Saturday, July 30, 2011

This is how it is.

I see how it is. Money, price and service have lost their relationship.

I started to think about it when the spate of NFL free agent signings was being reported this week. The lockout is over, and teams have been rushing to pay huge sums of money to mesomorphs with athletic skills. Twenty million dollars. Ten million dollars. Guaranteed money for guys with no more skill than running fast and catching oblong projectiles.

As I placed my items on the grocery store conveyor, I walked down to the end of the line to place the items in my canvas bag as the cashier rolled them over an electronic scanning device. I hadn't finished placing them all in the bag when the cashier said, "Twenty-one seventy-five," which was my cue to swipe my debit card and pay for it all. The items sat unattended while I entered my PIN and selected "Yes" and "No" to those questions at the end of the transaction. When I was finished, I completed bagging my items and the cashier tore off the receipt and said, "Thanks for bagging," as though I had another choice. Someday, I'll arrive with enough moxie to just stand there and wait for service. But why should I have to do that?

Automobiles are advertised with all sorts of gadgets and safety features. The most extravagant safety features are reserved for the more expensive cars. I suppose that's because poor people or those who choose to drive economy cars don't deserve to be safe. If you want a lot of airbags and exclusive safety options, don't buy a Fiesta.

In Washington, D.C. (our nation's capital) elected officials earning hundreds of thousands of dollars are fighting over a way to spend trillions of dollars and placing the burden on people earning thousands of dollars. As it is with a lot of things, the people most impacted by a decision have the least amount of influence over it and are generally powerless to fight it. They have changed the way our inflation rate is calculated, which influences Social Security increases. They raise taxes and make the tax code so complicated that we have to pay to file. Whenever government spends itself into a hole they place the burden on us because we are their last resort. The trouble is, we aren't getting the service we are paying for.

There doesn't seem to be a relationship between the level of service, the importance to society and the price or salary paid. We derive entertainment from watching professional sports, but does that justify the exorbitant salaries? I suppose if we are stupid enough to pay $80 for a ticket to a game, teams are justified in paying $20 million a year for the people we pay to watch. If we continue to do the work that we pay store clerks to do, we're going to keep doing it because they expect it of us. If we keep buying expensive automobiles when cheaper ones will do the same job, manufacturers will keep making the big, less sensible ones.

If we stand idly by and watch our government tax and spend, we are getting what we are deserve. Our priorities have shifted into areas of entertainment and occupying our days with texting, Facebooking, Tweeting and mundane tasks that distract us from what is really important. It seems that the wider the gap between the rich and poor the more things we find to distract us from realizing it. We have our wide-screen television, web-enabled cell phone and mind altering prescription drugs to distract us from how far we have fallen and what we are really paying for.

Are we really any happier now?

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