Bill Murchison

No one has the least idea how much money a corporate chief executive deserves to earn -- is that the word, "earn"? -- but if you don't hear a campaign issue starting to crackle and sizzle, you just aren't listening.

Here's the operative point: Chief executive officers on average earn 179 times as much as their ordinary workers.

Here's another operative point: Voters can be persuaded by diligent political effort to dislike and despise not just the recipients of this largesse, but also, more to the point politically, those who enable it. Aha! Republicans. That's what Democratic strategists are thinking. Who encourages and benefits from these outrageous levels of pay? Those whom the plain folks' party, the Democrats, seek to oust from the White House.

I don't blame the Democrats, really, for looking with such interest at an issue that plays in Peoria and everywhere else, namely, The Unfairness of Wealth Distribution. No issue is older in human experience.

The divide between rich and, well, let's say, less rich is a given in the politics and culture of all nations and societies. It has scriptural associations: Dives and Lazarus, rich young rulers, God vs. Mammon. Dickens used Ralph Nickleby, Ebenezer Scrooge, the Marquis St. Evremonde to wonderful effect. We are bred to wonder at or resent the gap -- size undefined -- that exists between the rich and, yes, us, plain old ordinary us. No wonder politicians use the wealth gap as leverage. For one thing, there aren't nearly as many of the rich as there are of us.

Well, as I say get ready, Stock and stock options, at a time of rampant bull-ism on Wall Street, helped the chief executives of the Fortune 500 to average 38 percent increases in compensation last year, for an estimated total take of $7.5 billion.

I know. Seven point five billion!!! It isn't ... it isn't it just isn't fair . So Mrs. Clinton and her consultants, after she snags the presidential nomination, may be counted on to inform us next year, (notwithstanding that she and her husband, a long way removed from real estate deals in the Arkansas backcountry, may be worth a combined $25 million).

It isn't fair? Maybe not. What is fair? That's the question. What's fair, and especially, who gets to decide?

Minds do and should boggle at the notion of multimillion-dollar paydays. Minds should boggle a great deal more at the notion that: "fairness" and "equity" are determinants in the matter of compensation. Marketplace economies don't work this way, based as they are, and properly so, on the right and risks of choice.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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