Sunday, October 16, 2011

The $600million dollar men

In light of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration taking place in downtown New York- and those of similar persuasions across the U.S.- the country's richest one per cent are a very unpopular group right about now. Making for more trouble, Forbes just released the list of the wealthiest 25 CEOs, and their earning numbers are astronomical. The amount of money that the country's top ten wealthiest CEOs make in one year is enough to pay the salary of 18,330 'average' Americans.

The average salary in the U.S. was $33,000 in 2008- and though that is the most recent data, it does not even account for the brunt of the recession. That is basically nothing when compared to the $604.9million made by the top ten earners last year. The elite one per cent group includes anyone making over $380,000 per year, and the top ten CEOs make well above that.

The top spot is held by John Hammergren, 52, the CEO of pharmaceutical company McKesson who earned a salary of $131.2million and a net total income, which includes bonuses and profits from stock earnings, of $1.2billion. And that's not all: Mr Hammergren's company stands to expand if President Obama's health care program is enacted due to increased contracts.

Though Ralph Lauren is thought of as a 'classic' American brand, the company's leader is still right up there with the new companys. Mr Lauren, 72, was the second highest earning CEO with a salary of $66.7million, though that's just nearly ten per cent of his total earnings last year which were $630million. Michael Fascitelli of New Jersey-based real estate firm Vornado Realty gets the bronze with $64.4 million compensation.

Robert 'Bob' Iger, 60, worked closely with Steve Jobs as Mr Iger negotiated the sale of Pixar to his company The Walt Disney Company. Mr Iger did well for himself last year, earning $53.3million. The numbers, while staggering, may not be the most shocking aspect of the list: geography is.

None of the top 10 earning CEOs are from Wall Street, or even the financial sector. Three are from healthcare companies(McKesson, Express Scripts and UnitedHealth Group), two from fashion houses (Ralph Lauren and Coach), one from real estate (Vornado Realty), one from entertainment (Disney), one from internet travel (, one from advertising (Omnicom Group) and one from oil and gas (Ultra Petroleum).

The earning inequalities between the country's wealthiest and the so-called 99 per cent, who have found their voice in the Occupy protests, has grown substantially over the last generation, and not simply due to the recession. Twenty years ago, the average salary was, when injusted for inflation, almost identical to that of today. Over the same span of time, the country's wealthiest earners has grown by a third. Experts point to a number of factors, including globalization, a decreased role for unions, and, obviously, a global economic collapse.

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