If I were a CEO being paid such astronomical amounts and people were being laid off, or struggling in a recession, at least in part due to the lack of pay increases, I would feel morally obligated to take less money. I would ask the chief financial officer of my company to share some of my wealth with loyal employees so that they could continue caring for their families.
One doesn't have to be a liberal who believes in income redistribution to see the unfairness in disproportionate pay. Think of the kudos and favorable press coverage that would come to a corporate chief who shared his wealth, rather than lay off employees. It could change not only the media coverage of big business, but also the way the public perceives the super rich. Heck, some of them might even start voting Republican!
Five CEOs saw a slight decline in compensation, according to the USA Today/GovernanceMetrics international data, but they still earned more than most lottery winners receive.
President Obama has spoken of some of these CEOs as not "needing" the money they get. Again, that is a subjective judgment. What he should be doing is shaming those companies that lay off workers while paying their top management such exorbitant salaries and benefits. Stockholders ought to demand that no competent worker should be laid off if a CEO earns above a certain amount of money. Stockholders also have a moral responsibility beyond the dividends they receive.
Making money is a noble American objective, making a living is a nobler one. Corporations ought to have enough decency and compassion to make sure no worker is let go solely to increase the bottom line or pad the boss's pockets with more money than he (or she) can ever hope to spend in a lifetime.