American Paychecks

Ed Raymond

Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

1978-2018: Average CEO Pay Up 64% To $13.94 Million Average Worker Pay Up 2.6% To $38,613

Since the Bush Great Recession ended in 2009 corporate profits have grown at an annualized rate of 6.5%. Big bank profits have grown at even a higher rate. If we go back forty years we come up with the shocking figures in the headline. Since the end of the recession in 2009 yearly wage growth has never hit 3% while the Consumer Price Index has hovered around 2%. The Labor Department just announced that the CPI had increased to 2.9% in the last 12 months—the highest level in the last six years. Wages have not kept up. 

In 2000, labor’s share of the nation’s income came to 66% while corporations garnered in 8.3 % of the nation’s income. In 2018 corporate profits gained 13.2% of the nation’s income while labor’s share nosedived to 62%. A drop of 4% not much? It comes to $532 billion, or $3,400 for each worker.
The big Republican tax cut? Higher wages have not appeared yet, but corporations such as Apple, Wells Fargo, and McDonald’s have spent $680 billion of those tax cuts buying back their own stock, thus enriching CEOs and shareholders. They are also buying foreign companies with tax cut money. Some companies reaped propaganda benefits by paying $1,000 bonuses. That’s $83 a month. Big deal. Welcome to disaster capitalism. Amazon paid no federal taxes last year. The United States leads the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in economic growth, an organization of the 36 top industrialized countries, but is almost last in labor wages because of the large ratio of low wage workers. Two major reasons have been given for the U.S. decline of wages: (1) the weakening of all private and public unions, and (2) the ability to find cheap labor abroad and at home.

 Bezos, Bathrooms, And Bottles

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world with $151 billion in his back pocket, is currently remodeling his home in Washington, D.C. so it will have 25 bathrooms. Does he have bladder problems? No one seems to know. We do know that his employees around the world need more bathrooms because many have to pee in bottles near their work site in order to keep up with the company’s sometimes unrealistic performance expectations. A former employee reports that the Bezos business model includes a constant “revolving door of bodies” and workers are not allowed to sit down or talk to fellow employees on the work line. Bezos is now earning about $275 million a day while approximately one of three of his U.S. employees can’t survive without food stamps and other government benefits. He earns more money in ten seconds than the average Amazon worker makes in a year.

Labor unions in England, Spain, Poland, Italy and Germany are generally stronger than U.S. unions, and have been striking periodically for higher wages and better working conditions since Amazon opened distribution centers. Strikers spoiled Amazon’s shopping event “Prime Day” in Europe just a couple of weeks ago. Six facilities in Germany were closed by one-day strikes over cuts in night shift bonuses and health care. Amazon has been successful in keeping unions out of U.S. facilities and has increased its anti-union efforts in Europe. A reporter at Bloomberg News reported that Bezos could buy every house for sale in Seattle (Amazon’s headquarters) with what he makes in a 24-hour period, and house every homeless person in the city for a month.

Preparing For “The Event”

Some super-rich are preparing for a big “Event,” whatever “The Event” might be. Maybe it could be civil wars in bastions of inequality or social unrest on every populated continent. Maybe it’s the Apocalypse and the “Rapture.” Where do you go if there is an environmental collapse because of global warming? Basra, Iraq set a record about a week ago when noonday temps reached 129 degrees. How about 118 degrees in Yuma, Arizona last Sunday? Californians are currently being warned about 120-degree days this summer. I keep our hottub at 104 degrees and I think that’s really hot. Temperatures as high as 106 degrees in Japan last week killed dozens-maybe hundreds- and hospitalized 22,000. The Japanese are concerned about the 2020 Summer Olympics. How do you run a marathon in 100 degree weather? 

  How about an unstoppable new doomsday eboli virus? What if computer hackers shut off all the power in Phoenix during a hot week? What if the three psychopathic Great Leaders of North Korea, Russia, and the United States start playing around with nuclear weapons? Super-rich inquiring minds want to know so they can prepare their survival bunkers. 

Maybe Sylar the lovable border collie will cause a revolutionary event in China. His rich owner loves him so much he created a $500,000 dog house for him out of an abandoned warehouse. Sylar has a spa, a trampoline, an indoor pool, air-conditioned rooms, giant pillows, and a personal backyard. He can have a medicinal bath or oil massage any time he wants. Sylar has over 800,000 followers on social media. Evidently pets, particularly dogs, have become the new fashion statement and status symbol among the new super-rich in China. Will this cause all Chinese peasants to go bonkers? Time and protests march on.

New Zealand and Alaska have become the favorite sites for survival bunkers.  Professor Douglas Rushkoff has written several books about the super-rich preparing for doomsday events, and has often received invitations to address One-Percenters on how to survive in a doomsday world. Most questions center around how to protect underground bunkers from  angry mobs. Here are some of the questions: (1) How many armed guards will it take to protect the property? (2) How do you pay the guards for their work and loyalty when money becomes useless? (3) How do you stop the guards from choosing their own leader? (4) How do you protect your food supply? Will special combination locks work? (5) How about making your guards wear special disciplinary collars in exchange for insuring their survival? These are just a few of the questions asked by the super-rich preparing for an apocalyptic event.

Photographer Lauren Greenfield Has Taken 500,000 Pictures Of The Wealthy

If you have a burning desire to see how the One Percent live, spend about $100 to buy a six-pound picture book of the super-rich class Lauren Greenfield calls “Generation Wealth.” She published it after taking 500,000 pictures of people “living in bubbles separated from reality by armies of nannies and household staff.” She has covered the super-rich all over the world for English newspapers for 25 years. She writes: “The wealthiest people in society are richer than they’ve ever been before. More of them have five, six, seven or even a dozen homes in the world’s most desirable locations, and it is not unusual for them to fly their nannies, tutors, and security details between them on private jets.” Some of their homes run well over hundreds of millions of dollars.” The most expensive home in Los Angeles is listed for $500 million.

Is it time to start talking about a maximum wage? Sam Pizzagati thinks so.  In his book “The Case for a Maximum Wage,” he has good arguments for limiting the income of the wealthy while raising the minimum wage. Because of what happened in the Gilded Age when wealth of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Carnegies exploded, we went to work in the middle of the 20th Century after World War II with a redistribution system that lowered the richest tenth of the top One Percent from 900 times what the bottom 90% of Americans were averaging to a nation where our richest were making 114 times the bottom average. Strong unions and proportionate taxes on high incomes helped the redistribution.

But in the last third of the 20th Century the wealthy put lots of money into politics and got governments to lower tax rates, create loopholes in the revenue codes, and create tax havens overseas and at home to hide their wealth from tax collectors. We are back to another Gilded Age where the wealthy are averaging over 900 times what the average American makes.

How The Federation Of Saint Kitts And Nevis Is Stealing Our Money

Between 2000 and 2015 American workers lost half a trillion dollars in paycheck income and the wealthy took over corporations and politics. Before 1980, big-time CEOs averaged no more than 35 times what their workers took home. Today top CEOs earn several hundred times what their workers make. While Disney Corporation made $9 billion in profits last year, Disney CEO Robert Iger made a salary of $105 million. He has been guaranteed that salary per year for four years. Meanwhile three-quarters of Disneyland employees say they don’t earn enough money to cover basic living expenses every month, more than two-thirds are food insecure, and more than one out of ten reports having been homeless over the last two years.

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors sends an expensive car into orbit while planning trips to Mars-- while his employees protest working conditions, hours, and benefits in his factories. Bezos also has a space program to send tourists on $200,000 rides into space while taxpayers spend billions to support his workers. It’s estimated that U.S. taxpayers now subsidize wages and benefits for corporations such as Amazon and Walmart that refuse to pay living wages to the tune of a staggering $152.6 billion. Walmart alone eats up $6.2 billion a year in taxpayer subsidized wages.

The ten top super-rich in the U.S. have cash and assets equal to our total national defense budget of approximately $800 billion. They have also paid politicians to establish tax havens around the world on tiny islands and in corrupt countries. Ever hear of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis? It’s hard to find in a huge ocean, being an island of 36 square miles. It’s actually a volcano-country of 11,000 people in the Caribbean, perhaps better known as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. The Federation has become a major tax haven, joining London, Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Jersey, the state of Delaware, New York City, Panama, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Anguilla, Mauritius, Cyprus, and many tiny islands in the Pacific just too numerous to name in a short column.

Nevis has 70,000 businesses registered for doing business on that tiny island of 36 square miles. It must be very crowded with warehouses, offices, and employee housing. Let’s see. How many employees would it take to staff 70,000 businesses? Ask one of the super-rich who owns a business headquartered there. Nevis is the perfect spot where super-rich tax dodgers, crooked politicians, dictators, and other fraudsters get to mismanage their country’s finances for their own personal benefit. North and South American drug cartels and dealers have been known to fly airplanes filled with cash to deposit in untraceable Nevis bank accounts owned by untraceable shell companies around the world. Frankly, it’s like the Iternational Mob has overtaken the world’s finances.