Why Do Famous People Get Paid So Much?
Ex-politicians jump on the star gravy-train and cash in, George Packer observes
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Jul 24, 2013 1:05 PM CDT
In this June 23, 2011 file photo, CIA Director nominee Gen. David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

(Newser) – Harry Truman once said he could "never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office." But boy has that sentiment ever gone out of style. Bill Clinton made $17 million in speaking fees last year, and Hillary makes $200,000 a speech. David Petraeus was almost paid that much for a part-time teaching gig. "There's no doubt that these and other ex-public servants are 'commercializing' their former offices," observes George Packer at the New Yorker.

And maybe it's fine if some business wants to pay a Clinton six figures. But "it is fair to ask exactly what they do to earn it." America is in the grip of a star system. "At the highest altitude, the distinction between entertainers, inventors, business moguls, athletes, academics, and government officials breaks down." It's a system with "wildly unequal rewards for relatively small differences in talent," that has a demoralizing effect on everyone else, and encourages "pervasive mediocrity and corner-cutting." Petraeus needed three Harvard grads to help write his syllabus. "Nothing spells the end of real achievement like becoming a brand." Click for Packer's full column.

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Showing 3 of 21 comments
Jul 27, 2013 8:13 AM CDT
to g,o.p. LAY OFF OF PALIN.
Jul 26, 2013 3:19 PM CDT
As gssusarr said below. MAYBE "famous people get paid so much" because no one is going to pay to listen to (non famous) Joe Schmoe - and IF you are desperate enough to "need" the wisdom or entertainment of the "elite", whether it be a politician, singer, actor, sports player or ex-president, then I guess you have to pay what they demand. They get big bucks because people are willing to pay it. If attendance fell off the speakers / actors / performers would drop their fees.
Jul 25, 2013 6:54 AM CDT
How could you leave out Sarah Palin?