I’m thinking of business owners, real estate agents, insurance salesmen, bankers, financial planners, attorneys, and doctors. Surely I’ve missed some obvious ones, but do you see the pattern there?
They’re all jobs in which you market yourself and expand your customer base. You have good months and bad months and deep down you know that your income is to a large degree up to you. So you network and you advertise and you drop off doughnuts and take people out to lunch. You shmooze.
And if you do it right, it pays off. You can sell zero houses, or you can sell a house for a hundred thousand dollars, or you can sell ten of them for a half million apiece.
The more customers you bring in and close, the more money you get. As it should be – that’s sales. That’s capitalism. You’re in control of your own destiny.
People go into lines of work like that for exactly that reason – you can get yourself organized and set goals and the sky’s the limit. How much do you want to make?
And it’s usually a pretty pervasive attitude. You can’t go around thinking to yourself that your income is anybody’s problem but your own. You take responsibility for it, and I admire you. I really do.
But not all jobs are like that. Some of them have set incomes that rise gradually – five percent a year if you’re lucky? Three? Ten?
Like teachers. You don’t take a teaching job thinking to yourself, man, I’m going to work this job day and night until I’m making two hundred grand a year and driving a Corvette. You take a teaching job and what you’re in fact saying is the opposite of that – I’m going to work this job even though it very clearly means that I’m always going to be middle class, that I’m never going to be rich.
In other words, teachers do not have the same control over their income that sales guys do – that’s why they need a union.
It’s not lazy. It’s a sacrifice. When I hear sales guys cluck their tongues and sneer at teachers and their sweet benefits and mandatory pay raises, that’s where I think they must be confused: They can’t imagine a job with limits on the income. They can’t imagine working their whole lives inside a finite financial box.
You don’t see firefighters going around passing out their cards at network groups because they need to be right there at the fire station, ready to jump on the truck and risk their lives if they’re needed. You don’t see cops pacing around in front of a sales board, thinking, man, I’ve got to pull in three more decent accounts so we can buy that boat.
Cops and teachers and firefighters take their jobs knowing there’s a ceiling to what they’re going to be making, and a rate at which their incomes will climb.
Both types of jobs can represent a sacrifice – the really serious sales guys don’t stop working, ever, and that’s really why they make the big bucks. But see, they get compensated with those big, big bucks – and it seems kind of stupid to have to point that out.
Meanwhile teachers for example sacrifice any aspirations to real wealth. You can debate all you want about whether or not they get paid enough, but you have to admit that you’re not at all likely to get rich teaching high school. Not even close.
They sacrifice the financial aspirations which the other kind of worker values – worships, even.
You might even say that they willfully refrain from taking full advantage of the capitalist system they live in, all so they can provide a service which is socialist in nature. Yes, socialist systems like public schools, public police departments, public fire departments.
You don’t want to go straight capitalism on that stuff, do you? You want to write a check to the cops if they respond to your 911 call?
What if that cop gets shot and killed? What do you figure that’ll run you? You think there’s a surcharge for that, or is that on the house, Johnny Sales Guy?
The reason that public employees have been given solid benefits that the average insurance salesman doesn’t have is that they do not have the time or opportunity to beat the streets and drum up more business, a higher paycheck, or more customers. They are on the production end of our capitalist society, as opposed to the money spigot on the other side.
In fact, frequently they get more customers without any additional compensation at all. Maybe a little overtime if you’re a cop. But if nothing burns down on your 24 hour fire station shift, don’t you get paid the same as if you spent all night dragging people out of burning buildings?
When they keep packing more students into classrooms, does the teacher’s salary go up, the way it would if you sold more widgets?
This is one of the aspects of the current political climate which really disgusts me – when salesmen with open-ended, dynamic incomes act as though teachers want something for nothing, or special treatment. It’s quite the opposite.
They’ve agreed to take less from the system than you – and someone has to do it. They’ve decided that instead of going out into the wide, American system and banging together a giant chunk of money, they’re going to sit in a small room and educate children, one lesson at a time, one day at a time.
In exchange, until recently, they could at least expect financial stability, and I would think you’d want them to have that, so they can focus on the very important jobs they have.
This is a sliver of the argument going on right now, a single point that needs addressed. Teachers and cops and firefighters have different benefits from you because they ARE different from you. Because they sacrifice the possibilities which you take for granted, all so they can do what you never would or could.
Have a little respect for them please, while you’re driving your Audi to the bank, and try to remember that even if you are as truly and fundamentally awesome as you seem to think you are, that America still needs to support those who are just regular citizens, doing what needs done without a tit-for-tat commission structure.
You get paid more. They get to worry less. That’s always been the deal. You see how you want to hang on to the first one and take the second one away? And do you see why we’re not going to let you?