'The Gilded Age' Statistics Corporations Don't Want Workers, or Anyone, to See
Aggressive lobbying effort fights disclosure of just how big the income disparities are
If there's one thing about what many are calling the "The New Gilded Age," it's that well-known corporations—not to mention less well-known, but extremely powerful ones—will fight extremely hard to keep secret just how lopsided the economic disparities have become in recent decades between low-paid workers in the society and the executive and ruling class that have reaped the words of a globalized, top-heavy economy.
In but one example, the CEO of JC Penney in 2011 made 1,795 times the amount of money as the average paid worker at the retail chain. Overall, the CEO-to-worker gap is up nearly 20 percent since 2009. What the numbers show, once again, is that in the US economy, some workers are more equal than others.
And as Bloomberg news reports, new disclosure laws designed to reveal the income gap between top executives and regular workers within their companies have been stonewalled by an aggressive lobbying effort at the Security and Exchange Commission. Among the corporations waging war against requirements imposed by the Dodd-Frank financial law are McDonald's, General Electric, and AT&T—all led, according to Bloomberg, by "a Washington-based non-profit called the HR Policy Association, which represents top human resources executives at about 335 large corporations."
Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As the Occupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.
“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.
And as the Huffington Post adds, the Bloomberg analysis arrived
just one day after the S&P 500 soared to a new record, indicating that perhaps the only ones not reaping the benefits from the companies’ historic profitability are workers. Other reports have come to similar conclusions. An analysis from the AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for many of America’s unions, found earlier this month that CEO pay was 354 times that of the average employee.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law aimed to make it easier for the public to know how much CEOs are getting paid in comparison to their workers. The law includes a provision requiring public companies to disclose their CEO-to-worker pay ratios, but nearly three years after the law passed, the Securities and Exchange commission still hasn't put the rule in place, thanks in part to business opposition to the proposal, according to ABC News.
Giving an explanation for all this, Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, told Bloomberg in an interview, “It’s not that [CEOs or investor capital] hates labor, or wants to crush their lives. They just don’t care.”