Good news, people: America’s wages are up — the average worker is making more today than a year ago! How much more, you ask? Get ready to be excited: 58 cents a week.
Of course, averages don’t tell the whole story. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith explained the problem of averages with a story about a six-foot tall man who drowned when wading across a stream with an average depth of three feet. Similarly, while average workers are trying to decide how to spend those extra five dimes, a nickel, and three pennies they’re getting each week, your average CEO is wallowing in an extra $860,000 per year.
That’s just the increase in their bonuses. It doesn’t include their multimillion-dollar salaries, which are also up. Nor does it include their golden pensions, free health care, limousines, or corporate jets. As you might imagine, many corporate chieftains did much better than average in their bonus checks. Take Robert Iger of Walt Disney, Inc. He pocketed a bonus of $13.5 million in 2010, a 45 percent boost from one year earlier.
Well, explained his PR agent, bonuses provide incentives for excellent executive performance, and Iger deserves his riches this year because Disney’s latest annual profits are up by 24 percent. Swell, but why is his increase double the increase in profits? And, by the way, if his annual salary is $2 million — why does he need any extra incentive to do his job?
One more question: Does Iger really think that he alone produced Disney’s rise in profits? Notice that the animators, performers, and other hard-working employees at Disney World and Disney Studios got no 45 percent increase in their pay.
No one goes to Disney World to see Robert Iger. If he wants bonus money, tell him to put on a Mickey Mouse costume in the wilting heat of Florida’s summer and earn it.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.