Deja Vu: CEO Pay and The Fleecing of America

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The have-a-lots continue to have-a-lot

[Speaking Truth To Power]

An Associated Press report has found that CEO pay reached record levels in 2013 as the stock market continues to soar enriching the relatively few—especially, the well-heeled Wall Street robber barons.

Given the drastic disparity between CEO pay, and that of average Americans, isn’t it time the topic of economic inequality is seriously addressed by “we the people?”

According to the Associated Press, “Last year was the fourth straight that CEO compensation rose following a decline during the Great Recession. The median CEO pay package climbed more than 50 percent over that stretch. A chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker's salary, up sharply from 181 times in 2009.” In the years since the Great Recession “The median CEO pay package climbed more than 50 percent over that stretch.”

Ironically, the issue of rising CEO pay is coming at a time when Republicans have rebuffed all efforts to increase the minimum wage for America’s workers. The report highlights that CEO pay percentage rose to 8.8 in 2013—compared to a 1.5 increase for the average worker. The study shows that “At that rate an employee would have to work 257 years to make what a typical S&P 500 CEO makes in a year.”

"There's this unbalanced approach, where there's all this energy put into how to reward executives,” said Change to Win Investment Director Richard Clayton. “But little energy is being put into ensuring the rest of the workforce is engaged, productive and paid appropriately."

Indeed, these fat cat bosses are being compensated primarily on the ever increasing productivity of the workers—while worker wages have been stagnant. Moreover, those at the top of corporate America are doing everything in their power to continually take a still bigger piece of the economic pie—with utter disregard for the serious societal consequences this economic imbalance will cause to the country.

Can Americans afford to allow this compensation unfairness to continue?

Unfortunately, this economic swindling of America’s prosperity by the rich is happening at a time when politicians, primarily Republicans, are engaged in a fight to repeal all of the progressive legislations that have, somewhat, empowered workers over the years. Some months ago, possible presidential aspirant Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) made the absurd argument that the social programs put in place by President Lyndon Johnson were a failure.

While he was making this fallacious claim, no mention was made about the drastic reduction in poverty that occurred during the years most of these programs were allowed to work without interference. Moreover, Senator Rubio’s Republican Party of the 1980s, along with President Reagan, were busy defunding and attacking the very programs they now claim were failures. Worker’s livelihoods and rights have continually been under assault.

These days much lip-service is given, by politicians, about fighting for the “middle-class” and working Americans. Republicans, especially, pretend that they care about regular people. Besides empty oratorical grandstanding, where is the evidence of this?

For years, Republicans have steadfastly fought against regulations—sometimes with the help of Democrats—designed to curb the excesses of out-of-control businesses and their bosses. Republicans make the argument that if regulations are abolished businesses will flourish and all Americans will benefit from this. Where, in American history, is the example to prove this claim?

The truth is the rise of the current American middle-class—which is really a product of 20th Century America—was enabled by the kind of government programs Republicans now argue against. The G.I Bill—also known as the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—did much to create America’s middle-class. The act helped World War II veterans purchase homes, businesses, farms and provided assistance for them to gain vocational training and earn college degrees.

Many people benefited from the G.I. Bill, including some who would later become prominent public figures. Some of those names include: Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush; Supreme Court Justices William Renquist and John Paul Stevens; Senators Bob Dole, Daniel P. Moynihan, John Glenn and George Mitchell; U.S. Representatives Ron Dellums and Charles Rangel. Entertainers like Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood also benefited from the program—as well as Civil Rights icons Medgar Evers and Hosea Williams.

Indeed, during the middle part of the 20 Century, America enacted some progressive programs that enabled many Americans to have a better life. Many Americans have been indoctrinated with the fanciful fiction that once one works hard middle-class status will be the inevitable outcome of the fruit of those labors. Yet, the harsh truth is government assistance programs have always been the main force behind the rise of most people who’ve gained a so-called middle-class status.

Unfortunately, the myth of the “rugged individualist” who, supposedly, pulls himself up by “his own bootstraps” is a very attractive story—but it’s one that isn’t rooted in any real reality. The truth is all of the great entrepreneurs; inventors, and so forth were all helped in advancing their ideals, goals and businesses by others. Sometimes those giving them a push were private individuals or organizations—in other cases those giving the assistance were from government. We are not even discussing initial capital acquired through plunder.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has made the point that businesses would not be able to operate without all the help they get from governmental infrastructure. Many Republicans complained and derided Senator Warren when she said this—as they did when President Obama when he made similar comments during the 2012 election. But we should understand that the only government Republicans believe in is one run by corporations and the rich.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they are fighting against raising the minimum wage, trying to destroy unions –and that their primary agenda is to kill any progressive legislation that helps working and poor Americans—especially, if those Americans are Black people. This is why we hear these, supposedly, godly folks railing about Welfare, Food Stamps and the like—and crying about what they call the “culture of dependency.”

However, nothing is ever said about the how corporations, like the oil companies, have gotten fat off of their dependency on government largess—with government subsidies and tax-breaks paid for by regular working people.

For decades the salaries of regular workers has stagnated—even though the productivity of these same workers continue to go through the roof like the bloated salaries of these CEOs who run American corporations and companies. In many of these businesses, besides their unconscionable salaries, these people are also given yearly bonuses based on the yearly profits. Shouldn’t all workers be given a yearly bonus as well given the fact that their productivity is the driving force behind those profits?

The awful truth is most American corporations have always did everything in their power to make get as much out of workers while giving back as little as possible.

This is why government needs to hold companies accountable by passing necessary laws to make sure that they aren’t taking advantage of workers. But this cannot be done if politicians gut sensible regulations and give the wealthy free reign.

The “let the market decide” mantra cannot be the guiding principle of responsible government when the issue has to do with economics and income inequality and when these markets are actually manipulated as the Great Recession has proven. 

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