I heard that Sean Hannity recently signed a $100 million four year deal with Fox News. Arithmetic fans will notice that this is roughly $25 million dollars per year. That stood out to me because Rachel Maddow makes less than one-third of that. But while Maddow is the star of MSNBC, Hannity is at best a fading position player. So what gives?
Some would point out that even in the 25-54 demographic, Hannity still beats Maddow even though he is at a worse time. And Megyn Kelly, who is in direct competition with Maddow, crushes her. But that’s hardly an indication that Hannity or Kelly are bigger draws than Maddow. The truth is that Fox News is simply a bigger draw than MSNBC. Even Piers Morgan would out-perform Maddow if he were given a show on Fox News.
It’s worse than this indicates, however. The main thing I got from An Atheist in the Foxhole is that of all the cable news stations, Fox News pays its people the worst. All the regular workers there dream of getting a job at MSNBC or CNN. So that’s quite a disconnect. It would be one thing if that free market cult of a television station paid everyone well. But instead, they starve their worker base and lavish their stars with money.
I think this the conservative ideal of a market economy. In fact, for years we had to listen to Mitt Romney jabber on about this. It’s a lottery approach to incentives. It doesn’t accept the idea that one can gain valuable skills and go on to have a decent job and fulfilling life. Instead it is: if you are super great, you too might get that multi-million dollar paycheck. And that is a real problem because it actually disincentivizes most workers. And the people it incentivizes are the wrong kind of people: hyper-aggressive and narcissistic.
Fundamentally, it is all about luck. I’m sure that along the way, plenty of Bill O’Reillys simply didn’t make it. Interestingly, that’s key to the Horatio Alger stories. They weren’t about people working hard and succeeding, they about young men who lucked into positions where they were able to show their stuff. No one says that Bill O’Reilly isn’t good at his job, as pernicious as his effect on society may be. But O’Reilly didn’t get his chance by being a contestant on “America’s Next Top Pundit.” Any number of random events could have derailed his career.
So Fox News appears to be the conservative economic utopia where the rich get almost everything and the poor, who support them, fight for the scraps. If conservatives were honest, they’d admit that this is the world they are trying to create. All the Fox News pundits would not go around saying that poverty would be eliminated if we just ignored it; they’d say the truth, “I’ve got mine, too bad for you, suckers!” And if the billion dollar “news” network is this way, just imagine how much worse it would be in the economy as a whole.