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10 Greediest People of 2009

As ordinary Americans reel from the Great Recession, these gluttonous all-stars continue to claw in absurd amounts of money.

Has picking a year’s greediest "top ten" ever been easier? We don't think so. We could, this year, fill an entire top ten just with bankers from Goldman Sachs -- or JPMorgan Chase or any of a number of other Wall Street giants. All sport executive suites packed with power suits who fanned the flames that melted down the global economy, then helped themselves, after gobbling down billions in bailouts, to paydays worth mega millions -- at a time when, in over half our states, over a quarter of America’s kids are living off food stamps.

Now that’s greed. But that’s also not the whole picture. The Great Recession’s greedy don’t just sit on Wall Street. They occupy perches of power throughout the reeling U.S. economy. So we’ve tried, in this our latest annual ranking of avarice, to survey that bigger picture.

Where does all this greed come from? We humans have always, of course, had greed among us. But levels of greed vary enormously from one historical epoch to another -- and from one society to another.

What determines which societies see the most greed and grasping? In a word: inequality. The more wealth concentrates, the more greed grows. The United States remains the most unequal nation in the developed world. Next year, we suspect, will bring us still another bumper crop of greedy.

10: Richard Anderson

America’s airlines have been flying, for the most part, under the media radar ever since the nation’s banks went into meltdown mode, and that suits Delta CEO Richard Anderson just fine.

Delta, now the world’s biggest airline, has been richly rewarding Anderson ever since he became the airline’s top exec in September 2007. If folks were paying attention, they might wonder why. Delta, after all, lost $8.9 billion in 2008. In 2009, Delta and other U.S. carriers, says the International Air Transport Association, will likely lose a combined $1 billion.

Passengers are certainly feeling this red ink. Delta and other carriers have been trimming seating capacity, a move, notes the Orlando Sentinel, designed to “enable them to raise ticket prices more often.” Delta is also squeezing passengers with airport bag fees. In August, the airline’s bag charges bounded to $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second.

Anderson and his family, meanwhile, don’t just fly free on Delta. The airline also pays the taxes due on Anderson’s free tickets -- and lots more, too.

For agreeing to become Delta’s chief, 28 months ago, Anderson picked up $8.5 million in stock awards. Seven months later, another $3.4 million. Six months after that, to celebrate the Delta-Northwest merger, more options to buy Delta stock, worth $7.3 million, and more actual shares, worth $6.1 million.

With all those rewards, Anderson must be devoting every waking hour to making Delta soar, right? Well, almost every waking hour. Anderson has been spending some of his precious hours serving on the corporate board of Medtronic, a medical tech firm. In 2009, from the good people at Medtronic, he’ll pocket $188,000 for his directorship services.

9: George David/Marie Douglas-David

This power couple hit the headlines last March, with a nasty divorce trial. We tried to pick the most greedy of the pair. We failed. Here’s why.

The 67-year-old George David, the former CEO of defense contracting powerhouse United Technologies, comes with impeccable greed credentials. In the four years after the 9/11 attacks, David hauled home bigger paydays than any other defense executive, over $200 million in all, including $88.3 million in 2004, a sum that made him that year’s top-paid CEO.

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