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Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee (Photo: Inequality.org)

We’re now a decade and a half into the 21st Century and the notion that our nation’s runaway inequality is going to get any better anytime soon via the “genius of the market” has been shown to be utter nonsense. To the contrary, the incomes of the nation’s ruling class continue to skyrocket at such an astounding rate that the idea of the U.S. as a “middle class society” has come to seem quaint.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that congressional Republicans can’t get their act together to do much of anything.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. If a majority of the members of Congress possessed a modicum of courage and common sense, they’d be rushing through this bill as soon as possible.

As Congresswoman Barbara S. Lee of California explained here about the Income Equity Act of 2015 that she introduced last week:

“Few realize that CEO bonuses and ‘performance pay’ are subsidized by the American people. Corporations are given major tax breaks for providing exorbitant compensation.

Surely we can agree that corporations don’t need taxpayers to subsidize massive CEO pay?—?pay that’s grown nearly 1000 percent since 1978.

In America, corporations and executives are playing with a deck stacked against hardworking families.

And the Republican response to this profound income inequality has been a collective yawn.

It’s wrong for any business to keep workers in poverty while padding CEO’s wallets.

It’s even worse that some of these same businesses take huge tax deductions for millions in bonuses.

Clearly, our tax code is not designed to work for all Americans?—?just the select few.

My bill, the Income Equity Act, prohibits employers from taking tax deductions for excessive compensation—defined as any pay more than 25 times that of the company’s median wage worker or $500,000.

Congress should get to work for hardworking families, not millionaires and billionaires that want to get even richer on the backs of taxpayers.”

Amen, Congresswoman.

Commentary

The good people at Too Much Online - a newsletter put out by the group Inequality.org have an interesting and provocative idea that would seem guaranteed to improve the image of  America’s nonprofit community (which has been suffering from depressed contributions of late) and help combat the nation’s runaway inequality: cap nonprofit CEO salaries.

“Jack Gerard, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, pulled down $13.3 million in compensation last year. Yet his Institute operates as a ‘nonprofit’ — and reaps a variety of tax benefits from that status. In effect, average Americans are subsidizing this lobbying giant for the fossil fuels industry. Back in 1998, a member of Congress from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, introduced legislation to cap the salary that nonprofit executives could grab at no more than the salaries of U.S. cabinet secretaries, currently just under $200,000. That legislation never moved. But economist Dean Baker recently resurrected the notion of limiting the executive pay nonprofits could dish out and still qualify for nonprofit status. That limit could be tied to the ratio between a nonprofit’s CEO and typical worker pay. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act requires for-profit corporations to disclose this ratio. Menendez introduced this disclosure mandate provision.”

Sounds like a good idea to us. As economist Dean Baker notes in the column cited above (which discusses the idea of capping the pay of university presidents):

“The universities will also complain that they cannot get qualified people for $400,000 a year. This one should invite a healthy dose of ridicule. If we can get qualified people to run the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services for half this amount, perhaps their school is not the sort of institution that deserves taxpayer support if it can’t find anyone willing to make the sacrifice of running the place for twice the pay of a cabinet secretary.

Free market economics is so much fun!”

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(Image: AFL-CIO / paywatch.org)

Just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse on the American inequality front, you encounter reports like the new “Executive Paywatch” report from the AFL-CIO.

Click here to check out the website — it includes a section in which you can view CEO pay by state. And while the top guys (and they’re almost all guys – 67 out of 69) in North Carolina aren’t as obscenely wealthy as they are in New York or Texas, the gap remains huge; the ratio of CEO pay to that of the average worker in North Carolina is 108 to 1.

 

 

 

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Lunch sandwich

TGIF indeed. Well, it’s been another fun week in the North Carolina policy world. And as usual, one of the best end-of-the-week wrap-ups can be found in Friday Follies. Today, Chris Fitzsimon has the latest on the conclusion to Gov. McCrory’s terrible, no good, very bad month and, from the looks of things, what promises to be a lousy start to September as well.

Meanwhile, all the hubbub and protests of the last few weeks over the General Assembly’s disastrous 2013 legislative session appear to be stirring at least the beginnings of a smidgen of regret and remorse. Ann Doss Helms of the Charlotte Observer reports that two GOP state reps from Mecklenburg are making noises about at least softening the impact of the absurd decision to do away with the pay bump that teachers have long received for obtaining a master’s degree. There’s no indication, however, that conservative lawmakers have any interest in reversing their decision as they should.

And speaking of people admitting errors, Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog has a rare sighting to report: a direct and sincere apology from Fox Noise blowhard Bill O’Reilly. Read More

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Here’s an idea that would, despite being far from foolproof, seem to be worth at least considering in the U.S.: Australia’s law to require significant corporate shareholder majorities to approve CEO compensation plans.

This is from the the people at Inequality.org and their weekly newsletter Too Much:

“One of the world’s more complicated schemes to tamp down CEO pay is getting a test in Australia this fall. Since last July, Aussie corporate boards have had shareholders voting on CEO pay. But this advisory “say on pay” has a twist. A board that fails to get 25 percent of shareholders to bless its CEO pay two years in a row has to face a shareholder vote on whether to give the entire board a heave-ho and elect a new one. Last year, 108 firms failed to hit that 25 percent mark. Now boards seem anxious to avoid two-time loser status. CEO bonuses at top Australian firms have dipped 20 percent since last year. But execs, activists add, are still playing games: Aquila Resources chair Tony Poli had his most recent annual pay reported as $572,000. He actually took in $169 million.”