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$6,261 per hour? Beliebe it!

Like gawking at traffic accidents and peeking into neighbors’ windows, wondering about other people’s salaries and comparing them to ours may be one of those universal traits of which we’re not particularly proud.

But I couldn’t resist gawking and peeking when Parade magazine devoted most of last Sunday’s editions to “What People Earn.” The article presented a sampling of incomes for a variety of Americans with a variety of occupations, along with a few celebrities.

My salary, I discovered, fell somewhere between Jerry Loney’s and LeBron James’, although not exactly in the middle. Loney is a part-time clown in Topeka, Kan., who made $2,500 last year. James, who netted $57.5 million, is a professional basketball player who is not popular in Cleveland.

The income that really got my attention, though, was Justin Bieber’s. The heartthrob of 35 million twittering teen “Beliebers” and probably more than a few closet cougars made an estimated $6,261 last year.

Per hour.

In other words, even if he sleeps in until 9 a.m. he’ll make more before noon every day than the annual salary of Tina Whitman, who was paid $15,000 for driving a school bus for special needs children in Mohnton, Pa. Every eight hours, he’s paid more than the $45,000 yearly salary of Olivia Eppe, a pediatric speech pathologist in Broomfield, Colo.

This is not meant to be another of those “where are our priorities” pontifications. Whining about celebrities becoming filthy rich while the needs of children go unmet is a tired topic. If we had a nickel for every column written about sports stars making millions while school teachers are paid barely enough to get by, we’d have enough to pay every school teacher in America $100,000.

Besides, Justin Bieber has paid his dues, laboring for nearly five years before finally reaching the $55 million annual income level. And, having seen his recent appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” my wife and I both came to the conclusion that he’s every bit as talented as Britney Spears.

Not only is he a singer whose music undoubtedly will live forever, he’s “a force.” Forbes magazine named him the third-most powerful celebrity in the world. According to something called the Klout online “influence” scale, Bieber scored higher than Barack Obama or the Dalai Lama.

Still, you may be a bit discouraged if you calculate what you’ll earn today for eight hours of work and realize that, in the same amount of time, a 19-year-old kid from Canada was paid $50,008.

Or, to put it another way, as much as Honey Boo Boo made all last year.

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