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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/16/10

The Beginning of Financial Pornography: Earnings, from Insanity to Obscenity

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Message Harold Hellickson

CEO compensation is insane. Forbes pegs the total pay for the 25 highest-paid CEOs at $2.140 trillion. The average pay was $85.6 million. The pay range was $36 - $557 million. That poor 25th-ranked CEO was earning only $17 thousand per hour. Yes, per hour, you read that right.

Last year, for each dollar earned by the average worker, the top 100 CEOs were taking home $1,081. On the same basis the 1970 CEO-to-worker ratio was $45 to $1. That's an insane increase of 2,300%. Over the same period, the average hourly rate remained essentially the same today as it was in 1970.

Over the past ten years, in constant dollars (1982), weekly earnings of both wage and salary workers, excluding incorporated self-employed, improved $10 per week, from $325 to $335. At the same time full time employment dropped from 99.5 million to 96.8 million.

If CEO compensation is insane, the compensation of Hedge Managers is absolutely obscene. Last year, David Tepper, Manager of the Appaloosa Management hedge fund earned almost twice as much as did all the top 25 CEO's combined. Hedge fund managers' earnings are so obscene they have caused the "F" word to seem almost polite. Each of the top-4 earned in excess of $1 million per hour.

Comparative earnings data are shown below.

Top Earner
Insane CEO"....$557 million = $268,000 per hour
Obscene H'funder $4 billion = $1,923,000 per hour about 7 x CEO's

Average of Next 9
Insane CEOs"".....$104 million = $50,000 per hour
Obscene H'funders $1.6 billion = $787,000 per hour about 15 x CEO's

Average of Bottom 15
Insane CEO's""".......$43 million =$21,000 per hour
Obscene H'funders $438 billion = $211,000 per hour about 10 x CEO's

Average of Top 25
Insane CEO's"""".......$86 million = $41,000 per hour
Obscene H'funders.. $1.0 billion = $487,000 per hour about 12 x CEO's

Making the Hedge Fund managers' earnings doubly obscene is the fact that they do not have to pay income tax at the top rate of 35%. Most of their earnings are taxed at 15% because Congress steadfastly refuses to fix the "carried income" tax loophole.

Wealth is a function of income in excess of needs. There is no question that free-market capitalism is the absolute best in creating wealth. So too, there is no question that free-market capitalism is the worst at distributing wealth.

The Census Bureau reported no inflation-adjusted growth in income in 30 years for the bottom 80% of earners, and an actual decline in the last ten. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% of US households more than doubled their share of the country's total income from about 10% to nearly 23%.

From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% of America tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation's total income, while the bottom 90% have seen their share drop more than 20%. That's a trillion dollars a year, one-seventh of America's total income, that went to the richest 1% while 90% of us went backwards.

Since 1980, if the average working family had received compensation based on its relative contribution to America's prosperity, it would be making an average of $45,000 a year instead of $35,000. Through 30 years of deregulation and financial maneuvering, the richest 1% have taken $10 thousand a year from every American family. That's socialism in reverse.

By 2006, for every dollar the US produced, 23 cents went to millionaires in the top-earning households. During that same period, about 91% of all the nation's income growth went to the top 10% of households by income. In this century, most families have experienced stagnant or falling incomes. The United States has the highest income inequality in our history and amongst advanced nations,

Two-thirds of the nation's total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1% of U.S. households, and that top 1% held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

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A retired MBA, I am a former corporate ideologue, former 3rd party advocate and current curmudgeon. While a continued supporter of a 3rd party, I have concluded their efficacy cannot be demonstrated until our form of Government is changed to (more...)
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