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Okay, Fair Question Time: Is All of This Okay With You?

Posted: 07/11/2013 9:26 am

Income Inequality

Is there any spiritual reason for, or value in, a society's working to reduce the gap between its highest, middle, and lowest income brackets? Can anything be said in favor of a culture that seeks to promote ideas and ideals, and maybe even create mechanisms, that militate against an "every man for himself/to the winner go the spoils" mentality?

If a particular society observes this gap to be grower larger, larger, and ever larger, is there anything to be said for doing what it takes to put a stop to that widening, and to even shrinking that chasm, so that a "good life" may be experienced by all?

What can be said of a society that creates a bigger and bigger gulf between the rich and the poor -- and puts into place mechanisms and laws, choices and decisions that reinforce the notion that everything about this is alright; indeed, that this is the way it should be?

I ask these questions because the other day the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, released statistics showing that the average earning of a CEO in a major company in 2012 was $14.1 million. That's per year, not per lifetime. The figure represents a 12.7 percent increase for the boss over the previous year.

Average worker salaries, meanwhile, have not increased by 12.7 percent. Nor even by 6 percent. Nor even by 2 percent. Nor, in fact, at all.

For most workers in the U.S., wages in 2012 remained at their 2011 levels -- and that's in the best-case scenarios. Many saw their wages actually fall, the EPI study showed.

And the salaries of their bosses are not the only compensation awarded the folks in the front office. Most also received stock options and other awards, adding more than 50 percent of their actual cash paycheck to their total income.

All this is happening because corporate earnings continue to soar. But the workers who make those earnings possible are not reaping their proportionate share of the benefit. The website Business Insider recently carried the headline: Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low

The good news is that at least a larger number of Americans are working today -- however disproportionate their wage -- than at any time in the past 30 years.

Oh, I'm sorry. I got that wrong. It's exactly the opposite. The Business Insider website says it's precisely the other way around. It seems that American companies are hiring fewer American workers than ever before in history.

Than ever in history.

And while workers are so hungry for jobs that they'll take sub-par wages just to keep bread on their family's table, corporate heads are making 20 times what their employees earn, dollar for dollar. That's right. For every dollar the average worker earns, the average CEO earns 20.

Oh, gosh... I'm so sorry. I got that wrong, too. That was in 1965. Gee, I was looking at the wrong page on my stat sheet. Today, in 2012, the CEO of a major company makes, on average, something along the order of 273 times more than the average worker, the Economic Policy Institute reports.

What is perhaps most remarkable of all: It is not only the very rich who seem to be okay with all this. Millions of people in the middle, and even lower, income class in the U.S. also apparently think this is perfectly alright. Many will tell you: This is the American way. This is the Land of Opportunity, and in the Land of Opportunity everyone has the same chance to "get theirs."

But is it true? Does everyone in America have an equal opportunity? Is it true of black Americans? Female Americans? Gay Americans? I just ask. Does everyone in America have an equal opportunity to be the CEO of a major company, and earn nearly 273 times more than the workers they boss?

More important, is this really the way that an enlightened society sets up its laws and economic mechanisms, and treats its members?

I am curious. Really curious. What do you think? Is there any spiritual reason for, or value in, a society's working to reduce the gap between its highest, middle, and lowest income brackets? Can anything be said in favor of a culture that seeks to promote ideas and ideals, and maybe even create mechanisms, that militate against an "every man for himself/to the winner go the spoils" mentality?

 
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