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Mitt Romney and Bain buddies, before they sought membership in the victim class (the one that does not pay federal income taxes)
It's a sweet time to be a CEO:
Propelled by a soaring stock market, the median pay package for a CEO rose above eight figures for the first time last year. The head of a typical large public company earned a record $10.5 million, an increase of 8.8 percent from $9.6 million in 2012, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study.
You know who'd be thrilled with an 8.8 percent raise, but isn't seeing their pay propelled by that soaring stock market? The average American worker.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said average weekly wages for U.S. workers rose 1.3 percent in 2013. At that rate an employee would have to work 257 years to make what a typical S&P 500 CEO makes in a year.
That 1.3 percent "raise" in 2013 wasn't an aberration:
From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And since 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent while real hourly pay has essentially stagnated.
Imagine if, over the past four years, the minimum wage had increased by the same percentage as CEO pay. Or nevermind the minimum wage, what about the median household income, which was $51,017 in 2012, having fallen for five straight years? How different would an America in which working people's pay was rising like CEO pay—not from $9.6 million to $10.5 million, but from $51,000 to $55,500—look? That would be an America in which workers weren't quite so scared and desperate. And that's exactly why corporate America is so invested in keeping wages low.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue May 27, 2014 at 10:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Where should I stand? (6+ / 0-)

    I want to make sure I'm standing in the right place when a few drops of that ocean of wealth trickles down on top of my head.

  •  I can never understand why (5+ / 0-)

    folks don't seem to have a problem with CEO pay are the first to scream 'it wil hurt the economy' when raising minimum wage  is mentioned.  As if, all that money going to the top has no effect,  and those 'takers' at the bottom are just fine.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Tue May 27, 2014 at 10:50:39 AM PDT

    •  DRo - there are two parts to the answer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DRo, The Lone Apple, nextstep

      About two thirds of the total compensation to CEOs is in equity based awards, so there is no cash involved in most of the compensation. When stock options are exercised the company actually receives cash. The second is that the total cash paid to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is a small fraction of 1% of the total cash compensation of all the employees. Most of the Fortune 500 have tens of thousands of employees. A raise for most employees has a measurable impact on the cost of goods and results in either higher prices or lower profit margins.

      Personally I favor an increase in the minimum wage, and support the $10.10 plan currently under consideration by the Congress. However, the arguments against an increase in the minimum wage, and its impact on prices, isn't related to CEO pay. However, the separate consideration of income inequality, is clearly an issue.

      "let's talk about that" uid 92953

      by VClib on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:08:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A good start would be recognizing the fact that (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ChuckChuckerson, DRo, wader

        $10.10 an hour is horrible by today's standards, and will be even worse in 2017. Lowering the bar is not doing any favors.

        “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

        by 420 forever on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:33:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Nothing Wrong With Profit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ChuckChuckerson, DRo

        It's the maximization of profit that keeps wages down.

        And as the song and dance begins, the children play at home with needles, needles and pins.

        by The Lone Apple on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:42:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And that's part of the problem (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DRo, VClib, wader

        CEO's being paid based on "performance" is part of the problem with workers low wages and lay-offs--IMO.  That's because "performance" is often measured in the stock price.  If the stock price is going down due to poor management or poor decisions (CEO's responsibility) one of the first things these CEO's do is lay-off the work force. That gives a short-term gain in the stock price, the CEO gets his/her bonus, then the stock eventually crashes again because the root problem hasn't been addressed.  

        I work at a big technology company that is in the midst of huge layoffs right now.  This company has cash rich until some incredibly bad decisions were made by the CEO's and now they are in dire straits.  So who pays?  The workers who are keeping the boat afloat.  My husband works for the same company and he is supporting 3 customers when he's supposed to be full-time for one only.  Basically they are billing these 3 customers for one full-time employee but are dividing my husband among all 3.  Hard to do 120 hours worth of work in 1 week.  He's rarely worked less than 70 hours a week in the last couple of years. (They even called him to fix a problem at his father's funeral.  But, hey, at least they sent flowers).  

        One of the CEO's demanded an across the board 15% pay cut while giving himself a $55 million dollar bonus at the same time.  When questioned about this he said that he was being paid for his great performance.  Great how?  The company was in the tank.  

        •  It's theft, pure and simple. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Darth Stateworker

          It's theft from the workers and the shareholders.  

          No executive should be paid more than a few million.  Anything beyond that is patently ridiculous.  Why are the workers putting up with this?

          The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

          by dfarrah on Tue May 27, 2014 at 04:52:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Wages generally (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Darth Stateworker

        should be about double what they are now had wages kept up with productivity.

        The value of our labor is being stolen.

        There is nothing wrong with lower profit margins.

        The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

        by dfarrah on Tue May 27, 2014 at 04:49:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  VC: Come on. (0+ / 0-)

        You cannot believe so many of these guys are paid on "performance."

        Additionally, I know you're smart enough to understand that options essentially dilute share value - even if it is marginal and practically imperceptible to the average stockholder - on top of options being a very large tax loophole.  Issued as ISOs, they're taxes at capital gains rates and not as ordinary income, and if exercising them is timed right - to a year when your income is off and/or you've sustained massive losses elsewhere or the stock value is down - you can lower your liability further.

        These are obscene and uncalled for compensation packages, period, no matter which way you look at it.

        "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

        by Darth Stateworker on Tue May 27, 2014 at 05:09:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  DS - Fortune 500 executives don't have ISOs (0+ / 0-)

          I am an expert in executive compensation and you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how it is taxed. There is an annual cap on the value of ISOs that can be received by any employee which make them not practical for Fortune 500 executives, all of whom receive non-qualified stock options. There is no way to structure a non-qual, or a restricted stock grant, in a manner that allows any of the gain to qualify for long term capital gains treatment. All Fortune 500 executive equity compensation, regardless of how it is structured, is W2 income and taxed at the top marginal federal and state income tax rate. None of it qualifies for capital gains treatment.

          There are a few Fortune 500 executives like the founders of Microsoft, Google, and Facebook who regularly sell founders shares, which are not compensation, and do qualify for long term capital gains treatment. In addition, executives who manage investment partnerships like hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital can structure their incentive compensation so that it qualifies for long term capital gains treatment. That is because they manage funds structured as partnerships and can take advantage of the structural differences between a partnership and a corporation, and a Tax Court ruling from the early 1970s that ruled that carried interests are treated the same as any other partnership interest for tax purposes.  


          "let's talk about that" uid 92953

          by VClib on Tue May 27, 2014 at 07:29:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  *Sigh* (0+ / 0-)

            From the IRS:


            Not to be flippant, but you clearly aren't the expert you think you are, or you are purposely not being completely honest.  Remember, you aren't the only tax expert here, so appealing to your "authority" as an "expert" doesn't intimidate me.  I spoke to fellows just like you all day every day for a very, very long time.

            Executives are not only allowed to participate in ISOs, they are almost exclusively the only employees who are offered such plans (because of the tax downside they bring for the company), while rank and file employees get much less generous (for tax purposes for the recipient employee anyway) NQSO ESOPs which are taxed as ordinary income.

            For executives that exceed the $100k limit on the FMV of the ISO, the remainder is simply treated as an NQSO - thus again amounting in tax savings for a sizable chunk of value.  Additionally, the options offered via NQSO can be offered at any value, and don't have to even play by the extremely loose as it is FMV rules ISOs do.

            Let's also not forget that FMV doesn't necessarily equate to the actual current trading value of the shares.  There are plenty of ways to say the FMV is lower than the actual current trading value of the shares, in some cases much, much lower.

            Regardless, point being - and what I was so incredulous about - is that you defend these pay packages in the first place.  Most of these assclowns most certainly don't "earn" them in any sense of the word.  They certainly don't earn 8%, 10%, 15% raises every year when their companies can't afford to give their employees any more than a token raise at best while they claim revenues weren't what they expected, money was lost due to the economy/Obamacare/some other excuse.  This is simply a new feudal lord class fleecing the labor of their serfs, nothing more.

            To paraphrase Lincoln:  Labor is superior to capital.

            And until we learn that in this nation, and start compensating this nations labor force appropriately, things are only going to get worse.  Capitalism does not work without a healthy consumer base.  Period.  Overpaying executives, board members, and shareholders (while also give said people preferred tax treatments) while stiffing employees is the root cause of most of our issues in this nation.

            End of discussion.

            "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

            by Darth Stateworker on Tue May 27, 2014 at 08:12:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you read the proxy statements (0+ / 0-)

              of the Fortune 500, even the Fortune 1000, you will not see executives with ISO grants. The administration of stock option plans becomes overly complex with different types of grants so for uniformity sake all the executive options are non-qualified and they are all priced at the public market value on the day the grant is approved by the board of directors. Stock options, and the price at which they are granted, are a focus area for both the outside accountants and the organizations that advise institutional shareholders on how to vote their shares at the annual meeting.

              "let's talk about that" uid 92953

              by VClib on Tue May 27, 2014 at 08:25:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Bull. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I know better from my own personal experience.

                At the same time, I'm not going to waste my time going through the proxy statements of F500 companies until I find one to disprove your assertion - which you also can't prove definitively without doing the same, so your assertion is essentially baseless anyway.

                Again, you're either being purposely misleading, outright dishonest, or simply don't know as much as you think you know.

                I'm more than confident that anyone who bothers to read the IRS rules (and can understand them) will know that you are, to be frank, talking out your ass.

                I respect you, but you're simply wrong here.  End of story.  Maybe the companies you've worked with don't use ISOs so you aren't familiar with their use - I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that that is the issue here, and you aren't being willfully ignorant or dishonest - you've just never seen it done.  But don't push it, or you'll lose that respect you've earned from me, because that opinion will have to change from "you've never seen it" to being purposefully dishonest about it.

                Again, I don't want to be flippant, but your insistence and appeals to authority are TBQH pissing me off.  Appeals to authority on difficult or impossible to prove statements are nonsense arguments that are generally the last resort of those who have no evidence to support their arguments.  I expect you to be better than that because of the respect you've earned from me.

                "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

                by Darth Stateworker on Tue May 27, 2014 at 08:55:25 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  DS - you have encouraged me to go back (0+ / 0-)

                  to my sources. Because I have been the compensation chairman of a handful of public company boards, all much smaller companies than the Fortune 1000, I have been able to access what I thought was the best tax accounting and legal advice available on stock options and US tax law. The first question I have always asked is the possibility that we could make the awards have better tax consequences. If you can deliver the same after tax compensation with fewer options or restricted shares, it makes sense to structure them in that fashion. The universal advice I have received is that as a public company you can't structure equity awards to qualify for long term capital gains treatment and that it impractical to award ISOs to senior executives. I know that all the options I have been granted as an executive and issued as a board member have been taxed as W2 income.

                  I am not currently in a position to ask these questions without paying myself, but one company where I am on the board is planning an IPO later this year. That will give me the opportunity to revisit this issue. I hope you are right. I'll kosmail you with what I find out. It will likely be in the fall.  

                  "let's talk about that" uid 92953

                  by VClib on Tue May 27, 2014 at 09:21:25 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This all goes back to (0+ / 0-)

                    extremely complicated - and in many cases non-standard (but not necessarily illegal) - elaborate tax avoidance schemes.

                    It isn't just the companies that look to squeeze every penny of tax savings that they can.  Many executives demand it as well - even and especially at some F500 companies.  Many of these men and women execs didn't get to their positions without a bit of ruthlessness in them - the kind of ruthlessness that comes with the sickness of greed on the scale that paying even 1 penny more in tax than they have to - no matter how complicated the scheme to accomplish it is - is simply out of the question.

                    "Executives" doesn't just mean the President and CEO who is pulling down $5M in options.  It can mean second or third tier execs who are pulling down much less but still significant amounts.

                    Maybe the CEO will take his first $100K in FMV in an ISO and the rest in an NQSO.  Maybe to simplify things for the accountants they won't.  But they will demand the former if they are the penny pinching, I-don't-wanna-pay-a-penny-in-tax-I-don't-have-to type.  Again, because the FMV doesn't really need to be the current share price, that $100K in FMV could actually equate to $1M in options if the conditions are right - IE: backdating schemes where the companies stock has skyrocketed.  When such a situation applies to a second or third tier exec pulling down a smaller performance bonus, that ISO FMV loophole could feasibly keep the entire payout as an ISO - again, depending on how far one can stretch the FMV game.

                    Not everyone is honest and plays by the rules, and many that do technically play by the rules tend to bend them until almost the breaking point in all aspects of their corporate tax policy.  That is why companies like GE have legions of tax lawyers who's sole job is to creatively come up with new loopholes. Tax consequences for compensation policy can and is much the same in some circles.  You may be honest, on the up-and-up, and not looking to rock the boat or do something shady or simply non-standard.  You simply have to remember that not everyone is like you, some are "flexible" with their moral and/or legal standards, and are basically a large part of the reason why my old colleagues have very secure jobs trying to ferret them out or at least keep them in check.

                    Regardless, the tax conversation has pulled us way off topic.  We've moved from whether or not they actually earn the compensation in the first place to tax policy minutiae.  Bottom line - too many of them don't earn that pay package, no matter what form it comes in and no matter what it's level of taxability is IMO.  We've all seen far too many news stories about execs running profitable companies in a piss-poor manner for years while still seeing huge performance pay and huge general raises, and then finally a gigantic golden parachute if and when they finally get the axe.

                    The way I see it, a well-performing exec should not get a pay increase any better that the company is willing to give to a rank and file employee with the same level of performance.  In this day and age, when many median performing workers are still getting bupkis while high achievers are lucky to pull down 2% - 3%, there is no excuse for executives at these companies to get double digit percentage-wise raises.

                    Legislating that exec compensation increases must be in line with average compensation increases for their rank and file would fix a lot of issues with income inequality almost overnight IMO.  Tell an exec they can only legally take a raise that is no more they are willing to give to rank and file staff, and they'll instantly start handing out better raises to rank and file staff - because the greedy assholes won't be willing to shortchange themselves and accept only the bupkis raises they are currently are giving out to everyone else.

                    "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

                    by Darth Stateworker on Tue May 27, 2014 at 10:08:45 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  It burns (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Trickle down economics is like a venereal disease.
    Give me a shot a penicillin 'cause it burns when I pee.

    Sooner or later Americans will figure it out, unfortunately it will be later. Americans are getting played for chumps, unfortunately not enough know it yet.

    •  As long as they can sell us on the idea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of easy riches via reality television, or public lotteries. Or, there's always the fall back option of climbing the corporate ladder all the way to CEO. At some point in the future, every employee of McDonald's will own their own franchise.

      You think people are trying to hold you down now? Wait until you try to grab that second rung.

      I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

      by CFAmick on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:45:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is another great argument for raising (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    88kathy, bbctooman, wader

    taxes considerably for the very rich.

    Let them earn all the money they want, as long as they pay a considerable amount of taxes that increases progressively the more they earn.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:38:28 AM PDT

  •  A good CEO is like a star pitcher on a baseball (0+ / 0-)

    team, yet no one seems to be criticizing the income inequality between the All-Star lefty who pitches every five days and the weak hitting infielder who plays every day.  Why is that?

    If you get confused, listen to the music play - R. Hunter

    by SpamNunn on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:44:10 AM PDT

    •  No they aren't. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darth Stateworker

      I don't have a problem with 'entertainment' types of riches because people pay to see the player/actors.

      There is no comparison between a talented athlete, actor, or entertainer and an executive.

      Executives are overpaid leaches.  Their 'performance' has no correlation to value created and their pay has no correlation with company performance.  They are people who have simply grabbed enough power to take value from everyone else.  

      The executives of all large corporation could die tomorrow, and their companies would continue to produce the products/services they sale.

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Tue May 27, 2014 at 04:58:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

        The stockholders of the companies that employ them disagree, too.  If you don't like it, buy some stock and get a majority to agree with you.

        If you get confused, listen to the music play - R. Hunter

        by SpamNunn on Tue May 27, 2014 at 06:40:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The stockholders (0+ / 0-)

          have little to no input as to who gets hired for what and shareholders that have enough shares to influence such decisions are part of the leaching class.

          As I said, all executives of all big companies could die tomorrow, and their companies would continue to operate just fine.

          The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

          by dfarrah on Thu May 29, 2014 at 06:23:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  oy. (0+ / 0-)

    I've been way too fortunate the last five years -- it's making me forget how much the economy sucks for most people right now.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:49:42 AM PDT

  •  Spending the pension funds is a hoot. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  CEO Pay Goes Up When They Fire People (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, fargo2413, wader, Darth Stateworker

    and puts the money that would go to investing in the company goes instead to the stockholders and back to the CEO.  What kind of country is this when CEOs get rewarded for screwing over the American worker just so they can have 20 homes instead of 10??  Imagine if every American could have just one home.  I don't understand this world when poor people keep voting against their own interest for politicians who want to keep the status quo and the 1 percent happy.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:53:36 AM PDT

    •  Exactly! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It seems like the highest paid CEO's are also the most cutthroat and it makes sense because their motivation is obviously money, money, money (for themselves).  Then you look at the CEO of Costco, Craig Jelinek.  In 2012 his yearly salary is $650K and he made $4 million in stock options.  While that's still a lot of money it's far below those CEO's who are making 10, 20, 100 million a year.  Costco is a very successful business yet they seem to find a way to pay their employee's well, far above other retail companies.  Now let's look at Walmart in comparison.   in 2012 the CEO of Walmart, Mike Duke, made a salary of 1.2 million, cash bonus of 4.4 million, and $13.6 million in stock grants.  That's $19.2 million a year yet he can't pay his employees more than slave wages.  How many more houses does this guy need?  How many boats, airplanes, cars, etc.?  

    •  The whole corporate form of (0+ / 0-)

      business is dysfunctional now.

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Tue May 27, 2014 at 04:59:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  US household median income: $51k pretax (0+ / 0-)

    This always amazes me. I'm single and make a little more than that, but I couldn't imagine having a wife and kid(s) with just my salary. Or having two paychecks that make up less than that and raising a kid.

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Tue May 27, 2014 at 01:19:37 PM PDT

  •  stagnant wages are just part of the story... (0+ / 0-)
    From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount
    It's not just the stagnation of wages; many company-funded benefits, including health care and pension plans, were either cut back (while the employee's share of the costs was raised significantly) or eliminated (with "guaranteed" pension benefits replaced by iffy 401k plans too often invested in one or several of the limited funds the company chose, and those funds often lost money the employees invested in them).  
  •  And where are the (0+ / 0-)


    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Tue May 27, 2014 at 04:45:13 PM PDT

    •  Most are still embracing the Turd Way. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

      by Darth Stateworker on Tue May 27, 2014 at 05:13:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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