What do CEOs lack when the ratio of their pay to the median pay of their employees is, say, 4,987 to 1 (Margaret Georgiadis), or 2,893 to 1 (Michael Rapino), or even 909 to 1 (Steve Wynn)? Do they lack shame? Do they lack guilt? Do they lack empathy? Do they lack a simple sense of fairness? Or do they lack anything at all – anything in any case with which we should concern ourselves?
Maybe not. Maybe they lack nothing that’s any of our business. Maybe blaming them for charging what the market will bear is blaming the system – blaming capitalism. But… maybe yes. Maybe they do lack something that is our business, that does affect, infect, America’s body politic.
We know at least three big things. First, we know that Americans are as divided now as at any other time in recent history. Second, we know that Americans are split along several fault lines, one of which is class. And third we know that money, Big Money, has all sorts of insidious effects, including exacerbating our divisiveness and distorting our politics.
CEOs whose pay packages are astronomically high are hardly singlehandedly responsible for the economic and political fractionalization to which I allude. But when the few at the top allow themselves to be extravagantly well compensated, while the many at the bottom struggle to make ends meet, the former clearly contribute to our collective dis-ease.
One could argue, then, that too many chief executive officers lack moral outrage at the gross inequities from which they blatantly benefit. And, one could argue that too many chief exective officers lack political awareness – the awareness that by fueling unfairness they are fueling the dystopia that threatens America.