HIGHTOWER: Stock Options -- Bosses Up, Workers Down

A Chicago department store has this sign at the elevator: "Bargain basement upstairs."Well, if you're a typical working stiff in today's corporate world, you're not getting any bargains from the big executives upstairs. Most of them are downsizing the workforce, sending our jobs abroad, reducing work here to temporary and part-time status, holding wages down, and cutting-out such basics as health care benefits and pensions.Not only is this harmful to workers, communities and our consumer economy, but there's more and more evidence that it's also harmful to the corporations, since they are cutting people with skills, creativity, and experience they need, while destroying morale and any sense of loyalty among the workers who remain. Yet, the executives keep doing it.Why? Because it makes them rich.You see, the CEO's paycheck is no longer based so much on salary as on annual bonuses and something called "stock options," which essentially amounts to giving company stock to the Big Honchos. If the value of the stock increases, those at the top make a bundle. Obviously, this system gives bosses a juicy incentive to do anything it takes to jack-up the stock prices. And here's the ugly part -- bosses have found that big Wall Street investors always respond enthusiastically to massive job cuts by a company, driving up the stock and literally pouring money into the pockets of the CEO.This is why employees at Time Warner cringed when they learned recently that Gerald Levin, the head dog there, will be awarded a trainload of stock options if he doubles the company's stock price in the next five years. How much is a trainload? Levin stands to get $262 million, which is a lot of reasons for him to start firing folks and start claiming his prize.This is Jim Hightower saying ... The system is rigged so that when the workers go down ... executives go up.

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