Lean Times, but Fat CEOs

Time for another Hightower Hog Report!

Today's herd of fat porkers include the boss hogs at Disney, American Express, Cisco Systems, and other corporate fiefdoms that suffered serious financial downturns in the past year. With stock prices collapsing and profits tumbling, the bosses of these outfits loudly began preaching austerity to the serfs in their fiefdoms, declaring their corporate finances to be so bad that Disney's honcho fired 4,000 workers, American Express offed 6,600, and Cisco punted 8,500 out the door.

However, these budget whackers did not accept responsibility for their poor corporate performance by taking any personal pay cuts. Indeed, Disney's boss scarfed down some $73 million in personal pay, American Express' enjoyed a 22 percent pay increase for the year, and Cisco's found an extra 40 percent in his trough.

Two watchdog groups, the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, analyzed CEO paychecks for the past year at America's 365 largest corporations. They found that overall -- while stock prices dived, downsizing soared, and workers pay barely kept up with inflation -- those at the top averaged an increase of 18 percent. Most interesting is the fact that those CEOs who did the most firing of employees got the most pay, averaging nearly $14 million each, 80 percent more than the other bosses.

American CEOs now take 531 times the pay that average factory workers make -- a widening chasm of disparity. Oh, a CEO pay consultant exclaimed to the Chicago Tribune, "It's not fair to compare [CEOs] with hourly workers. Their market is the global market for executives."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Hogwash. Corporations in Japan, Europe, and elsewhere keep their pay gap at only about 50 to one. For them, it's a matter of simple fairness and social harmony -- values that America used to represent.

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