The average American worker made $19.77 per hour last year. Let’s contemplate the hourly pay of some other Americans’ wages. Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL)‘s Larry Ellison made $46,000 per hour. General Electric Company (NYSE:GE)‘s Jeffrey Immelt made $12,000 per hour. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA)‘s W. James McNerney Jr. made $13,000 per hour. CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS)‘ Leslie Moonves made $33,000 per hour.
An hour is the amount of time Americans might allot for watching an episode of, say, Dirty Jobs in their free time. Speaking of jobs, dirty or otherwise, Discovery Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:DISCA)‘ CEO David Zaslav’s pay calculation came to $24,000 per hour.
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The AFL-CIO released its annual PayWatch data on Monday, dumping a treasure trove of disturbing information about CEO pay into Americans’ news feeds. Check out the site here, where you can see a wealth of stats about corporate America’s wealthiest, and how their pay compares to that of many regular citizens.
Every year, the AFL-CIO reveals the ratio of CEO pay to that of the average worker. This ratio has dropped a bit from last year’s tally of the pay of S&P 500 CEOs, but the outrage meter shouldn’t drop. In 2012, the ratio was 354-to-1, not a far cry from last year’s 380-to-1.
Let’s add some historic context. In 2002, the ratio was 281-to-1. In 1982, it was just 42-to-1. Times sure have changed as “superstar CEOs” have allowed chief executive officers to join the ranks of athletes and movie stars in the realm of decadent compensation compared to the paychecks of most hardworking and less-celebrated Americans.
The upper echelon
Granted, the calculations for these staggering pay figures for chief executives are based on total compensation, which includes stock, options, and so forth. In other words, the CEOs didn’t pocket all the money last year, and paper gains aren’t the same as real ones.
Meanwhile, some of the CEOs listed, such as Larry Ellison, eschew base salary and bonuses, but still, their pockets have been well padded over years’ time through their stock and options. As of March, Forbes calculated Ellison’s net worth at $43 billion. In an interesting aside, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs once chastised his friend Ellison for suggesting Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) buy Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to return Jobs to the helm (and help them both make more money), telling him, “Larry, this is why it’s really important that I’m your friend. You don’t need any more money.”
Granted, the bull market of the last several years has helped many of these individuals realize elevated pecuniary gains from any stock they have sold. And regardless, there’s no way to argue that these individuals’ pay — salaries, bonuses, and even perks (apparently these people sometimes can’t even pay for their own cars, air travel, tax advice, etc.) — doesn’t leave regular Americans in the dust.
The average American worker made just $34,645 per year last year, and has no additional financial resources. CEOs make millions during their tenures, and their yearly take-home salaries bubble ever upward through bonuses, outrageous perks, and major stock-sale windfalls.