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They say it’s lonely at the top – but, gosh, how can that be when you’ve got all those dead presidents to keep you company?
We know that runaway executive pay has left cubicle employees and shop floor workers far behind, but they’re not the only ones eating the CEO’s financial dust these days. The top corporate dogs are now so lavishly paid that their cohorts in the executive suites – the number twos and threes in the corporate heirarchy – are no longer in the same stratosphere as the number one.
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In the 1970s, the CEOs of America’s biggest corporations were averaging 80 percent more in pay than the third-highest-paid exectuives. Today, that gap has become a chasm, with the CEOs taking 260 percent more than their number threes.
This separation of the corporate elites from everyone else is a reflection of a pernicious new ethic of greed in our larger society. It’s an abandonment of America’s uniting ethic of egalitarianism – the notion that we’re all in this together – replacing it with the notion of everyone for themselves.
In the past 20 years, while the middle class has seen its income level fall, those at the top are soaring. The top 10 percent had a 54 percent increase in real income. But the income of the wealthiest one percent shot up by 128 percent. And at the tippy-top of America’s wealth pyramid, where CEOs dwell, the richest one-hundredth-of-one-percent saw their incomes skyrocket by nearly 400 percent.
Why has CEO pay zoomed away from everyone else’s. Because they control the corporate boards and compensation consultants who set executive pay levels. It’s the buddy system at work.
“More Than Ever, It Pays to Be the Top Executive,” New York Times, May 25, 2007Of course, CEOs say they’re paid so much because their jobs are tough, they’re so smart, and they deserve it. See, it’s really not so lonely at the top – CEOs are never alone because they always have their self-inflated egos with them.
“More Than Ever, It Pays to Be the Top Executive,” New York Times, May 25, 2007