Imagine the United States as a company that employs 10,000 people. Let’s call our imaginary company “Enterprise America,” and let’s apply to the company’s internal compensation the latest IRS income distribution percentages.
Half the folks on the Enterprise America payroll turn out to earn less than $41,740 once we make that application. Middle-managers make much more. Some them have incomes that hit $145,135, enough to gain them entry into the ranks of Enterprise America’s highest-paid 1,000 people.
Enterprise America’s highest-level executives — all ten of them — do considerably better. They each make at least $2,374,937. And the Enterprise America chief executive, the company’s single highest-paid individual, makes much more still, a lofty $12,899,070.
Wait, we have more to our story. Fifteen years ago, our Enterprise America CEO only made $5,891,214. Since then, even after adjusting for inflation, that CEO has seen his pay jump by 37 percent. Over those same years, the typical Enterprise America inflation-adjusted employee paycheck has dropped by 6 percent.
Another marker on what’s been happening within Enterprise America: The company’s CEO now makes 309 times more than the company’s typical employee. Fifteen years ago, the Enterprise America CEO pay topped the pay of the company’s typical employee by only 219 times.
Enterprise America has become a much more unequal place. And so has our real-life United States of America.
Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org. His recent books include The Case for a Maximum Wage and The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. Follow him at @Too_Much_Online.