HIGHTOWER: CEO Gold Rush

As prospectors in the Wild West used to exclaim: "Thar's Gold in them thar hills!"Today, though, the "hills of gold" are not out west, they're up in the skyscrapers of corporate headquarters, where the chief executives have hit the Mother Lode.Business Week magazine reports that the average salary and bonus paid to the head hog of major corporations last year jumped nearly 40 percent! Add-in the stock payments, incentive pay and other compensation, and the bosses' average pay was up by more than half over the previous year, now averaging more than $5.7 million per boss.How about you -- did you enjoy a 50 percent pay hike last year? No way. Both the white-collar and blue-collar employees in these corporations barely kept-up with inflation, and many actually saw their pay decline. The boss's paycheck is now 209 times higher than that of a factory employee -- the highest disparity in modern times. Compare this to Japanese and European corporations, where the bosses are not paid more than about 30 times the pay of the company's factory workers.Wait, say the bosses, we deserve the big bucks, since we are producing big increases for our stockholders. Wait yourself, you fat greedheads, all the employees -- not just the boss -- contribute to the stockholders' gains, so why does only the boss get the gravy?Besides, these huge hikes in executive pay are WAY MORE than the increases in their companies' stock price and profits. Take Lawrence Coss . . . please [rim shot]! He sits atop Green Tree Financial corporation, and he is this year's top-paid boss, sopping-up a whopping $102 million. That means his hourly pay is $51,000! Yet, Business Week ranks Coss third in terms of giving shareholders the least for their buck.When one of these top execs brag that they make their money by hard work . . . ask them: Whose hard work?Source:"Executive Pay: Special Report" by Jennifer Reingold. Business Week: April 21, 1997.

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