What's Wrong With America: Part I

Econophile's picture

By Jeff Harding

The Daily Capitalist

I should start a series, "What's Wrong With America." Maybe this is my first post in the series. I don't think I can add anything to this.

Carnegie Hall Stagehand Moving Props Makes $530,044

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- After you practice for years and get to Carnegie Hall, it’s almost better to move music stands than actually play the piano.


Depending on wattage, a star pianist can receive $20,000 a night at the 118-year-old hall, meaning he or she would have to perform at least 27 times to match the income of Dennis O’Connell, who oversees props at the New York concert hall.


O’Connell made $530,044 in salary and benefits during the fiscal year that ended in June 2008. The four other members of the full-time stage crew -- two carpenters and two electricians -- had an average income of $430,543 during the same period, according to Carnegie Hall’s tax return.


At Carnegie Hall, which has featured on its three stages such varied musicians as Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan and the Berlin Philharmonic, only Artistic and Executive Director Clive Gillinson makes more than the stagehands.


Gillinson earned $946,581 in salary and benefits in the fiscal year that ended in June 2008. Chief Financial Officer Richard Matlaga made $352,139, while General Manager Anna Weber received $341,542.


Labor Clout

The stagehands benefit from a strong union: Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees demonstrated its clout in November 2007 when its members walked off their Broadway jobs and closed 26 shows for almost three weeks. The strike ended after stagehands and producers agreed to a five-year contract that both sides called a compromise.


Joshua B. Freeman, a U.S. labor historian at Queens College and author of “Working Class New York,” said the union’s power to shut down a vital part of New York’s entertainment industry gives it leverage in negotiations.

“They have a credible threat of withdrawing their labor,” Freeman said.


Local One President James J. Claffey Jr., who earned $260,877 in salary and benefits in 2007, declined to comment. Union spokesman Bruce Cohen said O’Connell had no comment. Gillinson also had no comment, while Matlaga and Weber didn’t return calls.


Cohen said in an e-mail that members “work under collective bargaining negotiated fairly with management, signed by management and ratified by the membership of the union.”


Sanford Weill

The Carnegie Hall board is led by Sanford I. Weill, former chairman of Citigroup Inc., and includes philanthropist Mercedes Bass, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn and Sallie Krawcheck, president of Bank of America’s wealth-management division.


How exactly do the stagehands earn their money? According to Carlino, they move equipment in and out of the hall, prepare the three stages for performances and operate audiovisual and sound fixtures. In addition to Stern Auditorium (2,804 seats), the company has Zankel Hall (599 seats) and Weill Recital Hall (268).


Producers who work there said a prop manager usually moves and supervises the moving of objects that aren’t plugged in, such as a piano or music stands. An electrician handles objects that get plugged in, like microphones and amplifiers, while carpenters are involved in the construction and handling of scenery.


The size of the crew, which is determined by management and the union, varies by production. Carlino wouldn’t provide specific numbers, but producers said it can exceed a dozen for a major concert and overtime is a key component of pay.


Operating Deficit

Gillinson, who came from the London Symphony Orchestra in 2005, made less in 2007-08 than two other New York performing- arts leaders with more complex tasks. Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy made $1.1 million to oversee a 16-acre complex that houses 12 resident companies. Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb earned $1.5 million to produce 219 opera performances.


Judith Arron, Carnegie Hall’s leader from 1986 to 1998, had compensation of $386,131 in her last year. The hall’s operating budget has more than doubled since, to $84 million.


Gillinson oversees management, raises money and develops “artistic concepts” for concerts, according to the hall.

It presented about 200 concerts in the 2008-2009 season, up 3 percent from the previous year. Its stages were rented for an additional 600 events, down 12 percent from the year before.


Stern Auditorium costs $15,600 to rent on a Friday or Saturday night. The producer must pay extra for stagehands, ushers, security, insurance and the sound system.

Carnegie Hall had an operating shortfall of $40.2 million in 2007-2008. After including funds from donors, investment income and government grants, the hall ended the season with a $1.9 million surplus.

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Rusty Shorts's picture

I don't know who is the author of this piece, but he hit the nail on the head !


What is globalization?


Globalization is nothing more than the constant search for cheap labor and the constant upgrading of infrastructure all across the earth. Thus improving the infrastructure of previously ‘unindustrialized countries’ and accessing a whole new ununionized labor pool. The new world’s that are created and improved through road, rail, energy, and hospital projects that are built by huge multinational corporations and paid for by unwitting outside investors. Before all the public works’ projects are completed there is a debasement to pay for the projects with outside investors’ money because it was ‘lost’ during the stock market crash or crash of a company’s stock (debasement of vehicle of monetary exchange).

During the debasement period the “inside” investors are selling short, 401k’s/entitlements etc. are frozen until the company pays out whatever debts it can with whatever liquid it has left., then the company goes bankrupt, it’s assets are filtered off to a subsidiary/holding co that was formed prior to debasement, the projects they were building get snapped up at fire sale prices. Now the projects are paid for, the companies get their money and the country gets its infrastructure for their people to work jobs cheaper than other people in the Old World will work them

Along the globalization trail, TPTB monopolize all the resources they can under corrupt regimes that most of the time they put into power. Then take control of all essential parts of the economy; food supply, energy and mineral resources, fresh water sources, precious stones, cash crops, telecom, and healthcare. The foreign multinational corporations use cheap labour to assemble their goods while owning all other utilities the people of the country use. Once the cheap labour and resources are exploited, the globalists pick up and start the search for a new land to build up. Every new world is built on the dollar of outside investors and tax payers. Outsourcing is the only way the king can afford the peasants wages.

It started with canals, ships, and marinas in olden days and evolved into railroads, locomotives, then into trucks and roads, and most recently aviation. Every logistic means throughout history has been payed for by the outside investor through the use of debasements. Bubbles are built up on the word that ‘the good times will never end’ and popped on ‘we never saw this coming’ - all made possible by governments pretending to fail all across the world. All three tiers of government (soon to be four; federal, state, municipal, and soon, Union) are chalked full of failures.

The same groups of companies get the contracts for foreign nation building, usually spawned off each other, tracing their way back to a group of banks that operate throughout the world. These companies debase vehicles of monetary exchange (stocks and stock markets). Most of them having intimate ties with the World Bank. The financiers’ of globalization stay the same. Once projects are completed and economies successfully debased, wars are waged to pay for economic recovery and fulfill whatever geopolitical agenda these global financiers have. After the era of fraud there is a period of boom and the cycle repeats itself, the size of the war usually depends on the size of the debasement that preceded it.

Once the Vehicle of Monetary Exchange is debased, the stolen money is laundered through various organizations (charities, non-profits, Legatus, museums). Once the money has been laundered there needs to be a war to destroy the paper trail (the fog of war) so they need an event to set off the war. If multiple countries’ economies are down, it will be a global war (each country fighting with it’s favorite enemy). At this time the financial sector will air its laundry, and we’ll start hearing about frauds and accounting errors. This will lead to federal bodies (FINRA, SEC) bringing cases against the scapegoats (Skilling, Conrad Black) and we will have show trials with show judges (Crater, Landis). The trials will bring justice to the ‘rogue conspirators and that’s that.

The new bubbles are usually being built up as the current bubble is popping. These bubbles are allowed to happen through manipulation of laws. In America, the crash (era’s of fraud) usually coincides with the end of one presidency and the start of another and occur every 4 years. In the lame duck sessions of a presidency, all previous corporate criminals get pardons. This timeline repeats itself throughout history.



time123's picture

The primary issue really is the hit that everyone has taken in their portfolios. That is what is wrong with today's America. But it will come back strong as it always has.

For those with 401K, I believe it is time to take our destiny in our own hands and recover at least some of the losses in our portfolios through trading the markets.

Today, we had a big drop in the end of the day, as nvestors were probably looking for an excuse to sell.

Richard Bove had made some good calls in the past, and that may be why they sold today on his comments.

By the way, the Invetrics DJIA index timing signal switched to Short prior to market open today (unrelated to the analyst's comments), and warned web site visitors of today's potential drop in the market.

It is up a respectable 64.84% for the year (as of October 20, 2009) and it is free of charge for individual investors at:


Unscarred's picture

Who is John Galt?

Anonymous's picture

I work in the arts - at theatres all over the world. The money these guys were paid is outrageous with no relation to the amount or complexity of the work they do. Instead, it's a reflection of the imbalance of power unions have accumulated over the years.

Thank goodness they don't charge me that for my donkey act in Tijuana.

chet's picture

I'm increasingly unsure what I'm goigt to tell my young kids about our "meritocracy" as they prepare for life.

Since college won't be affordable in 16 years, I guess I should be glad that there are millionaire stagehand positions for them to compete for.  And by "compete on their merits", I mean "somehow meet some union mobsters, or Sandy Weill."

Anonymous's picture

Sallie Krawchek - that would be the former CFO of Citicorpse who oversaw the transformation of Citicorpse' balance sheet into a toxic waste dump.

alien-IQ's picture

I spent many years working in New York productions. I worked in just about every aspect ranging from stagehand to production manager and producer. I know a lot of people who work in the industry. A lot of union guys. Yes some of them make good money. Is it easy work? Well, tell you what...you drag your ass up to the rafters at the MET, about 130ft off the ground and lean out over the rails to hang a 65lb light on a 2inch pipe...then tell me if you think it's easy work. However, I find those reported numbers by Bloomberg for the Carnegie prop guys... more than a little hard to believe.

Anonymous's picture

Amen. Also, it's important to remember that overtime is often a big part of total pay for the technical guys. Especially in a big venue like Carnegie Hall, with different shows every night, you're basically balls-to-the-wall every single day trying to get things set up for the night's show.

RagnarDanneskjold's picture

There's no difference with Wall Street. It's greed and rape of the taxpayer. The evil flows from the fountainhead of USG, the banks and most unions (I would not include skilled unions that are more like guilds, but teachers and government workers definitely apply) bask in its waters.



Dixie Normous's picture

Someone finally mentioned teachers.

If we want to talk about what is wrong with America let's start with one of the world's most expensive educational systems vs results.

Let's talk about towns of 33,000 in New England that educate 7000 kids for $90 million a year.  Where the main goal of a teacher is to get out of the classroom and get into the ever-growing admin positions where the pay outs are into the $200k per year.

Anonymous's picture

Don't limit it to teachers - look at the layers and layers of bureaucracy that have been added to school systems over the last 20 years. Teacher's pay hasn't changed all that much but the high paid Peter's Principle dimwits that suck up billions in tax payer dollars but produce nothing need to go. Get back to neighborhood schools.

Anonymous's picture

It's not the teachers; sure, there are bad teachers, but has anyone here looked at a schoolteacher's salary recently? They don't even get overtime.

Administration is the problem. 300k+ a year to manage a school is absurd. This sector is notorious for voting itself lavish pay raises while operating budgets are slashed a la elite CEOs.

It's all about who has the leverage at key nodes in the system. While we're at it, what about police and firefighter pensions?

crzyhun's picture

All gains are ill gotten, no?

Jus7tme's picture

What if the title of the story had been

Wall Street Stagehand Moving Props Makes $530,044

with subtitle

Man behind the curtain is getting rich at taxpayer expense.

Printfaster's picture

And the singers who must train, rehearse, travel, prepare,  and strain earn what?

These stagehands could all be replaced by a minimum wage street person.  Not altogether different from Wall street traders.

Seriously, the bigger problem is that who will donate to Carnegie hall when money is being sent down a rathole.  I cannot see rattling a tin cup to help feed a $500,000/year flunkie.  He should be replaced by a volunteer.


channel_zero's picture

These stagehands could all be replaced by a minimum wage street person.

Spoken like a true know-it-all.  Are you a sound engineer?  Do you even know what that is?

What you know-it-alls fail to comprehend is the skill required to get the most out of a performer and the performance space.  Oh, but then all of the ZH sound engineers know that right?  Maybe the Carnegie acts should just play out on the street and knock the hall down.  Because according to you geniuses, there isn't any difference.

The howls of protest about banking pay are somehow wrong too?  No unions there.  No skill there either according to the ZH brain trust.

This kind of content is the garbage that has gotten us to the place we're in right now and most of you fools just eat it up.

Anonymous's picture

For 1/5 the cost, they could hire 5 interns from NYU to do the same thing this one guy does, although volunteers would be perfectly acceptable as well.

Anonymous's picture

Dixie - Poor assumption. I guess you also assumed TG paid his taxes right?

...and how is this a 'non-story'...it is somehow 'ok' because of NYC's history. Don't be an idiot.

BobPaulson - 'The mega-graft'...quit it with your childhood delusions. Do you really contend that a stagehand paid 500K adds more value than any GS employee being paid 500K. If so, there is only you left to help yourself.

ZH - You post some decent articles and some that are pure crap...yet it is your commmenters that really detract from any credibility this site may have. Some of them make TD look completely sane and reasonable, which is quite the feat.

BobPaulson's picture

Good to hear comments aren't just knee jerk labour bashing. I think they're overpaid, but it's orders of magnitude below the mega-graft that is really the problem. I bet those carpenters did more constructive work than the parasites in GS this year.

Anal_yst's picture

So a banker or trader who brought in $50million in revenue for GS this year is a parasite, but a glorified niche, small general contractor makes half a mil while their organization essentially loses money, and that's ok?

Anonymous's picture

I think the point that is missed here is that the trader who brings in $50 million should be paid a salary - no more no less. Bonuses, if any, should be paid out as an average of performance over a ten year time frame and paid in company stock which should then be held for another ten years. When traders start thinking about the long term welfare of the country and their company, then they can be rewarded with bonuses. As long as traders behave like third world dictators, raping the productive resources of a country to fund their lavish lifestyles, then they will be treated like the criminals they are.

Paul S.'s picture

And THAT comment is what is really wrong in America.  It's not okay to steal, unless you're the one doing the stealing. 

BobPaulson's picture

Which part was stealing? Earning too high a wage or doing something useless that has no net benefit and getting 100x more? When the guys with torches come to my house, I'm going to be smart enough to run, not go out there and tell them they deserve to be unemployed and I should get 7 figures for punching some buttons on a screen.

gmrpeabody's picture

It's stealing when you have your fingers in the publics wallet. Whether your are stealing 50 million or a half million, it's still stealing.

Why is this so hard to understand?

BobPaulson's picture

Because the carpenter isn't paying himself. Sorry, seems obvious to me.

Dixie Normous's picture

This is a non-story.  It's profit sharing in an entrenched unionized city like NY.

At least these guys pay taxes unlike most of the undocumented workers building and maintaining the banker palaces in places like Greenwich and the Hamptons.

gmrpeabody's picture

Can't be called profit sharing without profits. Oh, that's right, there is a profit after government grants and other tax deductible handouts.

Dixie Normous's picture

My comment on profit sharing was an attempt at sarcasm.

However, when an organisation has Sandy Weill as Chairman of the board and you are looking down the ladder at a few million in union salaries, then you are looking in the wrong place.

gmrpeabody's picture

I appreciate sarcasm.

But it's O dark:30 on the left coast, barely thru my first cup, and having to decifer....

Anyway, I get your point if you get mine. 

Yankee's picture

Thanks Econophile, always nice to see how the other half lives. 

Anonymous's picture

Ah, the arts, always the arts. The great underminers of the American economy. (I wish.)

While I don't endorse half-million dollar salaries for stagehands, most stagehands make jack squat plus nothing, so you're isolating the exception as the rule, which is, well, dumb.

And art is not a capitalist enterprise--stunning that such things exist, but true--and has throughout modern history failed to pay for its operating expenses, until it discovered "the musical".

Stick to the for-profit world, please; there is plenty of garbage to unearth there first.

Anonymous's picture

art is very much a capitalist enterprise funded
in large measure by capitalists - certainly so in
the above example....

if a stagehand is making several standard deviations
away from the mean then there are extraordinary
explanations one of which includes fraud....

however in this case it's not exactly fraud but
more mobster tactics at work....

nice work if you can get it.....

i'm all for digging up garbage anywhere it's found....

Anonymous's picture

No, actually, calling art a capitalist enterprise so won't make it one. It has nothing to do with markets, though markets may (and frequently do) commandeer its products. And it is often sustained despite operating at a loss and not favoring efficiency. Just because people get paid (or overpaid) for doing something doesn't mean capitalism is in play. And the funding can come from any system at all.

The fact that IATSE may be an overpowerful union has nothing to do with this taking place at Carnegie Hall. That just adds cheap flash to the post. Kind of like the way the Congress likes to argue endlessly about the NEA budget, despite its infinitesimal and meaningless weight in the overall bottom line.

Anonymous's picture

Blaming a hardworking blue collar guy for making a buck?

anyway, do you think you could do the job? Or could an overpaid Wall Street Executive do the job?

Those regular fellas made a bonanza in a niche market... so what's different than what Wall Street analysts are doing? I am trading on the market, does that entitle me to a million dollar salary? But "they" are getting one.

I am handy with tools but I'd not have a clue on how or where to get the jobs above. Connections? Talent? Doesn't seem much different than the average CEO. Connections trump Talent every time.

Stop blaming blue collar America for the fraud perpetuated at the Top.

Anonymous's picture

Did you miss the part where it says the organization is essentially bankrupt, egregiously so, without "government grants"?

Government grants for the arts are supposed to be so more people throughout society can enjoy the arts. You know, like sending busloads of kids or poor people to peformances and stuff like that. Or, allowing that super talented performer to go ahead a make a go it as a young artist.

It is NOT to pay union entrenched manual labor 10-15 times the everyman salary to build the props!

Anonymous's picture

Who said that these guys work hard? I was a carpenter for years, working way my way through college, earning degrees in Physics and Mathematics. There were no heaters or air conditioners on the job site. At least Carnegie Hall has a roof. With my practical experiences as a carpenter, an electrician, and a broad quantitative, theoretical, scientific foundation, and the advanced technical expertise gained in the Lab, I could do any of the jobs that these union extortionists do. I am not under qualified. I do not get the work. A fair, just society does need individuals justifying their right to excessive benefits due to someone else’s receipt of excessive benefits. Simply because everyone else does the wrong thing, does not mean that I cannot do the right thing. Do away with nepotism and create a meritorious society. I have starved and slaved and suffered and earned my right for a decent wage. With the money one that these union thieves make, ten people could live comfortably.

gmrpeabody's picture

Fraud is fraud. White collar, blue collar, whatever. If tax payers have to support their extravagant wages, I guess it qualifies. 

Anonymous's picture

Sounds like the stagehands need a taxpayer funded bailout - they're overpaid and underworked!

Anonymous's picture

If you think a 4-man crew is excessive for doing all the lighting, sound, scenery etc. for three performance venues, you've clearly never worked in the industry. Also, please observe this throwaway line hidden away in the article: "...overtime is a key component of pay." We can argue ourselves blue in the face about what a reasonable base pay rate for this kind of work is, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that with a base pay of $40/hour, you would make almost $250k working 90 hour weeks (which is more common than you would think in theater).

Anonymous's picture

So why not have 8 or 9 guys working so there are no 90-hr work weeks? There is no need for that kind of overtime except by design. Sign me up, I'd work 110 hrs a week for that, and retire at the end of the year.