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Your Bills and Budget Don’t Add Up – Now What?

Disney CEO Bob Iger has a skill set few people in the world have. That he makes millions is justified by the rarity of such people and the labor they perform and its value to the company. While I greatly value my Disneyland Dole Whip and Churro I could literally get them myself. There is no special skill set required for these tasks. I find it difficult to understand how someone could NOT understand this very basic and simple truth. I feel that this phrase from the story is such a non sequitur, “They are living in their cars and selling their valuables, while CEO Bob Iger makes hundreds of millions.” One is said as if it is the result of the other.

The Magic isn't Free

They are not living in their cars because Iger is making cash.

His success does not lead to your failure. On the contrary you only have that job at Disneyland because he’s not making a mess of things. CEO’s have the power to make or break a company. Companies know this and that’s why they pay high dollars. It’s just a painfully obvious concept that I can only think that those who don’t understand it are either willfully ignorant or stupid. That’s not an insult, meaning it’s not an attack on them so much as it is just what I consider a valid assessment. Either you don’t want to understand because it doesn’t fit with your world view or you are not smart enough to understand a basic economic principle like this.

I actually worked with a woman who was one of the characters at Disneyland in her youth. She looked back on the experience with fondness and often would visit to reminisce. Even though she was a former cast member and hadn’t been there for years they still showed deference to her experience. She clearly went on to do something else. She never expected to be a Disney cast member forever. It was not meant to be the thing that sustained her for her entire life. It was a choice that fit her for that moment.

I understand fear of change and I understand the desire for steady employment that doesn’t require change.

Of course when I talk about these choices that people make I’m not ignoring that they are hard choices and sometimes fraught with danger. Maybe the new job won’t work out and you’ve given up the sure thing at Disneyland for a less sure, but higher paying thing elsewhere. But your fear, your lack of training, your lack of education,  your bills, don’t mean that your employer is responsible for you. I find it honestly difficult to comprehend how a person comes to gain the mindset that they are. To think “I can’t pay my bills and that’s my employer’s fault!” seems the oddest thing in the world to me.

I learned this lesson when I was 12 years old.

I had a job working at a service station. My dad managed it so I was able to work there at that age under our state laws. I worked 13 hour days with my dad during the summers and on Saturday during the school year. It was awesome to spend that time with my dad and learn all sorts of things. But, the hours were really long and the more time I worked there the more I was given to do. Pretty soon I was a 12-year-old doing oil changes and fixing flats and running credit cards and taking cash. I thought I worked hard and should get paid more. I brought this up to my dad. He told me to ask the owner for a raise.

“What if he doesn’t give me one?”

“That’s up to you. You can stay at the same wage or you can quit.”

Next time the owner came by I laid out my case and asked him for a raise. He said “no”.

I quit.

But that wasn’t the end of my money-making ventures though. I became my own boss and mowed lawns for cash. I would push the mower up and down the street like many a kid has done before. When I would see long grass I would knock on the door. I would negotiate – so much for the front, so much for the back, a deal if I did both.

At 15 I got my first proper job as a busboy. I worked hard. One day the area manager was in and saw how hard I worked. They gave me a raise on the spot and complimented me on my efforts. I stayed at that job longer.

That’s one lesson I learned young. Be willing to ask, be willing to quit but through it all put in our best efforts. When you find a place they are appreciated then stay, when they aren’t appreciated, go.

Of course as a 12 and 15-year-old I could more easily  make those choices. I have no illusions that the adult world is so cut and dry. My point is that these were valuable lessons that I fear not everyone in our society has had the chance to learn, let alone learn at such a young age. That has been an invaluable lesson to me.

Demand, Command, and Negotiation are all different things.

When I went and asked the owner of the service station for a raise, I asked. I explained why I thought I should get it. Why I was valuable to him and how he was getting adult work out of me for $1.25 an hour. I thought a $1.75 was more in keeping with my work. I didn’t go in and demand a raise. I knew, even at 12, what so many adults don’t seem to know, demanding a raise doesn’t mean anything.

I often say that a person cannot demand respect, they can only command it through their actions. You can demand it all you want but respect is something held inside someone’s mind and you cannot change their mind with your tantrum. Commanding respect on the other hand means you act in such a way that compels them to respect you. Workers can demand a living wage but that doesn’t mean they deserve it any more than someone deserves respect. You have a right, of course, to demand a living wage. That doesn’t mean much though. You can command one through your efforts. The video starts with a woman who has been at Disneyland for 30 years. She likes the job but doesn’t get paid well.

Disney World employs about 74,000 people. Disneyland employs about 23,000. It is estimated that there are 200,000 Disney employees total.  If the Disney CEO gave away all his money to the employees they would each get $181.50 a year and he would get nothing for doing a much harder job. It’s clear when we look at that number that his salary is NOT the reason the people in the video aren’t making a lot of money. If he made none at all they would sill not even be $200 richer. Bernie Sanders, who is featured in the video, gives his usual cry about if they can afford one thing they can afford another. The one thing always being someone else’s pay and the other always giving it to someone else. But that isn’t how companies work. I also find it odd how – for the left – this argument works when it is CEO pay but doesn’t work when it’s a cell phone or a video game system. When someone says, “if they can afford a cell phone, they can afford food”, meaning the person doesn’t need to be on food stamps, the person saying it is pilloried. But when Sanders says it of Disney his followers just nod as if it makes sense. It ignores utterly the massive amount of things a company like Disney has to afford.

If he’s not to blame then what is?

It’s not greed. It’s not a hatred for the poor. It is none of those silly socialist laced ideas that don’t hold up when honestly examined. It’s simple – the value of their labor isn’t worth more.

Socialist types like to confuse the value of someone’s labor with the value of someone. That’s a tactic at best and a lie at worst but it is not the truth.

The owner of the service station valued me as a human being. He was a family friend and really, if we’re to be honest, he didn’t need me to work there at all, he was doing it as a favor. Perhaps he even thought my asking for a raise was a little brash. He didn’t’ say so but perhaps he thought it. But either way he had given me the job and the money when he didn’t need to and when I had no skills to offer other than what I learned on the job. He did this because of that family friendship and for respect for my dad. What he paid me was not based on how much he valued me as a human being. He paid me based on what my labor was worth to him – not much. That wasn’t a reflection on me as a person or him as a person. It was reality.

Iger is no more to blame for Disney employees making little money than the service station owner was for me making little money. My skills, and the job, were to blame. It wasn’t a job that needed much or did much. Even after 30 years of employment at Disneyland the first woman in the video could be replaced the next day with a high school kid and the job would get done. That’s the fact of it. It’s a low skill job that they train you to do.


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