George Graham

Does the Corporate Culture Scare You? Get Used to it!

As CEO salaries go through the roof and working stiffs get the shaft, dark thoughts of corporate skullduggery invade my mind. What do CEOs do, anyway? The ones I have met seem not just ordinary but dim witted. They live by self-evident cliches (“The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” for example) and jump from one silly fad to another (“empowering the front line” and so  on).

So why do they get so much money?

According to The New York Times:

The median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million. That works out to a 23 percent gain from 2009.

The Times article adds:

And it’s not as if most workers are getting fat raises. The average American worker was taking home $752 a week in late 2010, up a mere 0.5 percent from a year earlier. After inflation, workers were actually making less.

I don’t know where the Times got that “average worker” figure (nearly $40,000 a year). Certainly, their “average American worker” isn’t flipping hamburgers or driving a delivery truck. In my neck of the woods, you must be middle-class if you’re making $40,000 a year.  That’s what teachers and reporters, and even some nurses, make (the ones who still have jobs).

Two liberal groups – the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy – agree with the CEO figure ($10.8 million) but they put the average pay for us minions at $29, 544 a year.

Even so, $752 a week is a long way from $10.8 million a year. If my calculator can be trusted, that means  CEOs are making 250 times as much as the “average worker.” And if you accept the $29,544 figure for workers, the CEOs are making more than 330 times as much as their employees.

Come on!

Who do they think they’re kidding.  My suspicion is that their secretaries or “administrate assistants,” do their work while they play golf and go to receptions and conventions.,

But even if the CEOs are smart, how can you justify that kind of compensation gap?

Some guy I met at the golf course, who said he was a member of several corporate boards,  told me that CEOs sit on each other’s boards and raise each other’s pay in a mutual-aid scam.

I have no way of knowing if that’s true.

But I do know the corporate big shots and their pals in Congress don’t want shareholders to know what executives make.

Congress passed a law last year that required publicly-traded companies to disclose the ratio between executive compensation and worker salaries. As soon as the Republicans won control of the House, they set about repealing that provision.

So you tell me what’s going on.

The way I see it, as corporations become ever more powerful politically, the corporate culture becomes increasingly dominant in society. It’s a secretive, hierarchical culture, in which the folks at the top get away with a lot of shady stuff.

And with the U.S. Supreme Court in corporate hands, the trend toward a Big Business world is accelerating.

It looks to me as if such concepts as transparency, democracy and fairness are on their way out.

Welcome to a “free market” world.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for