Mind the gap

Photo: mSeattle / Flickr What sort of society do we want?

Photo: mSeattle / Flickr
What sort of society do we want?

David Moe
Sun City, Calif.

The income gap between the average American worker and corporate CEOs is appalling. In 2014, the average pay of a U.S. worker was $47,230. The annual salary of the CEO of Microsoft was $84.3 million, the CEO of Walt Disney made $46.5 million, and the CEO of Wal-Mart took home $25.6 million. Does this sound reasonable?

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted recently to require public companies to disclose the pay difference between the chief executive and the average worker. The new rule, required under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, would require the nation’s 4,000 publicly traded companies to disclose this ratio.

When I worked for an insurance company in San Francisco, I had some stock with the company, so I attended the annual stockholder meeting in our auditorium. I had just been given my little 3% raise, but at the meeting, the president gave himself a $500,000 increase in about 30 seconds. He said in a soft voice, “The board of directors voted to increase the president’s salary by $500,000 a year; all in favor say ‘aye;’ opposed say ‘no.’” Most of the people in the audience were elderly and hard of hearing, so a few said “aye.” No one said “no,” so it carried, but I doubt that most of them even heard what he was saying. So it is with corporate America.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement drew attention to the wealth of the upper 1% and this recent vote by the SEC will prompt the debate about income inequality and the effect it has on our economy. We are living in an era where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, so how long can this continue?

Think about it before you vote next November.

David Moe was born in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 1964 and received his M.A. degree from San Francisco State University in 1975. He spent four years in the Navy and 32 years in the insurance business. He is married to his wife, Thordis, and they have two daughters and four grandchildren. They now live in Sun City, California.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.