The news is awash with analysis about the announced resignation of Nikki Haley. People are shocked, disappointed and very curious. How could such a dynamic woman leave a post that she holds with such honor and which is perfectly suited to her and to the President that appointed her?
For those who care about International affairs she has been our star player. She delivered the message to the world that the United States was back in full force- that it is proud and strong. Most of all she made it clear that the U.S. was going to demand many changes in the United Nations, or would withdraw substantial funding.
For Israel, she was a voice heard from the wilderness. Her speeches before the U.N. were the stuff that dreams were made of. No equivocation and no apology for belief that the State of Israel was not only its ally, but being maligned at every turn by those with their own agendas. She called it as it is. She was hated by all of Israel’s enemies. She did not court them or pretend that their lies were justified.
The United States Ambassador to the United Nations is really a horrid job. The bulk of the members are avowed enemies of democracy. They look at the United States as an unlimited source of funding, and hurl insults at its every move. Who among us is prepared to face endless animosity in the workplace? At best the position is glamorous and news-making. At worst it is demoralizing and all consuming. It certainly removes one from their family life as does many other high profile political appointments.
Mrs. Haley said it was time to step down. It was time to consider her family. It was time to move on. Speculations about her future political career are flying about at great pace. Perhaps America will one day actually have a woman President who can one day lead the nation -as she did her state when she was governor of South Carolina. Governorships are good training grounds for the Presidency as exemplified by Bill Clinton and Ronald Regan.
The rumor that stays with me about her resignation has to do with her own financial situation. That has given me much to think about. It is said that her combined income with her husband’s is not sufficient to provide their family with a comfortable life with all that is required of her. In the year 2017 the Congress determined that the Vice President of the United States would receive a salary of $240,000 a year and that the top end salary of an Ambassador would be $187,000 but even with additional allowable expenses, could under no circumstances could super-cede that of the Vice President’s wage.
How is it that public service is not valued as much as that of the major football players? How is it that bankers, lawyers, corporate executives and high tech positions pay higher wages than those of Congressmen, Senators, the Secretary of State, Defense, Treasury, Commerce… and even the U.S. President? Basketball players, football players, soccer players are raking in millions of dollars per year in their contracts…and everyone thinks that is perfectly acceptable. In a society where one’s importance is generally measured by income….In researching the salary of the governor of South Carolina, I came upon an example worth noting : The head coach of the University of South Carolina (Will Muschamp,) reportedly receives a pay check ten times larger than the governor of the same state. The absurdity of it takes one’s breath away. What exactly does a football coach or player- contribute to the world that makes him more valuable than those who defend our security and represent us and our values against our sworn enemies? Are football players more important than Generals that lead our troops into battle? Are they more valuable than our soldiers who put their lives at risk on the battlefield? The parallel worlds of businesses creating fortunes for themselves compared to that of society which must actually serve the public needs are becoming so disconnected that the disparity of the benefits paid to the team players (be they corporate or sport) is becoming shameful. We clearly hold the people who impact on our lives the most, in very little esteem. Their pay packets tell us so. Of them we expect perfection…of athletic heroes we expect a “win.”
The argument offered for paying obscene salaries ranging from $15 million to $28 million annually to the heads of major banks (Citicorp at the low end and JPMorgan Chase at the top )- is that it is required to attract the best candidates. Does not the same standard apply to top government leaders?
It is not as if the United States is short of cash. It wastes billions of dollars annually, can afford any and all extravagance, and gives away hundreds of millions to other nations to win their favor. There is really very little reason for elected top officials who devote every hour of their day to service of the public, to be paid less than most corporate executives or heads of major non-profit institutions.
My father (of blessed memory) used to say that he was pleased to see the very wealthy run for high office. He felt that they were less vulnerable to those who wanted to bribe them for their own purposes. Clearly his view was personal, and to my mind…wildly simplistic. But there was a grain of truth in the feeling that financial independence frees an elected leader to focus on the needs of a nation rather than on his own day to day minutea..
It is hard to draw analogies between the U.S. and Israel because the economies and population resources are so vastly different. The assaults on PM Netanyahu and his wife for their “excessive spending ” really look quite absurd compared to those from larger nations. Should a Prime Minister have to account for his imported cigars and food ordered from a local restaurant being paid for by the State? Still, from the perspective of those who have seen Israel grow from infancy over the past fifty years, there is still the attitude that their elected leaders are extended family, and that they are not entitled to the lifestyle of nations with populations 30 to 50 times that of the state of Israel. The laws that are in place to control an abuse of public funds came into being as a result of a understandably miniscule budget of a small nation watching every expenditure. Who would have imagined that this tiny nation would become so critical on the world stage? Who would have thought that the Prime Minister of Israel would receive world leaders with such regularity and would be so pivotal to International affairs? Whilst Israel has developed and prospered, its old financial laws are still intact and some of them are due for a re-think. In the meantime, breaking the existing laws has consequences. The United States has no such fiscal limitations and yet it disrespects its own highest officials with salaries which do not reflect the responsibilities of the position.
Western values are out of alignment. Most people automatically accept this and many wish they too could become the football player, movie/ television star or rap artist who can bring in million-dollar incomes annually.
If only Nikki Haley had been able to receive the benefits her merits deserved… she might not have announced her imminent resignation as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. There is little doubt that the moment she is out of office, she will sign a “book deal” with at least a million dollars guarantee for her inside stories of what she experienced at the U.N. and about her relationship with the President. Then she will begin her speaking tour and will be remunerated for each individual speech. Each event will likely pay her more than her annual salary at the U.N. How is it that those who serve are remunerated so poorly – and when they decide to serve no longer- they are often so well rewarded? Where is the incentive to remain as public servants?
It is moments like this that should give us all a “reality check.” If Nikki played football instead of politics… perhaps she would still be playing on our team!