Wealthy few help everyone

The NFL rewards excellence, which is as it should be

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The Green Bay Packers paid quarterback Aaron Rodgers $12 million last year. That was 750 percent more than the average salary for all 72 players on the active roster, practice squad and injured reserve ($1.6 million); 1,850 percent more than the median salary ($647,840), and 117.7 times (11,770 percent) more than the lowest- paid Packer ($102,000).

Mr. Rodgers is worth every penny, most Packer fans think.

Green Bay was trailing the Chicago Bears, 28-27, with just 46 seconds left in the game last Sunday when Rodgers, facing an all-out blitz on fourth and 8, threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, propelling the Packers into the playoffs.

“You have to marvel at the fact that he was going to his left and made that kind of throw,” said Bears coach Marc Trestmann.

Only a handful of other great quarterbacks could have made it. But “Peyton Manning and Tom Brady probably would have been sacked,” said Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Not Rodgers, who just managed to elude [Julius] Peppers’ grasp and escape to the left.”

Packer players don’t begrudge Aaron Rodgers his much higher salary, because they know his pay is based on extraordinary performance, which puts money in their pockets. Because they made the playoffs, each Packer will be paid about $22,000 more — equivalent to a 21 percent bonus for the lowest- paid players.

If Democrats had as little concern about “income inequality” as do football players, coaches and fans, we’d all be better off.

Eighty percent of the arable land in Italy was owned by just 20 percent of the people, economist Vilfredo Pareto noted in 1906. The distribution of wealth was essentially the same in every other European country he studied. And, he discovered, just 20 percent of the pea pods in his garden produced 80 percent of the peas.

In companies that management consultant Joseph Juran studied half a century later, typically 20 percent of the workers did 80 percent of the work; 20 percent of customers accounted for 80 percent of sales; 80 percent of profits came from 20 percent of the product line.

Juran had no idea why this was so, but he thought that what he dubbed “Pareto’s law” must be a fundamental law of nature.

We don’t know why, either, but examples of the 80-20 rule keep cropping up.

Microsoft found that if the 20 percent of software bugs most often reported were solved, 80 percent of errors and crashes would stop. Roughly 20 percent of patients are responsible for 80 percent of medical expenses; 20 percent of drivers cause 80 percent of accidents, 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes.

If we devote most of our time, attention and resources to the “critical few” customers, employees, product lines, etc., we’ll get better results, management consultants say.

According to a United Nations Development Report, the richest quintile of the world’s population had 82.7 percent of world income in 1989.

As in Pareto’s day, there was from country to country far greater variation in the amount of wealth than in how it was distributed.

If the distribution of wealth will be about the same whether a country is rich or poor, capitalist or socialist, the only way to help the poor is to increase the amount of wealth, Pareto concluded.

Income inequality has grown during the Obama administration, chiefly because little inhibits wealth creation more than decoupling compensation from performance.

Aside from a handful of saints among us, human beings work and produce chiefly out of expectation of reward, and/​or fear of the consequences of failure. (In the NFL, players on losing teams play hard in otherwise meaningless games because they know their jobs may depend upon it.)

When government strips away rewards for hard work, innovation and thrift, and diminishes consequences for indolence and slipshod work, the result is the economic doldrums we’ve experienced throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Crony capitalists and government employees have prospered in the last five years, but the poor and the middle class have been hurting. If America were more like the NFL, most of us — the poor especially —- would be better off.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

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