Each Sunday Tony Wikrent posts a list of links at Real Economics and Ian Welsh. Some are political, many lead to news about runaway inequality. This post borrows a few that seem to fit together very well.
Peter Turchin, at Evonomics, discusses what it is that sometimes (like in the post World War II era) decreases inequality. Namely policy changes when disenchantment with inequality reaches a boiling point.
Pam and Russ Martens note that Bernie Sanders said the top three US billionaires (Gates, Bezos, Buffett) have more wealth than 160 million Americans, but he was using 2017 numbers. The inequality today is much worse.
The Business Roundtable was formed in 1972 with the goal of undermining New Deal-forged worker rights and corporate regulation by the federal government. The Roundtable worked to weaken antitrust regulations, undermine labor protections and stopped Ralph Nader’s attempt to create a consumer protection agency in 1977. This was a group of hundreds of the country’s top companies working to escape federal regulations, decrease taxes, and promote the better business environment. And free trade.
But last week they issued a letter that said (from the NY Times): “Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.”
The statement sounds like a major breakthrough, a return to the time before Runaway Inequality took off, when labor unions and workers were protected by US law and companies committed to their home towns because that’s where they lived, before free trade and internationalization led them to follow the easy dollars of cheap material and labor overseas. But is it?
Barry Rithoff appeared on an MSNBC discussion that looked at what commitment the BR makes in their statement, and what needs to be done to make it real. (h/t Tony Wikrent’s Week End Wrap)
NY Times columnist Farhad Manjoo says that runaway inequality has tipped the scales so far that business leaders, like the Roundtable, are running scared. He doesn’t trust them.
The truth is that Washington has it backwards. For a long time now, Wall Street’s success hasn’t helped the broader economy — it’s come at the expense of the rest of the economy. Wall Street is looting the economy and Washington is helping them do it.
Elizabeth Warren, “My Plan to Rein in Wall Street”
Child care is expensive because good child care employs a high ratio of caregivers to children. That’s good for children but a problem for working people earning on the low end (and even the middle) of the wage scale. The Economic Policy Institute took a look at child care costs and found that infant care in New York cost more than $14,000, and in 33 states and Washington DC, the cost of child care was higher than the cost to attend the state’s colleges.
The AFL-CIO Paywatch program keeps an eye on the executive compensation figures public corporations are required to report thanks to the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. That’s information companies didn’t want to report, and a closer look shows why.
In the past 10 years, CEOs have seen their compensation increased by $5,200,000 each. In those same 10 years, employees have seen their compensation increase by $7,858. That’s a ratio of 662 to 1.
After the big Trump tax cut in 2017, the top 10 companies in stock buybacks last year spent $25,200,000,000 reacquiring their own stock, driving up stock prices. Since the majority of executive compensation comes from stock grants and option, the average CEO in this group made $30,800,000. Until 1981, the SEC considered stock buybacks stock manipulation, which was not allowed.
Arthur Peck, the Gap CEO, earned 3,566 times more than the Gap’s median worker. Median is the worker who is in the middle of the distribution curve, meaning there are as many workers making less as making more. The Gap’s median worker earned $5,831 last year. Mind the wage gap.
At the other end of the spectrum, Niraj Shah, CEO of home furnishings e-commerce site Wayfair, made just two times what the company’s median worker made (which was $42,694). Seems way fair.
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