Okay, fair question time: Is this okay with you?

Is there any spiritual reason for, or value in, a society’s working to reduce the gap between its highest, middle, and lowest income brackets? Can anything be said in favor of a culture that seeks to promote ideas and ideals, and maybe even create mechanisms, that militate against an “every man for himself/to the winner go the spoils” mentality?

If a particular society observes this gap to be grower larger, larger, and ever larger, is there anything to be said for doing what it takes to put a stop to that widening, and to even shrinking that chasm, so that a “good life” may be experienced by all?

What can be said of a society that creates a bigger and bigger gulf between the rich and the poor — and puts into place mechanisms and laws, choices and decisions that reinforce the notion that everything about this is alright; indeed, that this is the way it should be?

I ask these questions because the other day the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, released statistics showing that the average earning of a CEO in a major company in 2012 was $14.1 million. That’s per year, not per lifetime. The figure represents a 12.7% increase for the boss over the previous year.

Average worker salaries, meanwhile, have not increased by 12.7%. Nor even by 6%. Nor even by 2%. Nor, in fact, at all.

For most workers in the U.S., wages in 2012 remained at their 2011 levels — and that’s in the best-case scenarios. Many saw their wages actually fall, the EPI study showed.

And the salaries of their bosses are not the only compensation awarded the folks in the front office. Most also received stock options and other awards, adding more than 50% of their actual cash paycheck to their total income.

All this is happening because corporate earnings continue to soar. But the workers who make those earnings possible are not reaping their proportionate share of the benefit. The website Business Insider.com recently carried the headline:

Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High,
Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low

(Read more here)

The good news is that at least a larger number of Americans are working today — however disproportionate their wage — than at any time in the past thirty years.

Oh, I’m sorry. I got that wrong. It’s exactly the opposite. The Business Insider website says it’s precisely the other way around.

It seems that American companies are hiring fewer American workers than ever before in history.

Than ever in history.

And while workers are so hungry for jobs that they’ll take sub-par wages just to keep bread on their family’s table, corporate heads are making 20 times what their employees earn, dollar for dollar. That’s right. For every dollar the average worker earns, the average CEO earns twenty.

Oh, gosh…I’m so sorry. I got that wrong, too.  That was in 1965. Gee, I was looking at the wrong page on my stat sheet. Today, in 2012, the CEO of a major company makes, on average, something along the order of 273 times more than the average worker.

What is perhaps most remarkable of all: It is not only the very rich who seem to be okay with all this. Millions of people in the middle, and even lower, income class in the U.S. also apparently think this is perfectly alright. Many will tell  you: This is the American way. Theirs is the Land of Opportunity, and in the Land of Opportunity everyone has the same chance to “get theirs.”

But is it true? Does everyone in America have an equal opportunity? Is it true of black Americans? Female Americans? Gay Americans? I just ask. Does everyone in America have an equal opportunity to be the CEO of a major company, and earn nearly 273% more than the workers they boss?

More important, is this really the way that an enlightened society sets up its laws and economic mechanisms, and treats its members?

I am curious. Really curious. What do you think? Is there any spiritual reason for, or value in, a society’s working to reduce the gap between its highest, middle, and lowest income brackets? Can anything be said in favor of a culture that seeks to promote ideas and ideals, and maybe even create mechanisms, that militate against an “every man for himself/to the winner go the spoils” mentality?

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  • Hanan

    >Millions of people in the middle, and even lower, income class in the U.S. also apparently think this is perfectly alright

    I would consider myself being in the lower middle class and yes, I am perfectly alright with it. I am less alright with (and personally a little frightened) by those that seek a utopian society and push towards policies for “equality of result.” I also don’t understand the question of “spirituality” in all of this. Sure there is value in helping people rise, but it depends how. Do you do it by artificially leveling the playing field and taking from others or do you do it by instilling the value of hard work AND (the most important part) also instilling that there are no guarantees. Part of life is not JUST the outcome, but the journey. You will never be able to save everyone. If you try, you will inevitably reduce the liberties of others. I don’t care that CEO’s are making billions. Let them have it. They are under no obligation to hire me. Why even harp on CEO’s not hiring? What about regular every day joes and their businesses that seek ways to reduce their workforce? How about the regular citizens (not CEO’s) that prefer to outsource services (that I can offer) for cheap? That affects me doesn’t it? That affects my income, no?

    >“every man for himself/to the winner go the spoils” mentality?

    This is just old rhetoric. In general we are all winners. But we are winners to varying degrees. I also understand my capabilities and lack thereof. What I do in a week is incomparable to what your average CEO or business owner does.

    • NealeDonaldWalsch

      Interesting. Thanks for your comment, Hanan. Very interesting. But what if we helped others rise not by “artificially leveling the playing field,” but by re-writing a Cultural Story that says it is perfectly okay for billions to be struggling and millions to be abjectly suffering while 5% of the world’s people hold or control 95% of the world’s wealth and resources?

      I am suggesting that it is our Cultural Story that is the problem here. It is a story of Separation; a story that says I am over here and you are over there, rather than: We are all One. It is a story that says “every man for himself,” rather than “one for all and all for one.” It is a story that says, yes, it is perfectly okay for society to openly support and encourage a system in which one person can earn 273 times more than another simply because he or she (rarely a “she”, by the way) is a CEO.

      And I find it very interesting that you assess that what you do in a week is “incomparable” to what the average CEO or business owner does.

      Hmmmm….

      • Heilige Geist

        I’m with Hanan. Your suggesting that reducing this gap is a priority to God or Society. I don’t agree. Money, wealth doesn’t bring happiness, many of the very wealthy are extremely messed up spiritually, emotionally, ethically and are basically making themselves and the people around them miserable. So the number in the bank account is rather meaningless. On the opposite end of the spectrum are people thate very little and yet are extremely mature in those same areas. I think your conrn about this “gap” is not as important as the character gaps. Finally, I’m a believer in a growing pie of wealth. Your suggestions stem from the zero sum game theory, that wealth can only be redistributed. That’s a very negative way to look at life. I’m still struggling, because the temptation is to think of life as a zero sum game, but it’s not. We can grow the wealth and everyone can gain in that growth. Certainly some more than others, and many times it is just luck. So why stress over what others have? If you are Jewish, there’s the 10th commandment, don’t COVET….Christians should be following this principle too….I’m amazed at the number of “spiritual” people that want “social justice”, yet over look basic spiritual tenants such as not to COVET.


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