Is it me or is there a double standard when it comes to folks—politicians, CEOs, everyday people—balking at other people’s higher-than-theirs paychecks?

The working class says politicians make too much money. Politicians say corporate CEOs make too much money.  CEOs say athletes, actresses and musicians make too much money.

I often find it amusing whenever I overhear or read about gripes that someone has with who makes how much money for doing what. These days, those gripes are playing out in the context of news headlines about demands to revamp executive pay:

Three more companies face shareholder wrath over executive pay

(The Guardian-May 5, 2016)

Striking Verizon union is demanding big changes to executive pay

( 5, 2016)

Boards must get a grip on exorbitant executive pay

(The Times UK May 6, 2016)

But bigwigs at national or multinational corporations aren’t the only recipients of executive pay, there’s a celebrity version of executive payees, too. Some people criticize the exorbitant amounts that actors, musicians and athletes are paid for their work. 

Let’s break down some of those critiques, shall we? 

Let’s start with the actors and actresses.  

Yes, these are the talented individuals who play beloved characters with whom we identify and in whom we immerse ourselves.  Surely, their artistic contribution to our lives allow us to escape the mundane reality of our everyday routines.  We as a society know that these are people who make millions of dollars for pretending to be someone else in front of the camera, and we as a society are obviously ok with that because we continue to consume their art.

But, think about it: If an a family of four wants to go to the movies on a Friday night, it might cost upwards of $100, including tickets, snacks, gas, etc. Doesn’t that sound a bit unfair? In some ways it reeks of exploitation.

Then, there’s the athletes?  Yes, they are gifted with the ability to run like the wind, throw a projectile through the air with no effort or many other wondrous physical feats which we are in awe of.  The average salary of a professional baseball player in the MLB for 2015 is approx. $4.25 M and the minimum salary is appox. $500 K.  I think the average American would be quite happy if they even got half of the minimum salary of a baseball player.  Again, if you were to take a family of four to a baseball game, you would easily spend $200 – $300 depending on the city you are in.  (For an NBA player, the avg salary is $4.9 M and the minimum is $525K .)

Now, let’s consider the elite musicians, some of whom are the most famous of the famous. Here, we have another group of millionaires—two, three or four hundred times over.  As a society we accept that these folks pay their entourages,  as well as buy fancy clothes, jewelry, cars, and mansions. We accept that they own or rent yachts on which they throw elaborate parties; we accept that they vacation in places that we’ve never heard of; we accept that they drink champagne like tap water.  (Okay. So maybe I’m exaggerating.) 

We keep buying their music and we watch them spend the money that we’ve helped to put in their pockets. We barely bat an eyelash when we hear that performers take in $50M for a concert tour. Yes, I understand what musicians do is hard work.  But still. 

I am not saying that actors, actresses, athletes and musicians are not deserving what they are paid.  In essence, they are paid the fair market value of their services—which, in essence, is determined by us. Their value is determined by what the public is willing to pay.  

Really, there’s no sense in getting irate. These kind of gaping income differences only prove what we already know about life and money: Sometimes, life just isn’t fair and there aren’t any guarantees.