You'd probably be smiling, too, if you made as much money as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, the nation's highest-paid public employee. File/AP 

Familiar lament:

There’s too much money in politics.

Contrarian theory:

There’s not enough money in politics.

Well, at least there’s not enough money in the salaries we pay to the folks who win our political races.

For instance, why did so many Americans find both 2016 major party presidential nominees so sadly lacking?

Maybe it’s because, in part, that the highly stressful job pays a lowly $400,000 a year.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, at $9 million a year and roughly a million more if he wins enough games and awards, makes nearly $400,000 every two weeks. That makes him the highest-paid public employee in the United States. Indeed, the list of the highest-paid public employees in our nation is dominated by mostly college football and a few college basketball coaches.

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, at $4.42 million a year, is the highest-paid pubic employee in our state and 12th highest-paid college football coach in our nation.

Sure, Swinney and Harbaugh are winners on the field and at the bank. Yet that’s thanks to their “amateur” players risking serious long-term injuries while trying to join the relatively few college players who make the big bucks of the NFL.

And Swinney and Harbaugh both lost on Saturday.

Costly turnovers

OK, so the presidency has swell perks, including living in a nice old (White) House.

As commanders-in-chief, our presidents also get to launch air attacks even more impressive than Clemson star Deshaun Watson’s ACC record 580-yard passing performance in the Tigers’ 43-42 loss to Pitt on Saturday. But why did Watson throw into that crowd of defenders on second-and-goal from the 3-yard-line with less than six minutes left and a 42-34 lead?

And why should Swinney, especially after blowing that game, make 41.7 times more than Gov. Nikki Haley’s $106,078 a year?

Haley, a Clemson grad who at times wears the orange, hasn’t complained about that pay — and gender? — gap. As a right-thinking free-market fan, she doubtless respects the supply-and-demand forces that make being a college football coach who wins enough to keep his job a lucrative gig.

Still, soaring coach and player pay, steep ticket prices and huge public investments in stadiums to lure and keep pro franchises are throwing America’s priorities for a loss.

Meanwhile, Charleston County School Board members, who like football players, must endure hard hits and, who like coaches, presidents and governors must endure constant second-guesses, get $25-a-meeting chump change.

And what about the plight of underpaid editorial writer/columnists relentlessly tested by the grueling mission of enlightening their readers?

Now test yourself (warning: there is some math) ...

Second and still long

1) Our next president, who has occasionally pointed out that he’s rather well off financially, says he will take only $1 of his $400,000 salary. Name the percentage of the record $20 trillion national debt, which he will inherit on Jan. 20, that this $399,999 windfall for the Treasury will eliminate.

2) Name who said: “I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal.”

Playing with pain

1) 0.000001999 percent

2) President Theodore Roosevelt said that in a 1903 speech at the University of Minnesota. But two years later, Roosevelt summoned football coaches and other officials from Yale, Princeton and Harvard (where son Theodore Jr. was on the freshman team) to the White House.

Why? Because as The Washington Post reported in 1905, after at least 45 football fatalities in the previous five years: “Nearly every death may be traced to ‘unnecessary roughness.’ Picked up unconscious from beneath a mass or other players, it was generally found that the victim had been kicked in the head or stomach, so as to cause internal injuries or concussion of the brain, which, sooner or later, ended life.”

So the president urged those Ivy League leaders to make football safer, which they did.

But it remains a rough, manly — and increasingly expensive — game.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.