Newport Beach is a career lifeguard's dream come true. Not only do you get to work on your tan in the OC just a few miles down the beach from where they filmed Baywatch, you also only work four days a week and earn a six-figure salary. The highest paid full-time lifeguard in Orange Country earned $211,000 last year, according to the Orange County Register, and he'll be eligible to retire at just 51 years-old will likely earn millions in the government-funded pension thereafter. That includes a suntan lotion allowance, by the way.
No wonder California's having some fiscal problems, says Harvard economist Greg Mankiw. California activists have taken note, too. In a video posted on YouTube last week by the California branch of Americans for Prosperity, an activist warns that with such big paychecks, taxes will be raised and essential government programs cut while lifeguards sit in their chairs. Lifestyles for the Rich and Famous--another excellent TV program--is not a good example for California government, Americans for Prosperity says.
Locals seemed less concerned when the news hit the hometown newspaper, on Tuesday. Since then, hundreds of comments on that story and related blog posts point out that the lifeguards have an important job and deserve the handsome pay. After all, they do prevent people from drowning, and according to the testimony of Orange County Fire Chief Mike Morgan at a city council meeting last night, they do a damn good job of it. In an effort to deal with a mounting deficit, the city of Newport Beach is considering cutting the number of full-time lifeguards and reevaluating salaries. Meanwhile, supporters can head to a Facebook page in favor of the lifeguards and their beefy wages. Says Sue Moore on the page's wall:
Experienced guards make safe beaches… Clever management and control of overtime could result in the same savings. Safe and clean beaches are a hallmark of Newport Beach. Keep our Guards and Keep the city tourist friendly and safe.
The city will vote on the cuts in June. If laid off, lifeguards may consider making comparable money cleaning up after Ivy League students.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.