Moral Low Ground


Median U.S. CEO Pay Soars 24% to $9 Million; Workers’ Pay Up Just 3%

The median CEO pay in the United States rose by 24% to an astonishing $9 million last year, better compensation than during the height of last decade’s economic boom. Meanwhile, the average worker’s pay increased by a paltry 3% to $40,500. These are the findings of a new Associated Press investigation, which utilized data provided by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm.

Salaries, bonuses, stock options and perks continued to be lavished upon American CEOs, even as the nation still reels from the Great Recession that our leaders keep telling us is over. With soaring corporate profits, largely the result of cost-cutting (read layoffs), CEOs are being rewarded like never before.

Worth $84.5 million a year? (Photo: Joi Ito)

The Associated Press used Equilar data to analyze CEO compensation packages at 334 different companies in the S&P 500. It found that Philippe Dauman of entertainment behemoth Viacom made the most in 2010– a whopping $84.5 million. That’s 250% more than he “earned” in 2009. Six of the top ten best-paid CEOs hail from media or entertainment companies. Leslie Moonves of CBS raked in a cool $56.9 million, David Zaslav of Discovery Communications made $42.6 million, Brian Roberts of Comcast was paid $31.1 million, Disney’s Robert Iger got $28 million and Jeff Bewkes at Time Warner pulled in $26.1 million.

The ten top-earning CEOs from all fields made a combined $440 million in 2010. All the companies combined also handed out over $2 billion in stock and stock options in 2010, a $27 million increase over 2009.

Then there are the workers. While CEOs reveled in their seven- and eight-figure compensations, the typical American worker struggled to earn a puny $40,500 last year. That’s less than one-half of one percent– 0.5%– of what the average CEO in the Associated Press study made. Viacom’s Dauman made 2086 times as much as the average American.

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