During his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama suggested a federal minimum wage. I'm suggesting a federal maximum wage.
New rule. The United States government must stop subsidizing corporations that pay absurdly high salaries to their CEOs. At this point, if I were Bill Maher, I would tell a priceless joke, cause you all to laugh-out-loud, and then apprise you of discriminate facts on the matter. Since I’m not a comedian, and I am unemployed, broke, and in need of medical care that I can’t access, not to mention righteously indignant because this country has no place for a well-educated, highly-skilled and experienced citizen like me, I’m going to skip straight to the facts.
The President has suggested raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. Working a 40-hour-week, 52 weeks a year would amount to an $18,720 income for a minimum wage worker. A frugal person can live on that. I’m proposing a maximum wage of ten times the minimum for employees who rely on government funding to support their businesses. That would amount to a top salary of $187,200 for the CEO of any company that accepts government funding. That seems more than fair compared to the minimum.
This is what I’m proposing. The United States government should stop granting our tax money to corporations that pay employees absurdly high salaries. If corporations want to pay such high salaries to their executives, they must forego government funding. No one accepting government funding should make as much as the President, and few should make as much as our other top government officials.
Hear me out.
Incomes of movie stars, professional athletes, and hedge fund managers have caused some employees in the private sector to have exaggerated views of how much they are worth. The United States government would do well not to endorse that perception. There is a finite amount of money in this world, and some people are taking more than their fair share. That leaves some of us penniless.
To make a comparison of government versus corporate salaries, I’m first going to identify some nonprofit corporations that specialize in the business of education because I have some expertise in that area. For-profit corporations could be considered, too, and I’m fairly certain this strategy can be applied across other occupations and professions. Here are some education organizations that receive government funding. Listed are salaries made by top executives. (Links to Great Schools for America provide verification. This information is in the public record and available to the curious.)
- In 2010 American Institutes for Research, Inc. received $257,559,985 in government funding. Sol Pelavin was paid $3,375,985, and 273 employees made over $100,000. Diane Pelavin, Sol's wife, was paid $1,556,396.
- In 2010 Aspen Institute, Inc. received $1,231,098 in government funding. Walter Isaacson was paid $816,243, and 69 employees made over $100,00.
- In 2010 Brookings Institute, Inc. received $1,921,354 in government funding. Strobe Talbott was paid $474,153, and 109 employees made over $100,000.
- In 2010 Educational Testing Services, Inc. received $867,000,000 in government funding. Kurt Landgraf was paid $1,227,472, and 75 employees made over $100,000.
- In 2011 Measured Progress, Inc. received $96,057,149 in government funding. Stuart Kahl was paid $407,043, and 25 employees made over $100,000.
- In 2011 New Leaders dba New Leaders for New Schools, Inc. received $15,824,991 in government funding. Jon Schnur was paid $378,408, and 51 employees made over $100,000.
- In 2011 the RAND Corporation, Inc. received $211,289,811 in government funding. James A. Thomson was paid $835,879, and 551 employees made more than $100,000.
- In 2011 Teach for America, Inc. received $42,874,615 in government funding. Wendy Kopp was paid $393,636, and 132 employees made over $100,000.
Let’s start at the top. The President of the United States has, arguably, the most important job in the world. Why would we pay anyone more of our taxpayer dollars than we pay the President? Why would we pay employees of nonprofit corporations, who (in theory at least) do considerably less important work, more than we pay our Cabinet Secretaries?
The President's salary is set by Congress, and under Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, may not be increased or reduced during his or her current term of office. Back in the day when Congress could actually make a decision, it voted to double the president's salary from $200,000 to $400,000. In 2000, George W. Bush became the first President to benefit from that current rate.
The salaries of other top government officials are not fixed, but are adjusted each year. Below are listed current salaries for top government officials effective March 27, 2013.
- Vice President of the United States - $231,900
- Speaker of the House -- $223,500
- Chief Justice of the United States -- $223,500
- House and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders -- $193,400
- Senators and Representatives -- $174,000
The jobs of the White House staff are at least as important as any held by employees of nonprofit organizations. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, oversees 4,200 employees and a $68.6 billion budget. Even though some departments oversee more employees and larger budgets, each Cabinet Secretary is paid the same salary of $199,700 a year.
In his campaign to cut waste in government, the president published the salaries of other prominent government workers. The General Accounting Office has developed a schedule to determine the amount of pay for all federal employees at each stage of their careers. It is a thing of beauty. There is security in it, and most of us could use a little more security in our lives these days. Would it be asking too much for the government to use these same rules in dispensing our tax dollars to private corporations? And if it did, wouldn't there be enough money to employ more teachers, first responders, and other workers who have lost their jobs over the past decade? It would be a giant step in creating jobs and in restoring dignity to those of us who have been unemployed for some time.
What if we funded only defense contractors that followed the maximum wage rule? Why should we pay military contractors more than we pay for our enlisted troops? I can think of millions of reasons why we shouldn't. Why should a Halliburton exec make more than a five-star general? There is no free market at work when our government is granting boatloads of our money to favored corporations. The free market argument doesn't work here.
This is my American dream. Put Americans to work and pay them decently.
It seems that we would have enough money to employ so many more if we would just spend it wisely. I am an unemployed teacher. I lost my job when I came down of the wrong side of the war in Iraq. I have been unemployed since I lost my last appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. For years I thought my circumstance was special, but the end result is the same. I'm no different from millions of other jobless Americans who have lost their connection to the money supply for whatever reason.
I am advocating for a maximum wage for anyone who receives even a penny of government funding, and full employment for anyone who wants to work. We have the money. We only need to allocate it justly. If we all approach this positively, I'm sure we can find lots of places to make adjustments so that more people with education and skills can work, have access to healthcare, and regain their dignity.
Geez, why are we paying out thousands of millions to testing corporations? Ayeee.