A group of 81 major corporations believe that public knowledge of what their CEOs make in respect to the average worker is “useless” information. The Washington Post reports that more than a year ago (H/T Alternet), some of America’s biggest corporate movers and shakers began lobbying Congress to force changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, so companies needn’t bother disclose the wage gulf between executives and workers. A House committee approved the bill last week 33-21.
Rep. Nan A.S. Hayworth (R-NY), who sponsored The Burdensome Data Collection Relief Act (HR1062), said comparing a CEO’s wage to the average worker could “mislead or confuse investors” and that such a comparison “creates heat but sheds no light.” Tim Bartl, senior vice president and general counsel for the Center on Executive Compensation asked “You can already tell where a CEO falls relative to his peers, you can already tell where he falls relative to the average worker in the industry. What is this number going to tell us?”
That comparison tells Americans quite a bit, actually.
CEO’s of major corporations currently make about 263 times what the average worker makes. In 2008, the top 0.1 percent of earners raked in 10 percent of the total income of American workers. The pay of the average woman or man on the street hasn’t seen an increase when adjusted for cost of living since the 70′s. The idea that “the rich get richer” became a truism long ago.
One lawyer at a firm that deals with executive compensation wrote of the bill: “Everyone recognized that this is a political disclosure, not an economic one, intended to give unions and certain media folks a tool to bash corporate America, and that the costs to comply would be enormous.” It certainly is political and the Congressional committee vote highlights exactly where the GOP (and at least 4 Democrats) stand in regards to “main street America,” currently the most coveted electoral demographic.
The gulf between worker and CEO compensation highlights the tyranny of what everyone already knows – the life of the average wage earner in America holds less importance than that of the executive. We’ve lived so long under the jackboots of Horatio Alger and John Galt’s ghost we believe that income disparity is normal, the fault of the wage earner, and is easily remedied with bootstrap pulling hard work. To call such a comparison burdensome merely slaps the majority of wage earning Americans in the face.
Rep Hayworth, who garnered some support from various Tea Party groups during her election once said “If we can return to a government that the Founders, in their wisdom, envisioned for us, we can return to a government that will allow our economy to thrive again, and our people to live in liberty.” I wonder exactly, how liberty survives in a society ruled by the richest.