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Wake-up call



Never exaggerate the facts to prove a point because you lose credibility when you take liberties with the truth. Gas that costs $3.99.99 per gallon is not $4 gas. And the average CEO's pay is not 400 times more than their average worker.  

It's only 399 times. 

By far the most lopsided ratio among countries in the industrialized world. In the mid-1960s, it was only 20 times as much. So why are workers resentful and suffering from low-morale?

According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay has leaped 1,460 percent in the last 45 years. For the last year on record, 2021, CEOs’ wages averaged $27.8 million. One-third of that has been over the last several years. The sampling of companies represented by these CEOs is not all-inclusive, but it is comprehensive enough to make a fair-minded person lose their lunch.

The eternal status quo is worsening.

Its defenders call on witnesses to the truth to stop their class envy and to appreciate that these CEOs are successful people who create jobs and are held personally accountable for their high-stakes performance. Does that explain the almost invariable "golden parachute" severance they get after they run their company into bankruptcy after just a few months of their leadership? 

When their company's profits soar, their "performance pay" is in the stratosphere. When it plunges, their bonus is merely "through the roof.” All a worker can aspire to is an "Employee of the Month" plaque.

It doesn't matter whether the CEOs' compensation is in the form of salary, bonuses, payouts, buybacks, award, stock options or whatever.  It is obscene. Far more than Lady Chatterley's lover ever was.

In recent years, with rocketing consumer prices, the ratio of increased compensation between the CEOs of 49 firms analyzed in an Institute for Policy Studies review was around 1000 to 1.  That's hardcore economic pornography.  

You don't need to be a card-carrying (or undocumented) socialist to be thrust into a smash-and-grab mindset when the level playing field is that steeply inclined.

The United States trails many other nations in key indicators of quality of life, standard of living and especially vital statistics, such as longevity, infant mortality prevention, basic education skills achievement, and pay disparity between top executives and the economic bottom-feeders who do all the work for them. How presumptuous are appeals to their loyalty and productivity under this state of affairs?  

Many people, including a large cross-section of self-styled "progressives,” who have goods, property and money in abundance, pose as passionate believers in economic egalitarianism.  Some of them have convinced themselves that their motives and principles are pure. Some pretend they are convinced. They go "the extra mile" and the "whole nine yards" to be social justice warriors.  

They are soldiers of fortune. Their own fortunes.

Solutions to economic injustices that fail to give human nature "breathing room" to allow for greed, ambition and raw talent are unrealistic and doomed to failure because they do not comport with reality. There is no system that can overrule that. Making-believe otherwise betrays the seamier side of idealism.  

There is no parity among our destinies. We can file grievances with the stars and seek arbitration with the cosmos and cry into our chowder, but there will always be tiers and tears of privilege.  But there must be better proportion and balance in our workplaces.

From 1978 to 2020, CEO compensation rose 1,322 percent; workers’ pay 18 percent. 

The IPS report of 300 U.S. companies gives an idea just how much pus is in the boil of economic inequity between CEOs and workers. It should give us pause and a thousand double-takes.

In the case of Andy Jassy of Amazon, the par ratio to average worker was 6,471 to 1, reports ABC News. But for overall compensation, ragamuffin Jassy was bested by Expedia's CEO Peter Kern, who "earned" (an ill-advised defilement of the word) just under $213 million a couple of years ago, according to Forbes. 

In a time when there is a colossal tug-of-war whenever workers seek a dime increase in the minimum wage, it is comforting to know that it takes Jeff Bezos around 12 milliseconds to make the starting hourly salary of many of his employees. That totals around four and a half million bucks an hour. Work.com computes that at about 300,000 times more than a starting worker at one of Amazon's distribution facilities.   

Elon Musk takes home more than 40,000 times more than the average Tesla employee. “For many of the United States' largest companies, employees would have to work a full millennium before earning as much as the big boss makes in a single year,” the Houston Chronicle wrote.

Take heart and have patience. That's only 1,000 years. So no more peeps out of us peasants!

For 10 consecutive years, average S&P executive pay leaped $500,000 annually, but regular workers' pay has inched by $1,303, reports Fast Company.com, which coined the term "greedflation.” If you are a glutton for stark contrasts, check out the ratio for some familiar companies, such as McDonald's, where Chris Kempczinski gets 2,251 times more than a worker at the Golden Arches.

Maybe it’s misleading to cite extreme examples, but the pay ratio between U.S. CEOs and their typical workers is hugely out of whack compared to the rest of the world, including such backwaters as Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada and Spain.

James Bailey, professor at the George Washington University School of Business, observes "businesses are mostly rational actors that pay what they need to, to find the right talent. On the other hand, the U.S. differential exceeds other sophisticated economies by far.”

He blames boards of directors more than CEOs for this dissymmetry. When luxury calls, there's no saying no. The Economic Policy Institute recommends "higher marginal income tax rates at the very top" and "changes in corporate governance.”

Our economic system must make reasonable accommodations for natural differences in ambition and raw talent, but "survival of the fittest" as a function of true merit, is to a great extent artificially engineered. Ostentation and shameless materialism are not uniformly renounced even by some equity-touting "philanthropists" and members of Congress, who can still indulge in the "insider trading" that is proscribed for their constituents. 

They will neither see the irony nor self-correct their unique exceptionalism. Their professed sympathies for the working poor is an exercise in conscience- slumming.

The quotation "Let them eat cake" is falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette. The ill-fated queen was at least nutritionally mindful. Our corporate sovereigns would fork over porous labor contracts.

One cannot be legitimately pro-business while being anti-worker. There must be accommodation. A formula needs to be worked out. Immoderate capitalists equate not only industrial prosperity, but personal CEO largesse, with economic "manifest destiny" and patriotism. 

That is a mockery. Corporations are stateless globalists. True patriotism is embedded in the "little people" and reposes in their realized dreams.


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