Republicans like to say that President Obama has “divided America.” But it was Republicans, not the president, who famously drew a line between the people at the top in this country and the rest of us several years ago. Remember when 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said this?
Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that.
According to Ryan and others on the right, the rich who run large corporations and collect millions of dollars in salaries and other compensation are the “makers,” while everyone who lives paycheck to paycheck, getting by on the money they make from working one or more low-wage jobs, are the “takers.” But a new report shows that a lot of people in Ryan’s “maker” category “take” more than the rest of us could ever dream of.
As You Sow is a group that was formed in 1992. According to their webpage, the purpose of the organization is to promote…
environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Our efforts create large-scale systemic change by establishing sustainable and equitable corporate practices.
Each year the group issues a report on the 100 most overpaid CEOs in America. The salaries on the 2016 list will literally make your head swim.
The findings in the report blow Ryan’s claim that these people are “makers” out of the water. In the executive summary, the report’s authors observe:
In the last year, pay for S&P 500 CEOs has risen (by some estimates up to 15.6%), yet the value of the shares of these companies actually declined slightly- despite massive expenditures of corporate funds on stock buybacks designed to increase the value of those shares.
Yes, you read that right. Average Americans toil for wages that have barely budged in real dollars over the years. Worker production among the “takers” has soared since about 1973, while wages have remained relatively flat. But among the “maker” class, there appears to be no connection between productivity or share value and executive compensation. The company’s stock price goes up? Those at the top get a raise. The price goes down? They still get a raise.
Here is what the growth of CEO pay looks like in comparison to average worker pay, and the value of the S&P 500 stock index:
Before you think that what these CEOs make is of no importance to you, keep this in mind: many of them run companies that your pension or mutual fund is invested in. They can bleed a company dry, walk away when the company folds or its stock price collapses, and you, in the form of your 401k, are left holding the bag.
Here are a few of the things that As You Sow concluded about CEO compensation:
- Many of the overpaid CEOs are insulated from shareholder votes, suggesting that shareholder scrutiny can be an important deterrent to outrageous pay packages.
- The most overpaid CEOs represent an extraordinary misallocation of assets.
- Directors, who should be acting as stewards of shareholder interests, should be held individually accountable for overseeing egregious pay practices.
One caveat before showing the list of the 25 most overpaid CEOs: remember this list doesn’t necessarily include the highest compensated CEOs. It only covers those that As You Sow considers to be the most overcompensated. If you want to see the full list, and read the full report, they are available here.
Featured image via Twitter