during the senate questioning. I believe we should review the candidates fully, and if you don’t have the time, don’t vote. No vote is better than an uninformed vote. But if you are going to vote and you vote on one issue, be prepared for disappointment as it will come as certain as a cold Chicago winter day … and probably that soon after you vote.
The opinions and recommendations expressed herein are those of Mr. Garrido and do not necessarily reflect those of the firm and are subject to change without notice. This information is not to be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities. The information contained herein has been derived from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed as to accuracy and does not purport to be a complete analysis of the security, company or industry involved.