Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini believes that someone doing a full day’s work should be paid enough to live on (according to James Surowiecki in the February 9, 2015 edition of the New Yorker magazine).
The assumption that companies were responsible not only to their shareholders but also to their workers is a theme that government representatives, like Senator Warren, might speak about in the upcoming presidential campaign. That is why someone like Peter Drucker, the dean of management theorists, could argue that no company’s CEO should be paid more than twenty times what its average employee earned.
Bertolini—who, as it happens, once worked on a Ford rear-axle assembly line—says, “It’s hard for people to be fully engaged with customers when they’re worrying about how to put food on the table. So, I don’t buy the idea that paying people well, means sacrificing short-term earnings.”
While companies these days tend to pay lavishly for talent on the high end---Bertolini made eight million dollars in 2013—they tend to treat frontline workers as disposable commodities. It’s that all the rewards went into profits and executive salaries, rather than wages. That arrangement is the result not of some inevitable market logic but of a corporate ethos that says companies should pay workers as little as they can, and no more.
The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.
Four decades ago, households with children at the 90th percentile of incomes received five times as much as those at the 10th percentile, according to Bruce Western and Tracey Shollenberger of the Harvard sociology department. Now they have 10 times as much. The gaps have widened even more higher up the income scale.
The key issue in the presidential election of 2016 will focus on engineering the return of the "American Dream" versus maintaining today's Corporate Ethos that rewards the 1% of the United States population.
Baby Boomers are the best educated of all former generations. However, they need to read or re-read "Captains and The Kings" to better understand how their country is being weaken through political policies that endanger the American Dream.
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