Ratio of CEO to Worker Compensation

Ratio of CEO to Worker Compensation

Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet (OXFAM, 2017). Eight men own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world (OXFAM, 2017). Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs—a sum larger than the GDP

‡ of India, a country of 1.3

billion people (OXFAM, 2017). The incomes of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than $3 a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times as much (OXFAM, 2017). In Bloomberg’s daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, the world’s wealthiest 3 people (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos), all White American men, have total net worths of 85, 79, and 73 billion U.S. dollars, respectively (Bloomberg, 2017). By comparison the 2015 GDP of Sri Lanka was $82 billion, Luxembourg was $58 billion, and Iceland $16 billion (World Bank, 2017). The world’s 10 richest people are all men. Nine of ten are White men (Bloomberg, 2017). Had growth been good for the poor between 1990 and 2010, 700 million more people, most of them women, would not be living in poverty today (OXFAM, 2017). In 2015/16, the world’s 10 biggest corporations together had revenue greater than that of the government revenues of 180 countries


combined (OXFAM, 2017). Estimates are that 21 million people (mostly women and girls of Color) are forced laborers, generating an estimated $150 billion in annual profits for corporations (OXFAM, 2017). Canada and the United States have among the widest gaps between the rich and poor (OECD, 2015). In Canada, between 1976–2010, the top 20% of income earners had their income rise by 29%, while the bottom 20% had their income fall by 23% (Rajotte, 2013). In the United States, over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300% (OXFAM, 2017).

When we think about what class positions we hold, we might initially focus solely on economics—that is, being rich or being poor; in other words, how much money each of us has or earns. This is an important element for understanding social class, and income distribution is among the most available statistic collected. However, income is not the only element that forms our class positions. Class is also (and perhaps primarily) about political power: the ability to influence policy, control capital, and shape institutional structures.

For example, the ruler of a nation state might draw a relatively modest income: the prime minister of Canada’s salary is 170,000 Canadian dollars, while the U.S. president’s salary is 400,000 U.S. dollars (Parliament of Canada, 2017; U.S. House of Representatives, 2017). These are likely salaries that few of us will ever see. However, this is not the primary source of their power; there are people earning much higher incomes. Yet both of these men have a great deal of political power that lies in their ability to influence social and institutional policy. Very few among us will ever have access to this kind of political power.

Global activist movements such as Occupy have made the 1% more visible, helping to uncover the relationship between economics and political influence. Thus, thinking about class requires that we consider together issues of income and issues of power.

OCCUPY (Also Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Movement): The Occupy movement is an international sociopolitical movement against social and income inequality and the lack of real democracy (full participation by all and representation for all) around the world; its primary goal being to advance social and economic justice and new forms of democracy.

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