Thursday, September 03, 2020

A boom for whom?

The stock market has been zooming up, up and away. Yet America’s real economy is in shambles. Joblessness is still above 10%, with a tsunami of new firings coming as airlines, retail chains, the restaurant industry, state and local governments, Main Street businesses and so many more are collapsing right. COVID-19 has been a doubly deadly disaster for millions of Americans, destroying both life and livelihoods. 

The number of Americans who own as much as one single share of corporate stock, even through a mutual fund, has plummeted in the past two decades as the rich and superrich have grabbed the bulk of our nation’s wealth. Today, nearly 90% of all stocks are in the hands of the richest 10% of Americans.

 As multibillion-dollar brand-name outfits announced mass layoffs of their employees, their CEOs made headlines by stepping up to show some solidarity. These bosses told the media the least they could do was to cut their own salaries. Yes, they told us, we are all in this together; all for one, one for all; and stuff like that.

 One analytical firm did look at the books of nearly all 3,000 major U.S. corporations, finding that a mere fraction had made any cuts to senior executive pay, and the few who did only made little nicks in the boss’s take-home, rather than real cuts. The trick is that the “sacrifices” only applied to official salaries. They are the tiniest part of a chief executive’s compensation, which is mostly made up of bonuses, stock options, etc. For example, United Airlines, which is expected to zero out the paychecks of 36,000 workers, docked its CEO’s salary by nearly a third. Sounds like a real gesture, but that works out to less than 3% of the $22 million he’s getting in total pay. So middle-income workers get the boot, while the boss still has his job, gets more than $21 million in annual pay and claims bragging rights for being an “ethical” corporate chieftain.

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