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I guess I’m a chump for thinking $148,000 is a pretty good buck

Gov. J.B. Pritzker meets with reporters on Tuesday. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is doubling the salaries of 20 top staffers — out of his own pocket. | Photo by Tina Sfondeles

The problem with this country is that some of us think $148,000 a year is a pretty good salary and others believe you can’t find good help for that sort of money.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is among those who think only an incompetent boob would work for $148,000 a year, even if that included health insurance, paid holidays, sick pay and a pension.

OPINION

So Pritzker is personally adding $150,000 to the state salary of his $148,000 chief of staff to make sure she earns $298,000 a year, the Pritzker living wage.

Out of his own pocket, the governor is basically doubling the salaries of 20 top staffers, including his deputy governors, because he doesn’t want the riffraff who flocked to state jobs in the past.

By the way, the governor is also raising the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 an hour by 2025. He has received all sorts of accolades for his generosity (although he is not paying that money out of his own pocket.)

That’s $31,200 a year full-time (no benefits guaranteed).

I would not expect any self-respecting, big shot government executive to work for $31,200. They’re smarter than that.

But $148,000 seems like a decent living wage, even for a smart person.

Billionaires are running the country now. We trust them.  Donald Trump ran for president bragging about how much money he made and how he screwed people — I mean, how he negotiated with them — to get the best deals.

Former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy Republican, bragged that he could lead Illinois out of its financial chaos because he bought and sold companies on the verge of bankruptcy, put people out of work, sold the companies for a profit and created jobs.

Voters loved that idea until Pritzker, who is far richer than Rauner, came along and said he could give us free stuff, cut taxes on the middle class, increase taxes on the wealthy and give us even more free stuff. And make marijuana legal.

He did not say he was going to double the salaries of his top government employees, but most voters would not have cared if Pritzker had made that promise. The money was coming out of his own pocket.

It almost sounds like a charitable deed. Illinois is broke. It can’t afford to pay people a decent wage. So Pritzker is going to help us out by making sure we get the best and brightest, even if we can afford only the worst and dumbest.

A deputy governor who earned only $139,000 a year will now make $278,000; that’s $139,000 from the state and another $139,000 from a Pritzker LLC.

It sounds shady, but it’s the sort of thing billionaires can do.

What bothers me, among other things, is that these 20 employees may think they work for Pritzker and not us, the taxpayer.

What’s wrong with that? As governor, Pritzker is free to hire and fire the people who work for him at the highest levels. So why can’t he pay them what he wants with his own money?

The thing is, the people who run a government always eventually believe they are the government.

They are not. All of these folks are our employees. And we expect them to tell us when they see other government workers (including the governor) misbehaving and taking bribes.

I realize that’s not reality. The reality is that far too many folks are in it for what they can get, not the joy of public service. And it’s time the rest of us understood that to the billionaires running this country, $148,000 a year is chump change because only a chump would consider it big money.

I guess that’s why it bothers me. I was always just a chump.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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