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Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007 02:22 pm

America

What happened to the notion that we’re all in it together?

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Untitled Document What happened to the good ol’ American notion of the common good — the idea that we’re all in this together, trying to build a strong, unified society by fairly sharing the economic gains that all of us help produce? Oh, sure, we’ve always had the rich and the poor, but at least we’ve tried in the past to narrow that gap, recognizing that a cohesive democratic society — a morally secure society — is dependent on maintaining both a vibrant middle class and a broad perception of fairness. Today the powers that be — both corporate and governmental — have abandoned all pretense of shared sacrifice, shared gains, and a shared future. The very, very rich are being made ever and ever richer, and they are sailing blithely away from the rest of us, no longer moored to America’s egalitarian ideals.
The latest indicator of this extreme change in our nation’s guiding ethic comes from United for a Fair Economy (go to faireconomy.org), which analyzes CEO pay, perks, and pensions. The group’s latest survey finds that the chieftains of Fortune 500 corporations averaged $10.8 million each in pay in 2006 — more than 364 times the annual paychecks of the average U.S. worker! Well, asserts the CEO clique, we run huge corporations and are simply being paid accordingly. However, faireconomy.org compared the 20 highest-paid U.S. chief executives with the 20 highest-paid in Europe. The European chiefs took only one-third as much pay — even though they ran companies that generated $19 billion more in sales than the U.S. companies did. The ever-spreading pay gap has become a sundering chasm in our society. To learn more about it and to see some proposals for bridging this dangerous fissure, go to www.faireconomy.org.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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