By the end of the first week of January, the highest-paid US CEOs had already made as much as their average workers will earn over 8 years.
An analysis by Equilar, a consulting firm specializing in executive pay, found that on average, the 200 highest-paid CEOs make approximately $22.6 million a year, or almost $10,800 an hour, a 9.1% increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reports the average household earns approximately $53,000 a year.
Over the past fifty years, the pay gap between many highly-paid CEOs and their employees has increased dramatically. In 1965, when they also liked to be rich, CEOs made approximately twenty times as much as their average employee, meaning they would earn their workers’ average pay by the third week of January, and since the 1980s, the average difference and greed have increased. Highly-paid CEOs now make 303 times as much as their employees in a year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.
Equilar notes that Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav makes $156.1 million a year ($74,796.36 an hour), or approximately 1,951 times as much as his average employee. Doug McMillan, the CEO of Wal-Mart takes in $25.6 million ($12,266.41 an hour), 1,133 times as much as the average experienced store associate, who earns roughly $22,000. Other highly-paid CEOs include Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS Caremark, who makes 422 times as much as CVS employee, meaning that he earns an average worker’s yearly pay by 1 PM on his first work day of the new year; and Goodyear CEO Richard Kramer, who pulls in as much as an average Goodyear employee’s yearly pay by 3:00 PM on January 1st.
Shareholders, the owners of those companies, do not have binding power to determine the pay of their hired help—the company bosses. The wined-and-dined selected boards of directors regularly rubber stamp massive CEO pay raises.
An additional consequence of CEOs pushing up their own wages is that the company’s accounting, stock options and stock buybacks are often shaped to further directly enrich the corporate executives.
As the gap between the wealthy and the working-class continues to grow, the federal minimum wage remains stagnant at $7.25 an hour, or a little more than $15,000 a year, far below the $24,000 poverty line for a family of four Unlike the soaring pay awarded to highly-compensated CEOs, the minimum wage has not even kept up with inflation. Department of Labor data shows that, had minimum wage increases kept up with inflation since 1968, the minimum wage would be nearly $11 today. Instead, it has lost one-third of its purchasing power.