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Are democracy and capitalism mutually-exclusive? (Part 1 of 3)
By Oleg Temple, September 2017.
Greed is the illness. Parasitic CEOs and their wage slaves are the symptoms.
Is business ethics dead? Is greed the only pillar propping up our society? We have always been taught that hard work pays off… but does it really? Here’s a question: how much physical or mental work would you have to do to actually earn $500,000 per year? How about $500,000 per month? Focus. Think about it. Imagine the number and the impact such a windfall could have on your life and what one person could do to honestly earn it.
Now consider this: in 2015 Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet was paid $100,632,102 for his work. This means that on average, including the time when he was asleep, this man ‘earned’ roughly $11,500 per hour or $200 per minute or $3.33 per second (while most of the world lives on under $3 per day). This money is not earned, it is simply allotted for having clambered up the backs of hundreds of thousands of people to the tippy top of the pecking order. The compensations and ‘golden parachutes’ certainly have almost nothing to do with the individual’s actual productivity, potential, ability or value, as we have learned from the Wells Fargo, Equifax and Yahoo execs, who actually hurt their companies. When the litterbox hits the fan, the fat cats issue heartfelt appeals for understanding and compassion. They admit that they make mistakes like the rest of us, but when things are going their way, they demand to be ‘compensated’ with the GDPs of small nations!
And here comes the shocker: 2015 was, indeed, a low year for Mr Pichai. In 2014 he ‘earned’ $250 million and in 2016 he was back at $200 million. Three years in a row the man was awarded a NINE-figure salary. Although this is an extreme example, it is clear that when the average nonsupervisory worker earns an annual salary in the neighbourhood of $37,000 something’s not right. Something is broken in the system. It is inconceivable that the value he generates in a year, would take an average worker 5,400 years to match. But that is the number you would need to multiply $37,000 by to achieve $200,000,000. What’s next, a billion-dollar salary? How much money does one person need? No wonder the large corporations are lobbying hard to dodge disclosing these abominable figures and given the crooked political system, it is only a matter of time before they erode the regulations to a point where they can keep their sociopathic dealings behind closed doors. To be fair, most of the compensation was paid in equity, not cash, but to be realistic, when you boil it down, money is money. If it can be converted to money of a certain value, it is money—no matter whether he received a hundred-million-worth of peanuts or rocks. Regardless of the denomination, be it stocks, shares, bonds, checks or cryptocurrency, it is his compensation for work done. What matters is the intrinsic value of the pay out and even if access to the bulk of the sum is blocked for a contractual period, it does not detract from the fact that it is still an insane sum to pay one individual.
Of course, there should be a proportional increase in compensation, in tune with increased responsibility, education, experience, etc. However, “proportional” is the watch word here, while the above example is not only out of tune with any conceivable possibility that he earned the money, it is out of touch with the very fabric of reality. When we try to get our heads around such ridiculously large numbers, the question of fairness hardly even has the time to arise. It is simply grotesque that one person rakes in so much wealth for no sane, justifiable reason.
Sure, these are huge, multinational corporations, but the only way they can afford to pay such astronomical salaries is by cheating—they dodge taxes hiding assets in tax havens, buy up herds of politicians and exploit the workforce which creates actual value. The average worker remains a wage slave, bound by taxes and credits, while paid just enough to cover a minimum living standard and the percentage on their multiple loans so they can (and must) return year after year to trade their most precious asset—time—for miserable living standards.
Earlier this year you might have heard that January 4th was dubbed Fat Cat Wednesday. As the Guardian reported: The over-£1,000-an-hour FTSE 100 bosses will overtake the £28,000-a-year average salary by lunchtime, January 4th on ‘Fat Cat Wednesday’ That is in under 2.5 working days, they were be paid more than the average worker earns for the year. And that is the UK, where CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are paid on average 129 times more than the average worker. Things get even more insane—believe it or not—in the United States, where the average S&P 500 CEO makes 335-375 times more than the average worker.
There are many articles out there, harping on about how the CEOs are ‘plausibly’ worth the monstrous pay checks and bonuses. Some inequality-deniers and puppet think-tanks produce ‘pieces of script’ spewing platitudes about how the fat cats should not be blamed or chastised when share price falls. How no pay cuts should be administered, as they are punished when the stock prices take a dive (since they own so many of them). These spin doctors hype on about how we should consider the NET pay and how disclosure and transparency are costly, complicated procedures. They argue that demanding transparency and taking steps to reduce the gross inequality is dangerous, as the CEOs will resort to tricks like outsourcing and automating labour to cut costs and artificially even out the disparity gap by hiring fewer low-rung workers…
As if they are not already doing everything within their power to suck up all the wealth toward themselves and their fellow shareholders. In a nutshell, the advice boils down to: keep your nose to the grindstone and carry on. Let the fat cats gorge their insatiable appetites and wait for crumbs to fall off their tables, while you meekly do all the actual work. ‘Beware,’ the pundits cry, ‘if you, plebs, clamour too loudly, the feast will move elsewhere, taking with it your menial jobs away and there will not be even crumbs left for you and your families.’ As if what the most fervent wish of the lower 90% in the world is to occupy year after year, until death do them part, a dead-end ‘guard’ job that pays just enough to stay alive and come back for more—a slave wage.
No, by all means, go ahead and streamline the production process. Efficiency is good. Outsource or automate the unimportant drone work, but create meaningful, fulfilling careers in their place so that employees can live with dignity, taking pride in their profession. Don’t just create the illusion of diminished inequality, rather create factual diminished inequality. Given our technological advancements, there are enough resources for everyone to live better and work less at the same time. Imagine all that you could accomplish in a month without a mobile phone and the internet in the 1980s. Today we can create the same value in under a week with all the new knowledge and gadgets at our disposal. And yet we work far more than we used to, not less. Bernie Sanders showed that after the 2007/8 crash, wealth inequality shot up, as the top 1% more than doubled their wealth, while the rest of humanity stagnated or slipped.
“The income inequality that exists in this country is a disgrace. We must stop Wall Street CEOs from continuing to profit on the backs of working people,” said Richard Trumka President of AFL-CIO. “It’s shameful that a CEO can make that type of money and still destroy the livelihood of the hard-working people who make the company profitable.” “a wage that when adjusted for inflation has remained stagnant for 50 years.”
The Reagan-era ‘trickledown economics’ is a failed experiment. It does not work. Why? Well the reason is simple: believe it or not, the Pichais, Gates, Buffets, Zuckerbergs, etc. of the world are actually human… in every physical sense of the word, at least. They need rest and food like the rest of us, in fact, exactly like the rest of us. The trickledown idea is based on the misguided premise that when the money moguls splurge on garish parties, yachts and other prerequisites of their lavish lives, they will support businesses producing these luxury items, then the purveyors of these goods and services will, in turn, spend what they receive on slightly lower-grade items, so on and so forth, thus the money will circulate smoothly throughout the economy. The flaw in the thesis is that one human person only needs so much edible gold and can only party for so long. The stinking-rich are also equipped with just one pair of arms and legs, so they can use only so many private jets, mansions, supercars, etc. At a certain point, the excess money just gets stashed as a maniacal claim to fame—vying for supremacy in the world’s richest rankings, while half the world starves and burns in senseless wars.
Perhaps radical legislation is long-overdue to cap individual wealth at a certain level of excess, say 100 million in the dominant currency and automatically circulate the rest and continued ‘earnings’ back into the economy? And do away with the eroded taxation system for the rich (where many millionaires pay less tax rate than drivers or nurses)? This would be good for humanity and be kind to the Earth—the rat race would halt, there would be no more need for fracking, pollution to cut costs or oil-fuelled wars, the vast majority of people would live more meaningful lives. After all, what most people long for is happiness, not money. Perhaps humanity ought to trade its deal with the devil for a deal with God?
Alas! The very fact that despite all of the common-sense evidence to the contrary, the above idea is still seen as preposterous, a gross, radical violation of ‘personal freedoms’ is proof that our society has been brainwashed beyond the brink of insanity. People belonging to the top 50% typically fervently defend the ‘right’ of the top 0.0001% of the population to horde more wealth than the rest of humanity combined, for no sane reason. Propagate this cancer capitalism trend to its logical, inevitable conclusion. Will we still back this lemming charge into the abyss, when it boils down to one person owning more than the rest of humanity combined? In a big way, we get what we deserve for accepting the status quo. A wise man (I believe Tony Benn) once commented that if people truly desire change, there is no power on Earth that can stop them. But until they desire change, there is nothing those in power can do about it.
The stream, of course, does not flow in reverse. Until the people awaken from their complacent slumber, the folks in power will continue making life better for themselves by passing more constricting legislation, weakening unions and undermining public corporations. In short, sparing no effort in feathering their nests with ill-begotten fortunes and wiping their feet on the freedoms systematically sheared off the terrified, obedient flock.
Tony Benn also commented on the overarching power of the media: “like the power of the medieval Church, ensures that events of the day are always presented from the point of the view of those who enjoy economic privilege.” But perhaps his most profound quote was this: “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”
Instead we now truly live in a circus of the absurd, where psychopathic parasites like Erik Prince (of Blackwater, Academi or whatever they’re calling their murderers’ clique these days) lobby the US government to privatize war itself, so he can literally engorge himself further on the blood of others. Lobbying and deregulation only incentivise vulture capitalism and drive opportunistic disaster economics. How can democracy exist when governments go rogue, no longer serving the people, but special interests? The only way to shatter this pestilent paradigm is to wean the politicians off the legal bribes they are allowed to accrue, demand transparency and hold wrongdoers fully accountable—be they a common person, bank boss, judge, president or prime minister.
In part two of this article, we will examine an elusive societal construct where all citizens receive a pay out from the government, financed by profitable publicly-owned corporations, national funds and taxes on the top-tier 10%. See you there!