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'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, (original, huh?) airs on Tuesdays at 10:PM and Saturdays at 8:PM, Eastern time on RainbowRadio.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An argument for proportinate pay

It's funny, but sometimes when you start to gather information together for a topic, you come across someone who's already said it all perfectly!  Lemme splain...

After the nonsense in the comments section of this thread on MMFA, I thought it might be time to put in my two cents on wages.  And... it really wasn't on topic, as the thread was about Tom DeLay saying how "people are unemployed because they want to be."  That's the same bullshit that the Republicans always trot out whenever they want to eliminate whatever paper-thin safety nets we still have left.  Of course, saying something like that in this economy sure demonstrates either a complete brainlessness or utter heartlessness on the part of the former Senate Majority Leader.  Of course I never accused him of having either a heart or a brain, but if the Democrats had any nerve they'd be playing that clip up and down the yellow-brick road until November.

ANYWAY... as it often happens, things got a bit OT in the comments section, and a few people started blaming Unions - another right wing gem; as if those same rich CEO cocksuckers that laid everybody off in the first place would have been happy to pay their labor a living wage voluntarily.  I mean, that has exactly ZERO historical precedent of happening, with the lone exception of Henry Ford who paid his people more so they wouldn't unionize. (See - even in that case workers made more because of the Union!  The Union even helped out non-members!)  Well, whatever, I didn't want this to turn into a UNION post, and I'm the wrong guy to defend the Unions anyway, except for the most absurd RW attacks, but this strawman from Highliter got me thinking about wages:

Most of the manufacturing jobs are UNSKILLED labor and don't deserve middle class wages. Someone who puts tab A into slot B does not deserve the same wage as skilled professionals.

Now... the biggest problem with this statement is that NO ONE was suggesting that "unskilled labor" should get the same wages as skilled professionals.  But... a living wage would be nice!  And this is what pisses me off... See, I'm an Engineer, with an MBA.  I make a decent living.  And guess what? I'm struggling!  Now, my wife staying home with the kids doesn't help in that department, but that was our choice, and that's fine - I'm not griping about that.   But I can tell you that I most definitely feel I'm underpaid!  And it's not just me: I defy you to find ANY engineer in ANY industry, who's at least a few years out of school, who doesn't feel this way!  Now I had to go to school for four years, and get a degree (something that Highliter thought was what you needed to be a CEO:

Because a CEO had to go to 4 years of school and get a degree.
(Yeah... it's a little more complicated than that, Highliter.)  But as it is, I'm only making slightly more than some of those "unskilled laborers" make, at least after overtime and bonuses. Now... WHO'S FAULT IS THAT?

Well: My own of course.  But let's say I'm feeling envious and want to blame someone.  According to Highlighter's logic, the way that I should feel better about my own situation would be to pay those "unskilled laborers" less.  But that doesn't really help me does it?  Not when there are CEO's pulling down Millions, even last year, even as their companies tumbled and had to bailed out by the gov't / taxpayers!  How exactly did they "earn" this money?  How much "skill" does it take to bankrupt a BANK?!  A lot, I suppose, but it doesn't seem the kind of skill that should command a high salary!

So what I really wanted to show here was a little perspective.  And lo and behold THIS is the first article I came across.  It's from 2002, but it lays out the problem PERFECTLY.  Because MY answer to the wage gap that I feel would be to pay the "unskilled labor" pretty much what they're getting now, maybe a little more, and give myself and my fellow engineers good 30-50% raise.  And where would that money come from? Simple: OVERPAID EXECUTIVES.

Consider this (from that article):
Back in 1980, CEOs made 45 times the pay of average workers. [In 2002], they made 241 times as much.
And it's worse now.  Consider this...Let's say you've got an engineer making $70,000 per year.  I make a little more than that, but that's not a terribly low estimate for engineers.  Now, if that engineer's company pays their CEO $7,000,000 per year, he makes 100 times as much.  To see how absurd that is, consider this: Someone's career might last about 40 years.  (From mid 20's to mid 60's, let's say.)  Now, this CEO makes two and a half times as much as that Engineer will make in his entire career, EVERY YEAR.  And it's not like Engineers qualify as "unskilled labor!"  What's more, $7-Mil isn't even that high! Again, from the article:
Median CEO pay at the 100 large companies in Fortune's survey rose 14 percent last year to $13.2 million.
THIRTEEN.POINT.TWO.MILLION.  That's the MEDIAN.  So at the fifty largest companies, CEO's made just under FIVE TIMES (4.7 time, based on 40 years) what that engineer will make in his entire career... EVERY SINGLE YEAR!

And remember: Median income for individual workers in this country isn't $70K.  It's more like $48K per year, according the latest data I could easily find.  And remember: that's MEDIAN INCOME.  So half of America  makes less than that!

Consider THIS piece on CEO pay in the Insurance Industry.  CEO's getting paid upwards of $25 Million Dollars just to deny us health care?  Puh-lease.  (Back to that engineer: we're up to about NINE TIMES what the engineer makes in his entire career going to these assholes EVERY YEAR.)

Anyway, I think you get the picture.  If I can live on $70,000 a year (and I make a little more, but whatever) If I can live on that, as a degreed engineer with a Master's Degree surely anyone should be able to drink a nice hot, steaming cup of STFU, making say... $2.8 Million a year, or: what that engineer will make in his career, but making that every year. Boo-frickin'-who-for-you if you can't live quite well and quite happily on $2.8 Mil per year.  That's $23,000 per MONTH! $7776 per DAY!  When was the last time YOU spent seven grand in a single day and didn't drive home a new (used) car?!  Imagine doing that EVERY DAY!  (That would be like Brewster's Millions!)

So here's an idea that I've been kicking for while now.  Let's get rid of the minimum wage.  Seriously.  Let's scrap it.  It's ends up not so much a floor for these people as a GOAL, so let's get rid of it.  And let's replace it with a law which says that the highest paid person in any company, in terms of TOTAL compensation, can be paid no more than 50 times (or 60, 70... PICK A NUMBER) what the LOWEST paid employee gets in terms of his total compensation.  (Broken down based of a 2200 hour work year, for example, since part-time employees could screw that formula up.)  But whatever, say, the guy who sweeps the floor makes in terms of an hourly wage, the CEO's total compensation package cannot exceed 50 times that, once broken down by 2200 hours per year.

Think about that: There's no salary cap.  You can absolutely pay your CEO $20 Million a year if you want... provided that there's enough left to pay even the lowliest employee $400K!  And everyone in between would also have to be paid proportionately.  A manager could, say, make no more than tow or three time what his lowest paid direct report gets, for example.  Skilled labor would have to be guaranteed double what unskilled labor makes, etc...

If the CEO wants a raise? Everyone has to get at least the same percentage increase.  Not enough to go around? Well... I guess that CEO didn't do such a good job, did he?  How about bonuses or profit sharing?  Same thing: Distribute proportionate to Salary.  If the CEO wants a Million Dollar bonus?  There has to be enough to give even your floor-shiner and toilet bowl cleaner a smooth 20-Grand.  Also, lest he be tempted to go a fire a bunch of people, just to raise the salary floor, NO BONUSES should be paid out to ANYONE if (a) the company reports a net-loss to the IRS or (b) lays of more than, say... 1% of it's total workforce.

And the beauty of this is that the most successful companies will attract the best people, at least at first, but small, entrepreneurial up-and-comers, will also benefit, since jobs might be little tighter at some of those big firms.  And the best opportunities will still be at growing companies anyway.  CEO pay at those big firms will be pretty hard to increase, while one at a small firm has lots of potential for growth, provided they share the wealth along the way!

Now... you can pick any number you want.  Maybe 50 IS too low.  I'm sure Classicliberal will argue for something lower while Highliter will argue for something higher, for example.  I don't really care what the number is, although I don't think anyone would argue that it should be 500.  That the factor between 50 Grand and 25 Mil, which should work out for some of those insurance companies.  No reason it should be anywhere near that much.  But whatever. Once we settle on a number, who thinks this would work?  Who's buying?  Who's with me?

Because I'd vote for this in a New York minute.


  1. Nice Guy Eddie -

    An interesting idea.

    My guess is that the CEO would subvert the law by immediately outsourcing/contracting everything. Oh wait, here in Silicon Valley, they already are doing that!



  2. "Let's get rid of the minimum wage ... and replace it with a law which says that the highest paid person in any comapny, in terms of TOTAL compensation, can be paid no more than 50 times (or 60, 70... PICK A NUMBER) what the LOWEST paid employee gets in terms of his total compensation."

    I wasn't sure if you had what it takes to run a blog after watching you get totally schooled on filibusters, but this is a stunningly brilliant idea. The upside is everywhere. And the difficulty in enforcement, though considerable, isn't any worse than enforcing taxes.

  3. During my first stab at being an entrepreneur (arguably my second, but since it's me arguing, my argument is that it was the first), I discovered why everything in that word after the first syllable closely rhymes with "manure." A law that required I give my lowest paid employee 50 or 60 times what I make would have still seen that employee getting nothing--the same as he would have gotten if I was required to pay him exactly what I made. If I'd had any employees. My video store, for most of its three-year run, redefined "minimum wage."

    More seriously, though, I've always liked the idea of capping the ability to write off executive salaries at a certain amount. Probably wouldn't tangibly help anything, any more than would your suggestion, because, when corporate America can't do anything else worth a damn, it can get around a tax law better than the most miserly of backwoods coots who stuffs his mattress with his savings.

  4. Tengrain,

    True, but that would only work if the CEO's at the suppliers and contract houses were willing to make so much less themselves that their labor (at 1/50th THEIR salaries) ended up that much cheaper.



    Dude, come on, SCHOOLED? Nah. Classic and I just don't see eye to eye on fili's that's all. Still don't in fact. No more than you and I do on Religion. And that's perfectly OK. This isn't any fun at all if we always AGREE with each other! And the fact that y'all kept coming back so strong is exactly why I prefer to argue with Liberals than Conservatives: They actually make me THINK and challenge me a little. So those kinds of threads are exactly why I DO this. Anyway, glad you like this idea. If you're so inclined, go back to Sept 12 of last year, and take a look at my health care plan. I'd be curious to know what you think of it.



    You know, you're always so optimistic. You should be careful; someone might think you're naive or something. ;)

    Admittedly, many of these idea's come with an acknowledged dose of naivete on my part, but most good ideas look like they'll never work when they're first put out there.

    BTW - you're lowest paid employee would have gotten 1/50th what you did, not 50 times. LOL. But I guess it doesn't matter... As my boss once said, in an argument over what to tip the waitress that he just a got a free meal from: Hey, 15% of nothin' is NOTHIN'. (Yeah, he really was THAT CHEAP.) LOL

    You're right about where Corporate America's true talent lies though. No argument there.

    Thank you all for your comments.

  5. "You know, you're always so optimistic. You should be careful; someone might think you're naive or something. ;)"

    It's a perception I'm forever battling.

    "BTW - you're lowest paid employee would have gotten 1/50th what you did, not 50 times. LOL."

    Yes, for whatever reason, I got that completely backwards. But you understood!

    "But I guess it doesn't matter..."

    In my own defense, the theoretical employee in question would have been paid the same dollar amount if I'd been legally obligated to pay him 50x what I made, or 1/50th of what I made.

    "As my boss once said, in an argument over what to tip the waitress that he just a got a free meal from: Hey, 15% of nothin' is NOTHIN'. (Yeah, he really was THAT CHEAP.) LOL"

    Cough up a buck, ya' cheap bastid! I paid fuh yuh goddamn breakfast. Never mind what you NORMALLY would do!"

    "You're right about where Corporate America's true talent lies though. No argument there."

    It's the only one they consistently have.

  6. My friend, MISTER PINK!!!

    Look at the big brain on ClassicLiberal!

  7. Sorry, that was actually from MY DAD, wasn't it?

    But well played!

  8. "This isn't any fun at all if we always AGREE with each other!"

    Sure thing. It's perfectly okay to fight. It's also perfectly okay for a winner to exist.

    Regarding health care, I can't really get motivated to study a problem that's already been solved 30 times, so apologizes for not examining your plan closely. Pick a country. Do what they do. Health care problem solved. Or wipe out the "over 65" part of medicare and raise taxes on the rich until it's paid for.

  9. Steeve,

    While certainly exagerated by our Right, I'm not willing to completely right off the criticisms of socialized medice / single payer systems. For my part I deliver the same level of care (better, I dare say) but use market forces in functional ways to keep costs down, and encorage the kinds of behaviors on the part of patients, doctors and the financiers that we want to see.

    But fair enough, I won't say that we disagree on health care anyway!

    Thanks for your comment.