Dumb and Wealthy

Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve argued, I’m told, that America’s wealthy upper class naturally accrues money but it is smarter, thereby proving any idiot can write a book. But how is it, then, that so many wealthy people are so stupid?

Case in point: Chicago Cubs owner and CEO Thomas Ricketts. Earlier this week a heavy rain interrupted a game, and the ground crew at Wrigley Field were unable to cover the field with a tarp, and the game was called. The reason the crew failed is that there weren’t nearly enough of them present to do the job. And the reason for that is that Cubs management decided to save money by limiting the number of hours the grounds crew could work so that the Cubs didn’t have to pay for health insurance or be penalized.

“Cheap,” said one of three high-ranking officials from other organizations the Sun-Times contacted Thursday – all of whom fall below the Cubs on Forbes’ annual revenues list.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds crew staffing, all three officials said the video of Tuesday’s incident showed an apparently “undermanned” crew (of 15 pulling the tarp on the night’s first unsuccessful try).

“Embarrassing,” said one, “and they got caught.”

Also, too:

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

I guess one could argue you’ve got to be pretty smart to make the Cubbies the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, but they also came in last in the National League Central Division in 2013. In fact, the Cubbies were the only National League Central Division team that had a losing record at home in 2013. They were third from the bottom in the entire National League in 2013. It looks like they’re third from the bottom of the National League standings right now. Obviously, management keeps profits up by under-investing in the product.

Yeah, I know, it’s the Cubbies; they take pride in being losers. I don’t know why Chicago puts up with this, though. Eric Loomis:

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

OK, so maybe it’s not Chicago Cubs management that’s dumb.

24 thoughts on “Dumb and Wealthy

  1. What’s more – the penalty for not providing insurance doesn’t go into effect until next year.

  2. Depends. Donald Sterling bought the LA Clippers in 1981 for $12 million and ran the club on the cheap. It took me many years to figure out that there really was another major basketball team in LA besides the Lakers. Thirty years later, Steve Ballmer buys them for $2 billion, which nearly everyone thinks is nuts, but then Steve can afford it, and he thinks he can do great things with the club.

  3. The irony here, is that Wrigley Field was built as for a Federal League team – the Chicago Whales (Whales? Really?) – a fairly pro-player league.

    From Wiki:
    The Federal League came together in early 1913 through the work of John T. Powers, and immediately challenged the operations of organized baseball.
    Playing in what detractors called the “outlaw” league allowed players to avoid the restrictions of the organized leagues’ reserve clause. The competition of another, better paying league caused players’ salaries to skyrocket, demonstrating the bargaining potential of free agency for the first time.”

    So, maybe it was the ghosts of all of those old Whales players haunting their park, seeing what the rich psychopathic greed-heads who own the team were doing to working people, who decided to f*ck around with that tarp.

    FSM know, the “Ricketteers” deserve far worse.

  4. I think a lot of us tend to think of intelligence as a general characteristic. If a person has great insight or talent in one area, we value their pronouncements on areas outside of their expertise. They are more than willing to play along because it adds to their social status or they, themselves, come to believe that their gift extends beyond its true borders. Ben Carson is a good example, great and gifted surgeon, but kind of a dim bulb in other ways.

    Rich people are often sterling examples, because in general, people assume that everyone would love to be rich. So the wealthy have won some kind of great competition and are therefore, the top of the heap. But, becoming rich requires other talents and often a healthy dose of sociopathy and killer instinct. It also requires a kind of single mindedness that most of us would not envy at all. Great intelligence is not a necessity.

    If they ever revive “The Twilight Zone,” I suppose there could be one of those “Monkey’s Paw” type episodes where the unwitting protagonist will be granted one wish. He wishes for great wealth and social status, and wakes the next morning in unfamiliar but lavish surroundings. On the wall is a huge, ornate mirror. The protagonist walks toward it and glances in the glass. A look of horror sweeps across his face. He has become Mitt Romney!

    Fade to black, with ominous music.

  5. wmd,
    The owners, like the players, need to warm-up and practice.
    This way, when it’s game-time, they’ll have perfected screwing their workers.

  6. “The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around”

    That is complete bullshit, cub fans are lifers (I is one), I love the cubs for many reasons but mostly the ballpark, it is by far the best in baseball (though the Ricketts have been trying to fuck it up since they bought the team). Plus who the hell else can a Chicago fan root for the white sox? This Rickett fellow is just another entitled trust fund baby. It seems obvious to me that old money can foster ignorance and complacency! And not having enough grounds crew to pull a tarp over your multi-million dollar historic baseball field is just plain ignorant!

  7. Anyone who has watched baseball owners, or any sports’ team owner, negotiate with their players should not be surprised. And baseball is particularly the worst at this. For some reason, these owners believe that fans come to the ballpark to see them, uh, sit in their seats? It couldn’t happen to a nicer club. The Cubs are the example that proves the rule; you get what you pay for. And Cubs’ fans have paid, and paid, and paid…. and got nothing in return. Simply put, the cubs suck.
    The irony for many who follow sports is that one of the more successful franchises in the past 20 year, the Green Bay Packers, is a wholly owned commodity of the City of Green Bay: population 100,000 ish. The NFL, which is really America’s pass-time now, is a completely socialist endeavor with revenue sharing equally amongst the teams. And the league lauds it as the strength of their game.
    So, anytime that a sport’s owner gets caught with his/her pants down, or gets screwed, I’m fine with it. My guess is there’s many more business owners who will pull the same kind of crap, and have done so in the past, and if they get caught screwing their workers, so much the better.

  8. buckeyblue,
    It was Wellington Mara who agreed to share revenue evenly. He was the owner of the NY Giants, and he didn’t have to do that. He was just a very wise man, and realized that if all teams shared, they’d all do better, and make higher profits.

    Jerry Jones, the current Dallas Cowboys owner is trying to end that sharing of revenues – not in all aspects, just in some.

    Oh, and speaking of greedy douche-canoe’s owners and their Commissioner, the NFL wants the Super Bowl halftime music act TO PAY THE NFL for the privilege for the honor of doing so.
    And not only that, they then want a piece of that act’s next tour.

    How feckin’ greedy can these rich and privileged @$$clown be?

    Don’t answer that!
    The Billionaire Boys Club of the NFL would stab their mothers for a penny!

  9. The stupidity runs even deeper. Dean Baker pointed out that the fines they were avoiding don’t apply until next year. This year their excuse was extra stupid.

  10. uncledad …The scriptures say….Moderation in all things! 🙂

    If your comment made it into moderation than it shouldn’t have disappeared.. You must have really pissed off the internet gods, or at least met with their disapproval. But don’t despair. I’ve had hundreds of extremely brilliant and insightful comments simply vanish into the cosmos, and yet I’ve survived the trauma of my vanishing comments ordeal.

  11. The biggest waste of time and space is the Super Bowl Halftime Show. I have been watching football since before there was a Super Bowl. I have yet to see a Super Bowl Halftime show. I use that time to take my nightly bath. On a couple of occasions since I retired, I turned to another station during the halftime because I live on the west coast and it is on very early in the evening. Thus, I take my bath after the Super Bowl. But, I still find better ways to spend my time than watching the Super Bowl halftime show.

    As far as the Cubs go, it seems to me that they are an example of today’s rich (who are only rich because of inheritance) stupidity.

  12. @Goatherd,

    Your insights on the characteristics and limitations of the wealthy are fantastic and true.

    You are, indeed, the bomb-dot-com.

  13. Uncledad: not to make this a flame war but I’ll have to courteously disagree with you on Wrigley. I love Wrigleyville and the bars/grills within walking distance of the Park. But I’m hoping the changes they have planned for the stadium brings it up to some of the more recent stadium amenities; like unobstructed seats.
    Bonnie: the half-time show could completely go away and I couldn’t be happier. The usual fifteen minutes would work fine for me.
    Without revenue sharing in the NFL the league would become uninteresting. Football is such that you can buy yourself a championship. Baseball is so fickle that the money you spend does have a tendency to ensure wins, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. In football, put a top-rated quarterback with a top notch line and receivers and a killer defense and you would win SBs one right after the other. Basketball does that and I find it pretty boring, and I’m much more of a bball fan than anything else. I think they should reward smarts on the general manager spot and outstanding coaching, not the ability to go out and buy players. Revenue sharing allows that to happen, which of course is why the ‘Boys have struggled of late. JJ can pretty much stuff any other ideas where the sun don’t shine.

  14. I just watched Bill Moyers & Company and his conversation with Joseph Stiglitz. It was terrific and needs to be seen by all Americans who care about their country. Here is the website:


    This is information that needs to be shouted from the mountaintops, shown to all the low information voters/Americans (e.g., Fox viewers), and even, perhaps, drop Stiglitz’s report from airplanes all over American. This is the kind of thing that will take Americans to their Howard Beale moment and make them “mad as hell and not take it any more.” Perhaps, we in this community could make a plan to do our part to get this information out . . . Any suggestions?

  15. “A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.”

    The spokesman didn’t refute the claims, but he also denied the claims…that statement doesn’t make any sense at all. At first I thought it was a typo here, but when I linked to the article it said exactly that too. How can you not refute the claim but deny it too?

    Either the reporter got the statement wrong or he let the statement go without questioning how a statement can be both truth and false at the same time. Are we, as the reading public so desensitized to hearing contradictory statements in the same sentence, that we just let them pass?

    Or have we just stopped thinking about what we read/hear in the mainstream newspapers/new broadcasts altogether?

  16. Is that comment about not paying 1/2 time acts true or are you just having us on? Because the idea of an act paying to perform is just crazy. Who would do that?

  17. “they have planned for the stadium ”

    Bonnie, it is not a stadium it is a field, thanks for proving my point!

    “more recent stadium amenities; like unobstructed seats”

    Wrigley is an old park, that is the charm, if you want modern ammenities go to 35th and shields I think you can even get a mocha latte there!

  18. This is a common example of how the free market and private enterprise handle social problems. They avoid finding a solution for them, until they are forced to find one. In the meantime, they work relentlessly to remove any of the societal or economic “levers” that the common stock of humanity might use to pressure them into finding a solution.

    The glorious free market and private enterprise could, if the utopian capitalists are to be believed, find an elegantly efficient healthcare system, with perfectly distributed, state of the art medical care. People might pay for their care with bitcoins or chickens, depending on their preference, and swiftly return to the creation of wealth and enlightened self interest, if only certain inferior types would get out of the way.

    One of the joys of being wealthy is that stupid mistakes don’t cost you much, even if they have a wide or deep impact. There might be some modest cost of tweaking the public relations strategy or finding the right “spin.” But, that comes with the territory, and that’s part of the fun if you are a cluster B personality type.

The following clip might well represent a situation in which the free market prepares to handle the healthcare crisis, once market forces have properly aligned to bring about rational change.


  19. Maha: I’m with you and vote for the puppy bowl. They now have a kitten bowl too. Football has always been boring for me. Just give me a good book and no commercials.

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