BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
News headlines one recent morning featured the hiring of a new basketball coach at the University of Oklahoma. He will receive $16 million for a 7-year contract, it is reported. This writer was faced at home with the query: “With all that is going on in Oklahoma, the nation, and the world, is there nothing of greater importance to feature in newspaper headlines?”
That was not an easy question to field. Perhaps it would be correct to say, “Apparently not to them.” Or, one might have correctly have said, “Probably not to the majority of their daily readers in Oklahoma.” One might add, “It’s OK with fans that a coach makes 25 times as much as a faculty member.”
Admittedly, there is the shame of misplaced priorities in all that buzz. Misplaced priorities often reside in the same persons as ignorance and misinformation.
Then there was the report of a $120 million contract for a major league baseball player. Initial offerings to sign outstanding prospects for the NFL now run into the multi-millions. And so it goes in the sports world, sort of like Wall Street.
One does hear some complaints about the outrageous ticket prices for major league baseball, and other professional sports. Then there are comments about $10 hot dogs and $9 beer at these events. No longer can the father in the average working family attend these games, much less take his boy to the park.
It does beg the question: “Have they no shame?”
A current controversy on “revenue sharing” between billionaire owners in the NFL and their millionaire players is shameful. Their ticket prices are sky high, and they are gouging those who love the sport. They are also gouging the rest of us who watch on television, because there is a pass-through of added costs to us. The public has little sympathy for either party.
If we had our way we would reduce and cap salaries and regulate what the owners can charge the public. But then, that would be “big government,” wouldn’t it? Well, maybe there is another way. What is it?
But collegiate sports at the top levels are also competing for recognition in the “shame” category. Most of the money to support university sports must come from private sources. Universities manipulate their ticket sales so as to require contributions to purchase tickets, or they may package tickets for certain games in bundles to require purchases for less popular games. They withhold gate sales for empty seats to avoid spoiling their premium deals. Is all that necessary?
In such an environment, students are a liability. They don’t pay much for tickets, but they quickly become discontented if there aren’t at least a certain number of seats kept back for them. But what was it supposed to be all about – student sports?
Yet the “shame game” of misplaced priorities and shady practices is not confined to the sports world. It is easy to find predatory practices and shady dealings in the business world. When university athletics became a business, it inherited such. These often clash with the idealistic purity, but suspected favoritism and shady dealings suspected operant in such regulatory agencies as the NCAA or BCS.
Last week CBS’ 60 Minutes featured the relocation of companies’ headquarters to foreign countries with low tax rates on profits. Switzerland and Ireland were prominently mentioned. Several major companies, considered American, are paying no taxes as a result of this practice, and others are paying little because they are given tax breaks and subsidized by our government. These and others have also moved factories abroad to find cheap labor.
American jobs are being shipped out, foreign goods shipped in, and our tax base and currency are being undermined. Is there no shame in the business world?
Corporations are “citizens,” our Republican Supreme Court says, and they have the right to “unlimited free speech” [meaning buying elections or sponsoring the Tea Party]. Then should not corporations also have some requirements or duty of loyalty and patriotism? Have they no shame about that? Should corporate tax-dodgers abroad be able to buy elections here in the country they abandoned?
The tax-cutters and budget-hackers are busy now, wantonly hacking away at services to people, educational and cultural spending, regulation of safety and food supplies, research, food stamps, and other benefits to the poor – while continuing to give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. Those who prosper most are given more, while the worker class recession victims are required to suffer more.
Have we no shame?
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer