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Money better spent

I’m not one to keep up with organized professional sports, but news out this week got me thinking that we might just have an answer to solving most of our conservation needs.

What started me down the path was news that our award-winning St. Louis Cardinals had offered, to no avail, to shell out $220 million to keep star first basemen Albert Pujols in town for 10 more years. Unfortunately Albert got a better deal when another team offered him $250 million. Can’t say that I blame him … I mean, I’d consider relocating to another area for $30 million, as long as they had deer and squirrel to hunt there.

For most folks, myself included in that stew of humanity, the thought of a $25 million a year paycheck is nigh unimaginable. My teenage daughter put it in perspective when she reminded me that the entire Louisiana Purchase, all 828,000 square miles of it, only cost the infant United States of America a cool $15 million. Had Pujols been around and earning what he’s set to in the coming decade, by my calculations he could have worked from January until about the first week of July that first year and then bought himself 828,000 square miles of unimproved land and gone hunting and fishing … never to be seen again.

On Thursday, when the news came out that Albert had signed a deal to leave St. Louis, I was sitting in a meeting. A guy sitting beside me reasoned that “ … but in his defense, he really seems to be a nice person.” My response to him was “Yeah, but being a nice person doesn’t pay … at least not in cash. I mean, I’m a relatively nice person, I think. And believe me, if I knew it paid $25 million a year I would have tried even harder to be nicer.”

But the good news is, with Albert taking some other team’s $250 million, that leaves the Cardinals with $220 million just lying around. My first inclination was that they should divide it equally among those of us who live in the “Cardinal nation” — whether we’re baseball fans or not. My quick research showed Missouri had 5,988,927 citizens as of the last census. That would be $4.17 now with nine more payments in the coming decade … or a one-time payout of $41.70. For $4.17 I could buy a new fishing lure or a big bag of gun cleaning patches. I’d be inclined to take the one-time payment of $41.70, which would nearly pay for my hunting and fishing license, a deer tag and a box of rifle shells for the coming year.

Then I though to myself, that’s selfish of me wanting a piece of the action like that. Perhaps we could put the money to better use … like funding more conservation work in the state. I went online and did some quick searching for “MDC budget”. I found the department’s 2010 spending plan and report. I learned that funding the entire MDC for a year cost us $159 million and some change. That just over six years of wages for Albert.

Last year the MDC spent 12,712,809 on managing the state’s lakes, rivers and other waterways. That would be six months of wages for Albert. They spent $16,158,171 for forestry management. That would be about eight months of wages for Albert. To keep our wildlife safe from poachers and uphold the law in the woods and on water we paid $14,845,064. Albert could have paid that bill in about seven months.

Now I don’t begrudge any hardworking man who can figure out how to get fairly compensated for the work he does. But how much is too much? Look at it this way, the President of the United States reportedly makes a compensation package of $569,000 per year. Albert will make 44 times that much next year. Missouri’s Governor Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon should make about $133,821 in 2012. Albert will out-earn him by a ratio of 186-to-1. According to the average American family income is $27,756. Albert will earn as much as 900 average American families. As for our neighbors to the south, the average Mexican family income is $7,300. Albert will earn as much as 3,425 average Mexican families.

So what does all this mean, and do the numbers really matter? Not really. But I can assure you this, if I made $25 million a year I’d be deer hunting with diamond-plated bullets shot from a gold-plated rifle out of a tree stand that looked like the Taj Mahal. I guess there’s a reason why they don’t pay rednecks a lot of money.

Doug Smith lives in an old house, drives an old truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, hunts and fishes often, and can be found on any given day wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat. ( … and would go for an upgrade on all of it — except his wife — if he was gonna make $25 million next year.)

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