Wednesday, November 25, 2009
SOBERING THOUGHTS ON THANKSGIVING WEEKEND
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. As you feast with family and friends this holiday weekend, count your blessings. If you have a roof over your head, have a job, have health insurance, are in relatively good health, and can enjoy a generous helping of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, beans, jello, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, you are indeed very lucky and should feel very, very grateful. For you are far better off than those who are homeless or are lining up for a charitable hot meal in a food line somewhere.
I read with disappointment and a sick feeling in my gut that many charities and nonprofit organizations will be severely cutting back on or even eliminating free meals for the poor this Thanksgiving due to severely depleted budgets. This is nothing for us to be proud of as a nation. In fact, we should be thoroughly ashamed, especially those who have received the massive tax cuts President George W. Bush and his conservative Republican Congresses enacted for ultra-high incomes so many years ago and which remain in force to this day. All that extra money which we were told would go for domestic business creation to make millions of new high-paying jobs here has instead gone overseas, was wasted on wild market speculation, or has been held on to. Our standard of living was supposed to rise from those tax cuts and the free trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA which were set up at the strong urging of these same conservative Republicans and me-too "New" Democrats.
Instead, our standard of living is dropping. So much for the wisdom and value of free market, conservative Republican economics.
Quite by accident, I discovered a unique "Salary Crunch" feature courtesy of ESPN, a leading national sports TV and radio network. It featured an interactive table whereby you could plug in your current annual salary and see how much time it would take New York Yankees' pitcher C.C. Sabathia (current annual salary: $23 MILLION) to "earn" the same amount you do in a year's time. For those of you making $100,000 a year (a well-higher-than-median salary), it would take Mr. Sabathia only 1.1 innings of pitching. But it would take YOU 230 YEARS to earn what he makes in ONE year! For those earning, say, $30,000 per year, Sabathia would only have to pitch merely 0.33 of an inning (1 out), but it would take YOU 766.67 YEARS to earn his current annual salary. To those poor folks currently being paid only minimum wage (a puny $7.25 per hour, or just $15,080 per year), Mr. Sabathia is paid this amount in only 0.17 of an inning (LESS THAN ONE OUT), and it would take those folks 1,525.2 YEARS to earn his annual salary. Interestingly enough, C.C. Sabathia is not even Major League Baseball's highest paid player!
We have seen the compensation rates of the wealthy shoot skyward in recent years, even as those of the middle class and poor have remained the same or even declined. Ever-rising fuel and health care costs have further eroded buying power and compounded the stress the average American worker is under as he or she tries to maintain.
Keeping in mind the minimum wage figure of $15,080 annually I have already provided you with, compare it to the compensation rates of 5 other prominent wealthy individuals I have picked at random below:
Angela Braly, CEO of health insurance giant WellPoint: $9,844,212.
Miles D. White, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Abbott: $33,400,00.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees' third baseman: $28,000,000.
Stephen Hemsley, CEO of health insurance behemoth United Health Group: $3,241,042 (and previously much higher).
John Lechleiter, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly: $13,000,000.
Remember, folks, these exorbitantly high compensation levels are being paid at a time where the nation is suffering a 10.2% (17+% actual) unemployment rate, nearly 50 million (almost 1 in every 6.5 of us) have no health insurance coverage, and roughly 10% of the population is now on food stamps, There is no moral justification for the disparities in income we are seeing, with these disparities growing out-of-control every year. This phenomenon is wrong, and, furthermore, endangers our well-being as a people.
This practice is the abuse of capitalism.
And yet, there are still many people who scream at raising taxes on the very wealthy, or at government stipulating how much is too much when it comes to fair executive compensation levels for Wall Street bankers and business executives our tax dollars bailed out earlier this year. They want no control of or regulation over these outrageous salaries, even though we taxpayers and we stockholders have had no voice in the setting of those salaries yet continue to pay them. These people, just like the practices they wish to preserve, are dead wrong. The sky is not the limit when it comes to celebrity or executive compensation, especially when that compensation harms the economic well-being of ordinary working people and the poor, and as we are the ones partially funding it.
So this holiday weekend, give thanks that you are not deprived or living hand-to-mouth under a bridge. Think of those poor people who are, but also remember the ultra-wealthy others who have put them there, are keeping them there, and/or are keeping you trapped at the level of income you are at. We have nothing to be thankful to these people for except our own personal struggles and the misery of others. And let us not be complacent about this status quo: It is in our best interest, and is our moral obligation, to change this scenario. The wealthy elites are doing next to nothing to look out for the rest of the country or to sensibly regulate themselves, and they never will. Call it income redistribution; call it socialism; I don't care what you call it. THAT is why GOVERNMENT, as an agent of we the people, must have and must utilize the power to more fairly level the playing field for all!