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Ripoff CEO Pay for Private Contractors: the Budget ‘Waste’ Deficit Hawks Never See

In 2009, the top 100 private purveyors of public services gobbled up $130 billion in federal contracts. In 2003, nine CEOs at for-profit colleges took in over $45 million each.

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The really sad part of all this? We could easily end this executive feasting at the public’s expense. A simple model for protecting our tax dollars already exists.

In higher education, for instance, federal legislation has long denied our tax dollars to colleges and universities that discriminate by race or gender. As a society, we’ve made the determination that our tax dollars shouldn’t be subsidizing racial or gender inequality.

That same principle could be -- and should be -- extended. Our tax dollars should not be subsidizing economic inequality, by going to corporations that regularly and excessively overpay their top executives.

At what point does corporate executive compensation become excessive? Back in the 1960s, only a handful of U.S. corporations paid their top execs over 25 times what their workers took home. The President of the United States currently makes just under 25 times what the lowest-paid full-time federal worker makes.

Last year, the CEO of Strayer Education Inc., a for-profit college chain “ that receives three-quarters of its revenue from U.S. taxpayers,” took home $41.9 million, over 2,000 times the take-home of a worker making $10 an hour.

That sort of profiteering off our tax dollars could not take place if federal law denied our tax dollars to enterprises that pay their executives over 25 or 50 or even 100 times what their lowest-paid workers are making.

Several members of Congress, most notably Rep. Jan Schakowsky from Illinois and Rep. Barbara Lee from California, have introduced legislation that would move us in that direction. Their legislation made sense In the “good times” before 2008. Their legislation makes even more sense today.

Sam Pizzigati is the editor of the online weekly Too Much, and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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