A recent AP “big story” tries to explain why CEO pay soaring and everyone else’s is stagnant or falling. It says more than it intends about the state of our economy and our governing system.
AP’s “The CEO Got A Huge Raise. You Didn’t. Here’s Why,” by Josh Boak boils down to this:
[P]ay for the typical CEO … surged 8.8 percent last year to $10.5 million, it rose a scant 1.3 percent for [the rest of us].
Here are five reasons why CEOs are enjoying lavish pay increases and five reasons many people are stuck with stagnant incomes.
WHY CEOs ARE GETTING HUGE RAISES
1. They’re paid heavily in stock.
2. Peer pressure. Corporate boards often set CEO pay based on what the leaders of other companies make. …
3. The superstar effect.
4. Friendly boards of directors.
5. Stricter scrutiny. … companies often raise pay to compensate for the risk of job loss.”
WHY MANY OF US AREN’T GETTING A RAISE
1. Blame the robots. Millions of factory workers have lost their spots on assembly lines to machines. Offices need fewer secretaries and bookkeepers in the digital era.
2. High unemployment. … Businesses face less pressure to give meaningful raises when a ready supply of job seekers is available.
3. Globalization. Companies can cap wages by offshoring jobs to poorer countries.
4. Weaker unions.
5. Low inflation.
These Didn’t Just Happen, These Are Choices
These ten reasons are framed as “just the way it is.” CEOs get compensated with stock as well as cash, and stocks are way up. That’s just the way it is. China sucks jobs out of the U.S., and robots are doing more of the work, so people are left without jobs or any way to make a living. That’s just the way it is.
Too bad, so sad.
Here’s the thing. Not one of these 10 points “just happened.” They are the result of choices that our country’s leaders made. All of those choices drive the national income and wealth to a few at the top, and away from We the People.
We Are Not Helpless
It comes down to choices, not inevitability. Inevitability implies helplessness. But understanding that these were choices leads to understanding that we have the opportunity to make different choices.
These are things that conservatives and neo-liberals convinced our Congress to DO (or, in the case of needed changes, to NOT do), and we are living with the results. These things are not inevitable. They are not things we just have to accept. They are things that we can change.
What Happened To We The People?
In a country where We the People make decisions, we would choose to do things that make our lives better. But when CEO and corporate types are in charge of the political system, what we’ve got is exactly what you would expect. Look at how things are set up and ask yourself if We the People are benefiting from that, or if only a few already-wealthy people are benefiting at the expense of the rest of us, and decide to do something about it.
Think about some of the things we have come to take for granted. For example – and just one of many, many examples – we are told that corporations are only supposed to be about making money for the shareholders. But would a country run by We the People to do things to make our lives better have set up these things called corporations to be like that? What do We the People get from a system like that? Would corporations have been created for the purpose of doing things that benefit We the People and our country and our economy, not only a few already-wealthy people at the expense of our country and economy?
Think that through. Think about how it would be set up if We the People wanted to make our lives better, and then start working to make it that way.
This is a moment to think about how we got here, and why we let things happen this way. This is a moment to realize that things do not have to be the way they are, and that we can change what is happening to us for the better. Even if we indeed have become a country that only does what CEO types want done, We the People can change that, too.