The TownhallBusiness

Bloated salaries are the next big bubble to burst

By Matthew Delaney

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Leave it to anonymous Twitter accounts to deliver more prescient commentary on our current moment than anyone with a byline in the New York Times (or the Washington Post given their recent drama — sheesh). 

A user who goes by the name Bjørn Irønsights tweeted out a video of two post-grads who were lounging by — and in — a pool while talking about their role as project managers at their tech job. They might as well have been on the marketing team given how cushy they made the gig sound. Also, you know, the fact that they’re making TikToks while doing their job half-naked by the pool. 

The video prompted Irønsights to go on a long thread, which is better if you just read it here. He said that the “spicy times” that are a mere month away will be kicked off in full when people such as these cute young chicks lose their useless jobs.  

That will create a domino effect where the various industries their bloated salaries support — from Amazon warehouse and delivery drivers (and their high minimum wages), to Door Dashers, to all the other basic things cute young chicks spend their money on (brunch outings, bar hopping, exotic vacations, “experiences,” cosmetics and the like) — will collapse with them, sending a tsunami through our coastal shantytown of an economy. 

A spicy time indeed, although I wasn’t sure what the catalyst for all this economic havoc would be. If one had to guess though, it’ll probably look like the rougher fiscal outlook produced by an economic downturn causing mass layoffs. This includes fat-trimming like cutting these useless jobs. Tesla CEO Elon Musk seems to be getting ahead of this with his latest call to return to the office for all workers — or requiring them to leave the company. A tesla employee told me that the firings are already taking place.  

Economics isn’t my strong suit, so I don’t want to venture into that territory, but Irønsights hit on something that had been bouncing around in my head for a while now: what exactly is the value we each bring to the economy? So many of my pals work in high paying jobs in tech, logistics, or within the federal government. While they are sharp guys, I don’t know if the world would miss them if they got booted from it tomorrow. 

I think the same thing with myself. Many media jobs require you to be a stenographer of some kind of official or aggregated word. True reporting — where you research a current event and interview people for their insights — is a privileged position in corporate journalism, so most jobs involve you grabbing a shovel to feed the never-ending news cycle.  

I enjoy my work on ScoonTv because not only do I get to write about what I want, but hopefully you find the content informative, engaging, and, ultimately, useful in understanding our culture. That being said, if an Acme anvil fell on me tomorrow, I don’t think the world would mourn my loss as that of an intellectual titan. 

Myself, and chances are a decent chunk of you, work in jobs that are secondary or even tertiary to the core functioning of society. We may not be bikini-clad project managers, but it’s unlikely we meet NBA legend Charles Barkley’s criteria for the only five real jobs that are out there:  

“Teachers, firemen, police officers, doctors or somebody who’s in the armed services,” Barkley told Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon in 2015. It wasn’t that Barkley was denigrating those who don’t work those jobs, he was just poking at their (our) self-importance, which he made clear in the very next sentence: “Everybody else should just shut the hell up and enjoy life.”  

However, there does seem to be an excess of enjoying life when it comes to what the late anthropologist David Graeber called “bullshit jobs.”  

Corporate lawyers, PR consultants, telemarketers, brand managers, and a plethora of administrative specialists were his prime examples of useless jobs that keep people fat, dumb, and happy. There has been a concerted effort to refute Graeber’s key finding — that between 20-60% of people work in useless or bullshit jobs. To that, I’d have to borrow from internet anons again for one of their phrases and call this “cope.” 

The human species is unique in that it isn’t egalitarian. One great person can make an impact on our existence that the combined effort of hundreds, if not thousands of people could make in their lifetimes. In his book “Enlightenment Now,” Steven Pinker argued that 13 different scientists and their contributions — ranging from the chlorination of water to the development of the smallpox vaccine and penicillin — have likely saved nearly 830 million lives in the past century alone. If you or I save one person, it will be a memory that withstands an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. 

We are blessed that, as a species, we can recognize and rally around a person’s greatness so their ingenuity, courage, and enterprising nature will benefit us all. This is why we went from caves to villages to cities and soon enough to Mars. It’s why, despite regressive periods, humankind has largely marched forward. 

But we must also contend with the shortcomings brought on by our emotions. In an age where two-going-on-three generations were raised to feel special and broadcast their individual selves to the world, we must learn to live with the reality that the world may not find us to be as magnetic as the parents, teachers, and coaches did in our youth. 

There is a quiet nobility in accepting that the value most of us bring to the world is to not screw it up. Striving to be our best is, ironically, what it takes to prevent the world from decaying. It is that maintenance that keeps life’s soil fertile, and allows the gifted among us to grow out of it — and lift the rest of us up with them. 

But with so many employers offering salaries that go above and beyond what a “regular” person should make means there’s a level of inflation that is ripe for, well, deflation. Popping that bubble will leave some egos and maybe even some industries in tatters, though it could also be just the antidote for a culture that’s allowed the science of economics to be centered around fantastical self-perceptions.

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Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

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