Hightower's Common Sense Commentary
Monday, December 3, 2001
LOOK OUT (Hogs Snorting) here comes another Hightower Hog Report.
Today's big snorters are the CEOs of major US corporations who keep gorging themselves with ever-fatter pay packages – even while they stiff their own employees. In the so-called "Boom" of the past decade, average pay for workers barely kept up with inflation and hundreds-of-thousands of workers were fired. . . but average CEO pay went up 535 percent, now topping $13 million each! Take Lee Raymond, head hog at ExxonMobil. In 1999, he punted 16,000 workers, claiming the need to tighten the corporate belt – yet he gobbled up a 50 percent pay raise for himself that year, waddling away with $47 million in pay.
The most hoggish CEOs of the year, though, are America's media moguls, who fought tooth and nail against a pay raise that was being sought by the people who write the scripts for their movies and tv shows. The writers were asking for a total pay package of $100 million over three years. No way, shrieked the top honchos of the big studios! One executive even wailed that for studios to pay so much would "simply bankrupt them."
Whoa, hold your thoroughbred horses right there! Let's check the books. Gerald Levin, head of AOL Time Warner took $153 million in personal pay from his company's trough last year. That's one head of one studio hogging 50 percent more pay in one year than the increase sought by all the writers for all the studios. Levin's not the only hog in the herd, either – for example, Disney Inc. fed nearly $73 million to its CEO (even while he was cutting 4,000 Disney workers and preaching austerity).
This is Jim Hightower saying. . . As executive-pay expert Graef Crystal put it, how can these guys "deliver a sermon about how everyone has to pull in their belt when they can't even see their own belts because of their enormous pay guts?"
Sources: "Rank and file resent media moguls' pay, perks," Austin American Statesman, 4/29/01
"ExxonMobil Shareholders Challenge CEO Pay Geyser," Press Release from Responsible Wealth, 5/24/01