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When the price at the pump doesn’t compute …

It seems to me that there is an increasing imbalance between what is considered normal and acceptable and what is considered common sense in how our financial resources are distributed these days. Two recent events highlight what appears to me to be classic examples of common sense being overwhelmed by nonsense.
While gas prices have skyrocketed from $2.15 in April 2005 to $2.89 today, a 35-percent increase, oil companies are raking in record profits. To add insult to injury, the recently retiring Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond received a $400 million retirement package. That $400 million represents only a small fraction of the record profits earned by Exxon Mobil, but that $400 million was paid to one man for his service to the company. Mr. Raymond received his payout while the other Exxon Mobil workers, and the rest of us, pay those higher gas prices.
Indiana University will increase tuition for the coming school year about five percent. Tuition also increased this past year about five percent. University officials contend that they have to have these increases to accommodate rising costs. Indiana University also just hired its new basketball coach at an annual salary of $1.5 million. They also just agreed to pay the outgoing coach $800,000 for ‘not coaching.’ IU has been paying through the nose for coaches and athletic directors who are not currently actively employed by the university for years now.
Parents and taxpayers are either directly or indirectly paying for one man to coach a basketball team to the tune of $1.5 million per year and are paying others to leave so they can have the pleasure of giving the job to a new person.
These are just two examples of skewed priorities that cost us all in one way or another. No man or woman is worth a $400 million ‘retirement’ pay out. No one should be paid $1.5 million to coach any team in any sport.
Some jobs must pay more than others by virtue of educational requirements, needed skills, responsibility and many other considerations. There is nothing wrong with people being rewarded for a job well done either. But some things going on today, like these examples, border on obscene.
Mr. Raymond’s retirement package represents the equivalent of the annual salary of more than 13,000 workers in Indiana, including school teachers, truck drivers, nurses, factory workers, farmers and others. The new IU coach’s pay is 40 times more than that of a new Indiana state police trooper, 15 times more than the governor of Indiana and even four times more than the U.S. president’s salary.
It is obvious that our priorities are pretty screwed up, and the signal we are sending to our children must really have them confused. Is a basketball coach so important to society that we pay him as much as 40 state troopers?
It is hard not to think of the Exxon Mobil profits and huge CEO pay outs every time I fill up my gas tank. It is also hard not to think of IU coaches’ salaries every time I read about tuition increases and state budget shortfalls. I am not so naive as to think this will change in the near future, but perhaps we should at least begin to get a handle on some of these obvious disparities.
Editor’s note: David Miller is chief executive officer of Hoosier Uplands in Mitchell.