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Inequality Bulletin, 2006

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What a new 'gilded age' may bring

csmonitor.com

The richest 1 percent of Americans now get about 15 percent of total US income, close to the 18 percent the same small group had in 1913. In a way, the days of the robber barons, the tycoons, and the Gilded Age are back - after the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and progressive taxation had trimmed their share to 8 percent in 1963.

In contrast, the vast majority of American incomes have not kept up with inflation for the past six years. "It's very troubling," says Benjamin Friedman, a Harvard University economist. "Inequality by some measures is very high by historical standards."

Undoubtedly the rich, with their fat investment portfolios, were hit by the bursting of the stock-market bubble at the start of this century. The Bush tax cuts alleviated some of that pain.

Nonetheless, the market collapse did not stop the trend of the past 25 years toward greater income inequality. A recent Congressional Budget Office report shows that, between 1979 and 2003, the top 1 percent of households enjoyed a 129 percent gain in after-tax income after inflation. That compares with 15 percent for the middle one-fifth of all households and 4 percent for the bottom fifth.

So much of the fruits of economic productivity growth from 1966 to 2001 went to the top 10 percent that little was left for the other 90 percent, notes a new paper by Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon and student Ian Dew-Becker. Productivity is the source of growth in real per-capita income.

This research also shows that the richest of the rich, the top 1/1,000th, enjoyed a 497 percent gain in wage and salary income between 1972 and 2001. Those at the 99th percentile, who made an average $1.7 million per year in 2001, enjoyed a mere 181 percent gain.

A recent visitor to Antigua saw one consequence of this income shift: a row of 80-foot American-owned yachts lined up at a wharf. One of a dozen crew members on one ship said the owner only came aboard for about two weeks in the winter and again in summer - when the yacht is docked in southern France.

The New York Times recently reported a boom in building mega-yachts, some as long as a football field. Big yachts have multiplied from 4,000 a decade ago to 7,000 now. Only a few slips can accommodate the biggest boats, each of which can cost $200 million. (Many boat owners use tax breaks, some provided in a 2003 tax bill, to slash costs.)

Most Americans still believe in their own potential to climb the income ladder. But growing income inequality still worries Edward Wolff, an expert at New York University: "It makes our democracy very fragile.... Eventually the American people are going to catch on. Politically it is going to create a major backlash." He's not predicting revolution, rather "reactionary tendencies."  Dr. Friedman, author of an excellent new book, "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth," agrees.

Here are some consequences the two economists and others foresee:

It could make the political system more unfair, says Professor Wolff.

Some economists blame the concentration of wealth and income on extremely high pay for some CEOs, entertainment celebrities, sports stars, and Wall Street financiers - the "working rich," as they are dubbed. At the bottom, deunionization and globalization have depressed wages. Progressive taxation no longer restrains wealth much.

University of Texas economist James Galbraith attributes most of the rising income inequality, at least through 2000, to soaring stock prices. Some new wealth, he suspects, may not be as willing as old wealth to leave money to charitable foundations. So ending federal estate taxes, if it happens, may also wither the philanthropic culture that has done so much for the nation.

 

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[Jun 28, 2015] Keynes, The Great Depression And The Coming Great Default

Jun 28, 2015 | Zero Hedge
falak pema

you guys have it ALL wrong.

Keynes was there to check OLIGARCHY neo-feudalism. This crisis is about Oligarchy neofeudalism.

We need a balance between state and private enterprise. Right now we have "inverted totalitarianism" :an alliance between state and private Oligarchs where, unlike Mussolini model; its private enterprise that RUNS THE WORLD; the 1%.

The state is their slave; even FED belongs to its paymasters : the TBTF aka JP Morgan and now GS. Since Glass Steagall revoke; engineered by the GS squid cabal allowing Investment banks to rule the roost to MAXIMISE shareholder returns, the whole shooting match of supply side deregulated Reaganomics; all based on asset hiking based on short term quarterly reports; has morphed capitalism beyond recognition.

The world of capital changed in 1981...the day all that mattered was shareholder value based on short term steroid pumping that the 1971 "our money your problem" had initiated based on petrodollar hegemony fueled on perpetual DEBT.

The cumulative effect of 1971/1981/1991 outsourcing NWO mantra post Iraq 1 and SU default was what we have spawned today: a three step process where petrodollar debt + FIRE economy oligarchy enrichment+ NWO outsourcing based on cheap oil and cheap labour have built this casino capitalism model now compounded by derivative financialisation toxic shenanigans.

Now tell me WHAT has KEYNES got to do with this monetarist construct based on Friedman's 1971 mantra?

You guys deny the time line of facts and its irrefutable logic all based on petrodollar hegemony, and arms bazar supremacy.

[Jun 12, 2015] Bilderberg 2015: where criminals mingle with ministers by Charlie Skelton

Jun 12, 2015 | The Guardian
Convicted criminals. Such as disgraced former CIA boss, David Petraeus, who's just been handed a $100,000 (£64,000) fine and two years' probation for leaking classified information.

Petraeus now works for the vulturous private equity firm KKR, run by Henry Kravis, who does arguably Bilderberg's best impression of Gordon Gecko out of Wall Street. Which he cleverly combines with a pretty good impression of an actual gecko.

... ... ...

"Can I go now?" Another no. So I continued my list of criminals. I moved on to someone closer to home: René Benko, the Austrian real estate baron, who had a conviction for bribery upheld recently by the supreme court. Which didn't stop him making the cut for this year's conference. "You know Benko?" The cop nodded. It wasn't easy to see in the glare of the searchlight, but he looked a little ashamed.

... ... ...

I decided to reward their vigilance with a chat about HSBC. The chairman of the troubled banking giant, Douglas Flint, is a regular attendee at Bilderberg, and he's heading here again this year, along with a member of the bank's board of directors, Rona Fairhead. Perhaps most tellingly, Flint is finding room in his Mercedes for the bank's busiest employee: its chief legal officer, Stuart Levey.

A Guardian editorial this week branded HSBC "a bank beyond shame" after it announced plans to cut 8,000 jobs in the UK, while at the same time threatening to shift its headquarters to Hong Kong. And having just been forced to pay £28m in fines to Swiss regulators investigating money-laundering claims. The big question, of course, is how will the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, respond to all this? Easy – he'll go along to a luxury Austrian hotel and hole up with three senior members of HSBC in private. For three days.

High up on this year's conference agenda is "current economic issues", and without a doubt, one of the biggest economic issues for Osborne at the moment is the future and finances of Europe's largest bank. Luckily, the chancellor will have plenty of time at Bilderberg to chat all this through through with Flint, Levey and Fairhead. And the senior Swiss financial affairs official, Pierre Maudet, a member of the Geneva state council in charge of the department of security and the economy. It's all so incredibly convenient.

... ... ...

Related: The Guardian view on HSBC: a bank beyond shame | Editorial


consumersunite MickGJ 12 Jun 2015 15:23

Let's see, maybe because we have read over their leaked documents from the 1950s in which they discussed currency manipulation and GATT. Everything they have discussed in their meetings over the past decades has almost come to fruition. There are elected officials meeting with criminals such as HSBC. Did you even read the article? If you did, and you are not het up or whatever you call it, then you are of a peasant mentality, and there is no use talking to you.

The Bilderberg set call people like you either their "dogs" (if you are in politics or the military) or the "dead." I won't be looking for your response because you have confirmed that you do not matter.


Carpasia MickGJ 12 Jun 2015 10:52

Thank you for your comment, my good man. Hatred is human, and helps us all to avoid pain, for pain, especially unnecessary pain, is allowed to be hated by the agreement of all, if nothing else is. I would hate to be beaten by Nazis. Thus, I would avoid going to a place where that could occur. That is how hatred works for me. It is the only way it can work, and not be pernicious to the self and others.

I distrust the international order as it is the means, harnessed by money, whether corporate or state or individual or monarchical, by which this world is being destroyed. Could things have been better? Jesus is on one end of the spectrum, and Lord Acton on the other, of the spectrums of viewpoints from which that could be properly assessed. If the corruption at the heart of the international order is not regulated properly, this world will come to an end, not the end of the world itself, but the end of the world as we know it. This is happening now. The world is finite.

I am not a xenophobe. In my experience, the people that are most likely to hurt me, and thus deserve fear, are those closest. Perhaps that is a cynical way of describing it, but anyone who thinks honestly about it would accede to the notion that it is the people who "love" us that hurt us the most, for we agree too be vulnerable to them. It is the matrix of love.

As for Austria and Bavaria, I have visited both places and they were, both, the cleanest locales I have ever seen, with Switzerland having to be mentioned in the same breath, of course.

I take a certain liberty in writing. I am not damning the human race, or strangers to me. If I did not entertain, but caused offence, I apologize to you. I do not possess omniscience, and my words will have to speak for themselves.

Thank you, again.


DemonicWarlordSlayer 12 Jun 2015 08:02

"How Geo Bush's Grandfather Helped Hitler's Rise to Power" in the UK Guardian >

"Did Geo H W Bush Coordinate a JFK Hit Team" at Veterans Today >

"9/11 Conspiracy Solved, Names, Connections, Details" on youtube....dot-to-dot of the

Demonic Warlord's Crimes Against Humanity....end feudalism.


Carpasia 12 Jun 2015 07:09

Excellent article.

I visited Austria once, and I know of what he speaks. It was the one place I have ever visited that I thought I would be jailed if I littered. I was wandering at the time, but I tentatively had a meal of chicken and departed henceforth.

Austrians are an interesting lot, to be sure. That they are perfect goes without saying. Their main virtue is that they do not travel, and that strangers, which we call tourists these days, are not welcomed. If only we were all like that, the world would be a far better place.

Austrians do everything well, including crime. Some of the greatest crimes in the world have been committed by Austrians, but their crimes did not include not having their papers.

During World War 2, and I pass over Hitler, the German machine of death had an unusually high proportion of Austrians in commanding roles assisting it. It can not be explained away by saying they were some kind of faux Germans, and so it matters not. Indeed, if anything, Germans are faux Austrians, looked at in the broad brush of history. Men of many nations joined the Germans and adorned themselves with the Death's Head, but many Austrians might as well have tattooed it onto their foreheads. I know of what I speak, for I read on it, and will justify if questioned.

Reinhard Heydrich is an epitome of this, in the true sense of the word. Kurt Waldheim was another, too young too rise too far before the Ragnarok of May of 1945, but government of the world was not out of his reach, a man who had materially assisted the transportation of the Jews of Thessaloniki to the gas chambers of Auschwitz and, when challenged, was unrepentant, not as a racist, but as something worse even, as a man whose great virtue was that he followed orders. It is order that the Austrians value over everything. Even crime is ordered.

In the common-law west we think criminals are disordered beasts to be locked up. We do not give them papers. They are registered only to warn us of their existence, and we do not like to let them travel, as much as we could benefit by their absence, because we think they flee to license, and we think it wrong to inflict them upon innocents abroad. In Austria, the criminal is the man with no papers. If he has papers, all is well, and he is no criminal, whatever he has done.

colingorton 12 Jun 2015 03:19

What do you mean "where criminals mingle with ministers". That is assuming that ministers are not criminals. Considering that there will be ministers from the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK, I'd suggest that there is a near 100% certainty that some, if not all, the ministers there are criminals.

That one group of almost-certainly-criminals meets another group of almost-certainly-criminals is hardly surprising. That the whole shebang is protected by the host's police force is even less so.

How far can all this mutual back scratching go? It seems that the only alternative left is far too drastic, but there really seems to be no place for a legal alternative, does there?

[Oct 19 2006] View from the Top Felix Rohatyn

FT.com

October 19 2006 Business leaders review the news on video for FT.com

This week, Ambassador Felix Rohatyn of Lehman Brothers

Financial Times: One of the signal events this week is the Dow breaking 12,000. What do you think that means?

Felix Rohatyn: I don't know if it has one particular meaning, but I think it's maybe more a result than a meaning. I think that globalisation has created new wealth by providing much lower costs to manufacturing, by providing much lower cost labour; and a lot of the savings created by this are savings that show up in corporate P&Ls, and if you then apply some type of multiple to that, those are very, very big numbers.

And I think, without necessarily going into the argument of rich versus poor.... that clearly this is something that helps the one half of 1 per cent of 1 per cent who own most of America's assets...it is creating wealth differentials that probably are not tolerable in the long run and require some - I won't use the word redistribution because that's not a nice word - but some changes, probably through the tax system at some point.

There's Nothing Normal About A Middle Class by Thom Hartmann

Oct 26 2006 | The Smirking Chimp

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article tools: email | print | read more Thom Hartmann

"That liberty [is pure] which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone."
--Thomas Jefferson to Horatio Gates, 1798.

There is nothing "normal" about a nation having a middle class, even though it is vital to the survival of democracy.

As twenty-three years of conservative economic policies have now shown millions of un- and underemployed Americans, what's "normal" in a "free and unfettered" economy is the rapid evolution of a small but fabulously wealthy ownership class, and a large but poor working class. In the entire history of civilization, outside of a small mercantilist class and the very few skilled tradesmen who'd managed to organize in guilds (the earliest unions) like the ancient Masons, the middle class was an aberration.

A middle class can only come about in one of two ways.

The first is by a sudden change in the relationship between population and resources. After the Black Death wiped out more than a third of the population in 14th century Europe, the increased demand for labor drove up the price of labor to the point when a middle class emerged in some places. Many historians identify this as one of the factors that brought about the Renaissance.

Another example came four hundred years later, when a second European middle class (and the first European middle class in North America) emerged because of the "discovery" of "resources" (e.g. "we can steal gold, wood, furs, and land from Native Americans) in The Americas. Some historians suggest that increasing the overall wealth of Europe (and Europeans living in North America) while the overall population was relatively stable produced not just a second middle class, but brought about The Enlightenment and the American Revolution as well.

But as the population of North America increased in the years leading up to the Civil War, the middle class began to vanish. From the 1830s until the 1930s, outside of family farms, the American middle class was again small and limited to shop owners and specialists.

Thus, when the Republican Great Depression hit America, Franklin Roosevelt was faced with a dilemma: how to create a middle class without killing off a third of the population or discovering gold in a distant land?

What he came up with - largely by pragmatic, trial-and-error work - was a synthesis of controls on previously-uncontrolled capitalism which, quite literally, saved American capitalism from itself. The Wagner Act of 1935, mandating unions when 51 percent of workers voted for them. The Social Security Act. Minimum wage and maximum hour laws. Child labor laws. The government as employer of last resort through the WPA, CCC, etc.

Republicans are fond of arguing that World War II ended the Republican Great Depression, not FDR's policies, but in that argument they ignore a central economic reality: When money is invested in infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, and schools (as FDR did), that infrastructure produces a return on that investment for generations to come. When the same number of dollars are put into bombs and then dropped on Dresden or Tokyo, those dollars vanish along with the bombs, never to be recovered.

While gearing up for the war did stimulate and alter the American economy, it's much easier to argue that WWII actually slowed our recovery from the Republican Great Depression, because it forced FDR to shift so many resources from infrastructure and into disposable instruments of warfare.

When Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981, he set about to undo FDR's New Deal. For 26 years now, economic conservatives have run this country, and the result has been the steady deterioration of the middle class, a rise in the wealthy elite, and a massive transfer from infrastructure investment to war expense. The result could easily be another Republican Great Depression (or, more likely, given the massive debts run up by Reagan and both Bush's, a Republican Weimar-style Hyperinflation).

The idea that turning a nation's economy over to "free market" corporatists is idiotic isn't new. Thomas Jefferson laid it out in an 1816 letter to Samuel Kerchival.

"Those seeking profits," Jefferson wrote, "were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge."

He added: "I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. ... We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. ... [Otherwise], as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, ... and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers."

A totally "free" market where corporations reign supreme, just like the oppressive governments of old, Jefferson said could transform America "...until the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man."

To stimulate our economy after the collapse of the Republican Great Depression, FDR also instituted progressive taxation, which gave workers more to spend, thus stimulating demand for more goods and services.

Progressive taxation, too, has a long history: As Jefferson said in a 1785 letter to James Madison, "Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise."

As Jefferson realized, and FDR proved, with no government "interference" by setting the rules of the game of business and fair taxation, there will be no middle class.

And as history around the world proves, when the middle class vanishes, democracy often goes with it.

Bushonomics The Awful Truth Laid Bare

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity
New York Times

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year's midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity - the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation's living standards - has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "the golden era of profitability."

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers' benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

In a speech on Friday, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, did not specifically discuss wages, but he warned that the unequal distribution of the economy's spoils could derail the trade liberalization of recent decades. Because recent economic changes "threaten the livelihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms," Mr. Bernanke said, policy makers must try "to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared."

Political analysts are divided over how much the wage trends will help Democrats this fall in their effort to take control of the House and, in a bigger stretch, the Senate. Some see parallels to watershed political years like 1980, 1992 and 1994, when wage growth fell behind inflation, party alignments shifted and dozens of incumbents were thrown out of office.

"It's a dangerous time for any party to have control of the federal government - the presidency, the Senate and the House," said Charles Cook, who publishes a nonpartisan political newsletter. "It all feeds into 'it's a time for a change' sentiment. It's a highly combustible mixture."

But others say that war in Iraq and terrorism, not the economy, will dominate the campaign and that Democrats have yet to offer an economic vision that appeals to voters.

"National economic policies are more clearly in focus in presidential campaigns," said Richard T. Curtin, director of the University of Michigan's consumer surveys. "When you're electing your local House members, you don't debate that on those issues as much."

Moreover, polls show that Americans are less dissatisfied with the economy than they were in the early 1980's or early 90's. Rising house and stock values have lifted the net worth of many families over the last few years, and interest rates remain fairly low.

But polls show that Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy by wide margins and that anxiety about the future is growing. Earlier this month, the University of Michigan reported that consumer confidence had fallen sharply in recent months, with people's expectations for the future now as downbeat as they were in 1992 and 1993, when the job market had not yet recovered from a recession.

"Some people who aren't partisans say, 'Yes, the economy's pretty good, so why are people so agitated and anxious?' " said Frank Luntz, a Republican campaign consultant. "The answer is they don't feel it in their weekly paychecks."

But Mr. Luntz predicted that the economic mood would not do significant damage to Republicans this fall because voters blamed corporate America, not the government, for their problems.

Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration, layoffs and technology - as well as the insecurity caused by them - appear to have eroded workers' bargaining power.

Trade unions are much weaker than they once were, while the buying power of the minimum wage is at a 50-year low. And health care is far more expensive than it was a decade ago, causing companies to spend more on benefits at the expense of wages.

Together, these forces have caused a growing share of the economy to go to companies instead of workers' paychecks. In the first quarter of 2006, wages and salaries represented 45 percent of gross domestic product, down from almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2001 and a record 53.6 percent in the first quarter of 1970, according to the Commerce Department. Each percentage point now equals about $132 billion.

Total employee compensation - wages plus benefits - has fared a little better. Its share was briefly lower than its current level of 56.1 percent in the mid-1990's and otherwise has not been so low since 1966.

Over the last year, the value of employee benefits has risen only 3.4 percent, while inflation has exceeded 4 percent, according to the Labor Department.

In Europe and Japan, the profit share of economic output is also at or near record levels, noted Larry Hatheway, chief economist for UBS Investment Bank, who said that this highlighted the pressures of globalization on wages.

In another recent report on the boom in profits, economists at Goldman Sachs wrote, "The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor's share of national income." Low interest rates and the moderate cost of capital goods, like computers, have also played a role, though economists note that an economic slowdown could also hurt profits in coming months.

For most of the last century, wages and productivity - the key measure of the economy's efficiency - have risen together, increasing rapidly through the 1950's and 60's and far more slowly in the 1970's and 80's.

But in recent years, the productivity gains have continued while the pay increases have not kept up. Worker productivity rose 16.6 percent from 2000 to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2 percent, according to Labor Department statistics analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. Benefits accounted for most of the increase.

"If I had to sum it up," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the institute, "it comes down to bargaining power and the lack of ability of many in the work force to claim their fair share of growth."

Nominal wages have accelerated in the last year, but the spike in oil costs has eaten up the gains. Now the job market appears to be weakening, after a protracted series of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve.

Unless these trends reverse, the current expansion may lack even an extended period of modest wage growth like one that occurred in the mid-1980's.

The most recent recession ended in late 2001. Hourly wages continued to rise in 2002 and peaked in early 2003, largely on the lingering strength of the 1990's boom.

Average family income, adjusted for inflation, has continued to advance at a good clip, a fact Mr. Bush has cited when speaking about the economy. But these gains are a result mainly of increases at the top of the income spectrum that pull up the overall numbers. Even for workers at the 90th percentile of earners - making about $80,000 a year - inflation has outpaced their pay increases over the last three years, according to the Labor Department.

"There are two economies out there," Mr. Cook, the political analyst, said. "One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefited from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings.

"And then there's the working stiffs,'' he added, "who just don't feel like they're getting ahead despite the fact that they're working very hard. And there are a lot more people in that group than the other group."

In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners - a group that includes many chief executives - received 11.2 percent of all wage income, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago, according to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.

With the midterm campaign expected to heat up after Labor Day, Democrats are saying that they will help workers by making health care more affordable and lifting the minimum wage. Democrats have criticized Republicans for passing tax cuts mainly benefiting high-income families at a time when most families are failing to keep up.

Republicans counter that the tax cuts passed during Mr. Bush's first term helped lifted the economy out of recession. Unless the cuts are extended, a move many Democrats oppose, the economy will suffer, and so will wages, Republicans say.

But in a sign that Republicans may be growing concerned about the public's mood, the new Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., adopted a somewhat different tone from Mr. Bush in his first major speech, delivered early this month.

"Many aren't seeing significant increases in their take-home pay," Mr. Paulson said. "Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others."

At the same time, he said that the Bush administration was not responsible for the situation, pointing out that inequality had been increasing for many years. "It is neither fair nor useful," Mr. Paulson said, "to blame any political party."

Samuelson Growing Economic Inequality Threatens U.S. Values by Robert Samuelson

Oct. 2, 2006 | MSNBC.com/Newsweek
Trickle-Up Economics?

No one should be happy with today's growing inequality. It threatens our social compact, which relies on a shared sense of well-being.

By Robert J. Samuelson

issue - If you're in Asheville, N.C., stop by Biltmore, the vast estate that George Vanderbilt III-heir to a railroad fortune-constructed between 1889 and 1895. You can tour most of its 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms and an indoor swimming pool. When few Americans used electricity, Biltmore had its own generators. To take the tour is to grasp one of the great advances of the 20th century: the gap between the superrich and most Americans has narrowed enormously. In Vanderbilt's time, most Americans lived in filthy slums or on modest farms. Now even the wealthiest among us live more like ordinary people than George Vanderbilt ever did.

We like it that way. Although Americans are not hugely envious of the rich-especially if their wealth seems honestly earned-we also think that prosperity should be broad-based. Trickle-up economics, with most gains flowing to the top, seems un-American. But is that what we now have? Good question. Just last week Forbes magazine reported that the 400 richest Americans are now all billionaires. And the government's recent release of household income and poverty figures for 2005 has sharpened the debate.

Let me try to make sense of it. Superficially, the news was not encouraging. Median household income of $46,326, though up slightly from 2004, was still below its record of $47,671 in 1999 (the median household is the one exactly in the middle). The poverty rate was essentially unchanged at 12.6 percent, well above its recent low of 11.3 percent in 2000 (the poverty rate is the share of people below the official "poverty line," about $20,000 in income for a family of four). But the annual numbers are less important in addressing the trickle-up question than long-term trends. Here are three that I think matter.

Living standards aren't stagnating. Over any realistic period-say a decade-they've risen for almost everyone. From 1992 to 2002, ownership of microwave ovens by the poorest tenth of Americans went from 39 percent to 77 percent, reports one Census Bureau study. VCRs went from 22 percent to 56 percent, computers from 4 percent to 21 percent. Households, when adjusted for their size, uniformly have higher incomes. From 1995 to 2005, the median income of four-person households rose 10.5 percent to $69,605; for three-person households, the increase was 9.6 percent to $58,917. These are real gains, though modest.

The rich are getting an ever-bigger piece of the economic pie. In 2005, the richest 5 percent of households (average pretax income: $281,155) had 22.2 percent of total income, reports Census. In 1990, the share was 18.5 percent; in 1980, 16.5 percent. These figures exclude capital gains-profits on stocks and other assets-that have most benefited the richest 1 percent. With capital gains, their pretax income averaged about $1 million in 2003. That was about 20 times the average income of households in the middle of the economic distribution. In 1979, the ratio was 10 to 1.

The inflow of poor Hispanic immigrants and their (often) American-born children have increased poverty. From 1995 to 2005, the rise in the number of Hispanics in poverty-by 794,000-more than accounted for the entire increase in the U.S. poverty population. Poverty among blacks, though still high, declined. Among non-Hispanic whites, it held roughly steady. Health-insurance coverage has also been affected. Since 1995, Hispanics account for about 78 percent of the increase in the uninsured.

The bottom line: productivity gains (improvements in efficiency) are going disproportionately to those at the top. We do not really understand why. Globalization, weaker unions, increasingly skilled jobs, the frozen minimum wage and the "winner-take-all society" (CEOs, sports stars and movie celebrities getting big payouts) have all been cited as reasons. Costly employer-provided health insurance is also squeezing take-home pay in the middle.

My sense is that intensified competition has simply made employers stingier. Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, says that only "in supertight job markets do employers have to bid up wages and compensation to keep workers from leaving." Bernstein isn't sure that the present jobless rate (4.7 percent in August) makes it tight enough.

What might government do? The Bush administration's enthusiasm for tax cuts for the rich could be tempered; to reduce the budget deficit, their taxes could be raised without dulling economic incentives. (For the record: I supported the first Bush tax cut and opposed his cuts on capital gains and dividends.) Equally, liberals and others who support lax immigration policies on our Southern border should understand that these policies deepen U.S. inequality.

But many familiar proposals would be mostly symbolic or hurtful. Raising the minimum wage might directly affect only about 5 percent of workers and might destroy some jobs. Protectionism might save a few well-paid jobs but would inflict higher prices on those least able to afford them. Still, no one should be happy with today's growing economic inequality. It threatens America's social compact, which depends on a shared sense of well-being.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14966272/site/newsweek/from/RS.1/

Greedy 1%: How Bush Is Screwing 99% Of Americans (excerpts) by Paul Krugman

...Political analysts tried all sorts of explanations for popular discontent with the "Bush boom" - it's the price of gasoline; no, people are in a bad mood because of Iraq - before finally acknowledging that most Americans think it's a bad economy because for them, it is. The lion's share of the benefits from recent economic growth has gone to a small, wealthy minority, while most Americans were worse off in 2005 than they were in 2000. Some conservatives whine that people didn't complain as much about rising inequality when Bill Clinton was president. But most people were happy with the state of the economy in the late 1990's, even though the rich were getting much richer, because the middle class and the poor were also making substantial progress. Now the rich are getting richer, but most working Americans are losing ground.

Second, notice the amount of time that inequality's apologists spend attacking a claim nobody is making: that there has been a clear long-term decline in middle-class living standards. Yes, real median family income has risen since the late 1970's (with the most convincing gains taking place during the Clinton years). But the rise was very small - small enough that other considerations, like increasing economic insecurity, make it unclear whether families are better or worse off. And that's the point: the United States as a whole has grown a lot richer over the past generation, but the typical American family hasn't. Third, notice the desperate effort to find some number, any number, to support claims that increasing inequality is just a matter of a rising payoff to education and skill. Conservative commentators tell us about wage gains for one-eyed bearded men with 2.5 years of college, or whatever - and conveniently forget to adjust for inflation. In fact, the data refute any suggestion that education is a guarantee of income gains: once you adjust for inflation, you find that the income of a typical household headed by a college graduate was lower in 2005 than in 2000.

More broadly, right-wing commentators would like you to believe that the economy's winners are a large group, like college graduates or people with agreeable personalities. But the winners' circle is actually very small. Even households at the 95th percentile - that is, households richer than 19 out of 20 Americans - have seen their real income rise less than 1 percent a year since the late 1970's. But the income of the richest 1 percent has roughly doubled, and the income of the top 0.01 percent - people with incomes of more than $5 million in 2004 - has risen by a factor of 5. Finally, while we can have an interesting discussion about questions like the role of unions in wage inequality, or the role of lax regulation in exploding C.E.O. pay, there is no question that the policies of the current majority party - a party that has held a much-needed increase in the minimum wage hostage to large tax cuts for giant estates - have relentlessly favored the interests of a tiny, wealthy minority against everyone else.

According to new estimates by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, the leading experts on long-term trends in inequality, the effective federal tax rate on the richest 0.01 percent has fallen from about 60 percent in 1980 to about 34 percent today. Meanwhile, the U.S. government - unlike any other government in the advanced world - does nothing as more and more working families find themselves unable to obtain health insurance....

The ghosts of corruption present

One of the shabbiest shell games under way in Congress is the attempt to convince voters that lawmakers are curbing their corrupt relations with power lobbyists. The cravenness was never clearer as G.O.P. House leaders passed a placebo rules change in place of honest reform - and on the very day when one of their own, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, was plea bargaining in the corruption investigation of his old friend Jack Abramoff, the disgraced überlobbyist and influence peddler.

The political ghosts of Mr. Ney and Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, should haunt this Congress and its Republican bosses for their disgraceful refusal to end the Capitol's embrace of the lobbying industry. In the first burst of the Abramoff scandal last spring, both houses made all manner of reform vows, then cynically hung two hollow bills out to die on the vine.

Last week House leaders sanctimoniously promised an end to the "fog" and "shadows" with a rules change concocted of smoke and mirrors. The rule pretends to deal with just one part of lobbying corruption, the cramming of millions of dollars in special interest favors into must-pass budget bills.

Disclosure of these backdoor deals and their sponsors is promised. But lobbyists who have feasted on earmarks are already mapping their way around this fig leaf, just as lawmakers hungry for lobbyists' campaign money know they have once more voted for the shameless status quo.

Congress is offering this wink and a nod on earmarks only to cover its spinelessness on larger ethical issues. The Republican majority has already junked proposals to restrict the rise of lobbyists as campaign finance brokers for grateful lawmakers.

A more responsible Congress would ban lobbyists as political money bundlers, as well as the proliferation of lawmakers' relatives as lobbyists and the Capitol junkets catered by lobbyists on corporate tabs.

Financial Armageddon

Last October, citing Internal Revenue Service data, the Wall Street Journal reported that the top 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005. That's the highest measure of income inequality since, you guessed it, before the Great Depression. The numbers may be off that peak for 2008, given the carnage on Wall Street, and all those investment bankers trying to sell their weekend homes in the Hamptons into a sagging real estate market. But not by much.

... ... ...

Right-wing economists tell us that allowing the rich to grab such a huge percentage of national wealth rewards the most "productive" sector of society and encourages them to create even more wealth, which eventually trickles down to all Americans. So who cares if the income inequality chasm has widened to historically unprecedented heights? Poor Americans now are rich compared with poor Americans in the 1920s. They've got their fancy TVs and access to an extraordinary array of cheaper-than-cheap products at the nearest Wal-Mart. Are they starving? No, the big social problem is rampant obesity! So let the good times roll, and make those tax cuts permanent.

There are some holes in that logic. The average American family carries upward of $8,000 in credit card debt. The personal savings rate has never been lower. Healthcare costs are inconceivable for anyone who doesn't have insurance. And right now, home prices, which represent the largest chunk of net worth for most Americans, are dropping at a rate of 10 percent a year.

Anonymous | Mar 2, 2006 8:06:47 AM

So the top 1% owns one-third of all wealth, the next 9% owns another one-third, and the rest of 90% own the last one-third.

The exclusion of the Forbes 400 makes the estimates very conservative. Every year, the dollar figure for inclusion on the list grows, and I think about 300 on this are billionaires. That's a lot of wealth to exclude when counting the top 1%.

The full breakdown of wealth for 2001 is available in the See the "Rolling Tide" article here
http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/oss/oss2/method.html

barone has a great post on this. mean and median wealth changes the numbers significantly... if you include Gates, etc.

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/baroneblog/archives/060301/the_wealth_of_t_1.htm

Posted by: jp | Mar 2, 2006 11:11:12 AM

[Feb 24, 2006] Fed Stagnant Net Worth for Typical US Family

February 24, 2006 | The Big Picture

Every 3 years, the Federal Reserve undertakes a massive survey of nearly 5,000 US families. The interview process is comprehensive, covering all manners of financial information -- and its intensive, taking between 80 minutes and 2 hours.

Its the Federal Reserve's Report on U.S. Family Finances, and it quantifies what most people already know: The average family is not making much economic progress:

"After growing rapidly during the boom of the 1990s, the net worth of the typical American family rose only 1.5% after inflation between 2001 and 2004, the Federal Reserve said in an update of a survey it does once every three years.

The Fed said the net worth of the median American family -- the one smack in the statistical middle -- was $93,100 in 2004. Net worth, the difference between a family's assets and liabilities, rose a robust 10.3% between 1998 and 2001 and 17.4% in the three-year interval before that.

A booming housing market boosted the typical American family's wealth between 2001 and 2004, but stagnant stock prices and rising debt offset many of those gains."

The Fed helps explain what many politicans have been unable to grasp: the disconnect between rosy economic headline data and real life experiences for most families.

The report also gives lie to much of the foolish spin we have heard from some politicians and from the economic charlatans -- those people who know better (or at least should know better), but knowingly deceive the public in pursuit of their own political or economic agenda.

A few items pop out from the report:

• Rising debt has offset the boom in housing;
• Inflation continues to eat into family cash flow;
• Income remains stagnant;
• Savings has slipped to zero;

click for larger graphic

Share of the Wealth

Percentile Wealth in Millions of Dollars Share of Wealth in Percentage Terms
2004
Bottom 25% n/a 0
24 to 49.9% 1,319,977.5 2.6
50 to 74.9% 5,195,835 10.3
75 to 89.9% 8,856,460.5 17.6
90 to 100% 34,910,182 69.5
2001
Bottom 25% n/a 0
25-49.9% 1,251,375 2.8
50-74.9% 4,701,975 10.5
75-89.9% 7,645,635 17
90-100% 31,269,465 69.7
1998
Bottom 25% n/a 0
25-49.9% 1,067,040 3.2
50-74.9% 3,824,415 11.4
75-89.9% 5,734,314 17.1
90-100% 23,025,492 68.5
1995
Bottom 25% n/a 0
25-49.9% 930,600 3.6
50-74.9% 3,034,350 11.8
75-89.9% 4,359,960 16.9
90-100% 17,490,330 67.8

Courtesty of WSJ, Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances

naked capitalism

Scrutiny of Pay Gap Between CEO and Direct Reports

The Financial Times reports today that institutional investors and the SEC are taking interest in the difficult-to-justify pay disparities between the CEO and his immediate subordinates at some public companies. And isolated data points, like Sallie Mae, suggest that the ones with the biggest gulf (in its case, ten times) aren't delivering commensurate performance.

A few corporate leaders recognize that a large gap is demotivating. GE's Jeff Immelt remarked:

The key relationship is the one between the CEO and the top 25 managers in the company, because that is the key team. Should the CEO make five times, three times or twice what this group makes? That is debatable, but 20 times is lunacy,
However, the facts on the ground indicate that Immelt's views aren't widely shared. A lot of CEOs appear to be suffering from what might politely be called acquired situational narcissism, or less politely, a belief in near-royal entitlement. From the Financial Times:
US companies are facing fresh pressure from regulators and shareholders to rein in excessive executive pay as research shows chief executives have been paid up to 10 times more than their top lieutenants.

The average total compensation for a S&P 500 chief executive was about twice as much as the second most highly paid executive last year, according to a study conducted for the Financial Times by the research group, Salary.com.

However, at SLM, the student loan group known as Sallie Mae, the pay of Thomas Fitzpatrick, chief executive, who resigned in May, was more than 10 times that of June McCormack, his executive vice-president.

At more than 30 other companies, the gap ranged from four times to seven times.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is believed to have asked a number of companies to explain the reason for large pay gaps between top executives, as part of a review of corporate pay.

In August, the regulator sent letters to more than 300 companies urging them to be more transparent in their disclosure of executive compensation practices. Several companies received specific questions about the executive pay gap, according to people who have seen the letters.

The Council of Institutional Investors, whose members have more than $3,000bn under management, has also voiced concern at large disparities in pay between executives.

Investors argue a huge pay differential may be a waste of shareholder funds; indicates the board is not an adequate counterbalance to the chief executive's powers, and could drive away talented young executives.

"[The gap] is a red flag for investors. It is a classic sign that the board may be beholden to the chief executive," said Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers' Retirement System (Calstrs), the US pension fund.

Genzyme, where Henri Termeer, chief executive, earned more than seven times more than Peter Wirth, chief legal officer, said: "Our compensation structure for executive management is set so that there is a flat tier below Henri. Because there's not a hierarchical approach here, [there is] a bigger gap between number one and number two."

Other high-profile companies with above-average executive pay differential include the utility TXU, and the food group Heinz.

A related FT story sees the pay gap as a sign of corporate malaise:
After years spent focusing on the value of the princely pay packages commanded by corporate leaders, shareholders, and to a certain extent regulators, have begun looking at boardroom inequality.

Their argument is that a large differential between those at the top of the ladder and those just below – chief financial officers, division heads, or even superstar sales executives – is a symptom of deeper malaise.

Christopher Ailman, who manages more than $170bn for the California State Teachers' Retirement System, believes that a yawning gap points to weak corporate controls. "Paying chief executives an excessive amount relative to their number twos is a warning signal that the chief executive may have the compensation committee sewn up and that the board is not doing a good job of the succession plan," he says.

Others warn that funnelling a large part of the executive compensation pool to the boss can damage shareholders by demoralising senior management and future chief executive candidates.

"A large differential can actually harm performance because it is demotivating for the senior managers," argues Ann Yerger, executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors,.

Two weeks ago, the Council wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission, urging the regulator to ensure that "companies... adequately disclose each [executive's] compensation and explain the reasons for the differences in the amounts awarded to each".

Mark Van Clieaf, managing director of compensation consultancy MVC Associates International, says directors should police pay equity more strictly: "Large shareholders are asking about it, regulators are asking about it, so directors should take a look at the issue."

Yet few dare quantify what an "excessive" differential actually is.


It will be revealing to see how much coverage this story gets in the US.

Bespoke Investment Group

Costofliving

What a new 'gilded age' may bring

csmonitor.com

The richest 1 percent of Americans now get about 15 percent of total US income, close to the 18 percent the same small group had in 1913. In a way, the days of the robber barons, the tycoons, and the Gilded Age are back - after the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and progressive taxation had trimmed their share to 8 percent in 1963.

In contrast, the vast majority of American incomes have not kept up with inflation for the past six years. "It's very troubling," says Benjamin Friedman, a Harvard University economist. "Inequality by some measures is very high by historical standards."

Undoubtedly the rich, with their fat investment portfolios, were hit by the bursting of the stock-market bubble at the start of this century. The Bush tax cuts alleviated some of that pain.

Nonetheless, the market collapse did not stop the trend of the past 25 years toward greater income inequality. A recent Congressional Budget Office report shows that, between 1979 and 2003, the top 1 percent of households enjoyed a 129 percent gain in after-tax income after inflation. That compares with 15 percent for the middle one-fifth of all households and 4 percent for the bottom fifth.

So much of the fruits of economic productivity growth from 1966 to 2001 went to the top 10 percent that little was left for the other 90 percent, notes a new paper by Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon and student Ian Dew-Becker. Productivity is the source of growth in real per-capita income.

This research also shows that the richest of the rich, the top 1/1,000th, enjoyed a 497 percent gain in wage and salary income between 1972 and 2001. Those at the 99th percentile, who made an average $1.7 million per year in 2001, enjoyed a mere 181 percent gain.

A recent visitor to Antigua saw one consequence of this income shift: a row of 80-foot American-owned yachts lined up at a wharf. One of a dozen crew members on one ship said the owner only came aboard for about two weeks in the winter and again in summer - when the yacht is docked in southern France.

The New York Times recently reported a boom in building mega-yachts, some as long as a football field. Big yachts have multiplied from 4,000 a decade ago to 7,000 now. Only a few slips can accommodate the biggest boats, each of which can cost $200 million. (Many boat owners use tax breaks, some provided in a 2003 tax bill, to slash costs.)

Most Americans still believe in their own potential to climb the income ladder. But growing income inequality still worries Edward Wolff, an expert at New York University: "It makes our democracy very fragile.... Eventually the American people are going to catch on. Politically it is going to create a major backlash." He's not predicting revolution, rather "reactionary tendencies." Dr. Friedman, author of an excellent new book, "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth," agrees.

Here are some consequences the two economists and others foresee:

It could make the political system more unfair, says Professor Wolff.

Some economists blame the concentration of wealth and income on extremely high pay for some CEOs, entertainment celebrities, sports stars, and Wall Street financiers - the "working rich," as they are dubbed. At the bottom, deunionization and globalization have depressed wages. Progressive taxation no longer restrains wealth much.

University of Texas economist James Galbraith attributes most of the rising income inequality, at least through 2000, to soaring stock prices. Some new wealth, he suspects, may not be as willing as old wealth to leave money to charitable foundations. So ending federal estate taxes, if it happens, may also wither the philanthropic culture that has done so much for the nation.

Note: Income is defined as market income; government transfers and realized capital gains are excluded.
SOURCE: THOMAS PIKETTY, EMMANUEL SAEZ, (c) 2006; SCOTT WALLACE - STAFF

It's (really) good to be a US boss By Daniel Luban

Asia Times

WASHINGTON - The pay gap between workers and employers in the United States remains enormous, with the typical chief executive officer of a top firm earning more in a single workday than the average US worker takes home in an entire year, according to a new study on executive compensation released on Wednesday.

Not only do top CEOs receive a total income that is about 364 times that of the average worker, their earnings also far outstrip
those of government leaders, non-profit executives, and even their European counterparts, the study found.

These findings come as politicians in the US and Europe increasingly debate CEO pay, an issue that for many has come to exemplify the pitfalls of an economy that has produced impressive growth while seemingly failing to improve the fortunes of the bulk of the population.

The study, which was released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and United for a Fair Economy (UFE) to coincide with the Labor Day holiday in the US this coming Monday, found that CEOs of the 500 largest US companies earned an average of US$10.8 million in total compensation in 2006, and the CEOs of the 20 largest companies earned an average of $36.4 million.

By comparison, the average worker in the US earned $29,544 in the same time period.

The $36.4 million earned by the top 20 US CEOS also far exceeded the average earnings of the 20 highest-paid European CEOs ($12.5 million), US non-profit leaders ($965,698), members of the executive branch of the US government ($198,369), and generals in the US military ($178,542).

Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies, the lead author of the study, said the vast pay gap between the top private-sector and public-sector jobs creates serious problems for the country.

"First of all, [the lower compensation] is a serious disincentive to take government and not-for-profit jobs, and thus drains leadership talent out of the not-for-profit world," she said. "Second, it contributes to a 'revolving door' between government and the private sector" as policymakers often opt for more lucrative business and lobbying jobs.

But being the CEO of a large company is not the most lucrative job in United States, the study found. That honor went to the managers of the country's top hedge funds, which are exclusive investment groups that operate in a largely unregulated environment.

The average income of the 20 top-earning hedge-fund and private-equity managers was $655.5 million in 2006, the study found. Four such managers earned more than $1 billion in the past year alone.

Although recent changes to the rules for reporting income make it difficult to compare precisely this year's CEO-worker wage gap with previous years, Anderson said the trends have not changed significantly.

"We certainly haven't seen any real retreat on CEO pay," she said. "Even companies that are heading towards crisis are continuing to pay huge sums."

Last year's 364:1 CEO-to-worker pay gap is a massive increase from previous decades: in 1990, the ratio was 107:1, and in 1980, it was only 40:1, according to the study.

The findings about CEO pay come in the context of a larger debate over growing income inequality in the US.

Defenders of the George W Bush administration's economic policies point to robust levels of growth in recent years, while critics contend that most if not all of the gains have gone to the richest citizens.

Research published by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty this year showed that the wealthiest US citizens have increased their share of national income to levels unseen since the 1920s. The top 10% now account for 48.5% of income, and the top 1% for 21.8% of income.

And although the total reported income in the US increased by almost 9% in 2005, Saez and Piketty found that the incomes of those in the bottom 90% of earners actually decreased slightly that year.

The CEO-worker wage gap has become a potent representation of this increased income inequality, and US politicians have seized on the issue as the 2008 presidential-election campaign gets under way.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former senator John Edwards, the three leading candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, have all called for increased scrutiny on CEO pay.

Obama is sponsoring so-called "say on pay" legislation in the Senate, which would let corporate shareholders hold non-binding advisory votes about executive-compensation plans. The legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives, although President Bush has expressed his disapproval of the bill and may veto it if it passes in the Senate.

Other Democrats have also proposed legislation on the issue. A bill introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee would limit how much executive pay companies can claim as tax-deductible, and a bill introduced by Sander Levin, another Democrat, would tax the earnings of hedge-fund managers at the rate for income (currently 35%) rather than the rate for capital gains (currently 15%).

The increased scrutiny of CEO pay has not been limited to the US, as European leaders have also focused on the issue - although, as the IPS/UFE study documents, the earnings of European CEOs are relatively small compared with their US counterparts.

Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is known as a relative fiscal conservative, has pledged to pass a law limiting the severance packages of top executives.

"It is fascinating that we suddenly have this unprecedented debate about CEO pay in both the US and Europe," said Anderson, the author of the study. "It may be a sign that our political leaders are finally catching up to where the public has been for quite a while on these issues."

(Inter Press Service)



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