Top-paid CEOs to taxpayers: thanks a million!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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Some statements by corporate chieftains tickle my funny bone – but more often they torture my cynical bone.

Take the hoary claim that today's extravagant level of CEO pay is the natural product of the magical free market. To attract top executive talent, goes this line, it's simply essential to lay out a feast of big bucks. Not mentioned is another "magical force" bloating the big boss' paycheck: you and me. Specifically, us taxpayers. In a case of the rules being rigged by-and-for the elite, America's tax laws conveniently provide that the more the chief is paid, the bigger the tax break the corporation gets.

So, naturally, they get a lot. In its annual report on executive excess, the watchdog Institute for Policy Studies recently documented 26 corporations that lavished an average of $20 million on each of their CEOs last year, including CBS, Citigroup, Discovery, Motorola Mobility, Oracle and Viacom. In every case, the compensation loophole and other special breaks meant that the corporation paid more to their top guy than they paid in federal income taxes.

In addition, thanks to the Bush tax giveaways to the uppermost upper-income takers, more than half of last year's 100 top-paid CEOs were able to dodge at least a million dollars each in personal income taxes they otherwise owed to support the public services that benefit them. The honcho of oil & gas fracker ConocoPhillips, for example, got nearly a $7 million tax subsidy from us on his 2011 pay of more than $145 million.

It's bad enough that top bosses have grossly inflated their pay while relentlessly slashing the wages of employees – but it's grotesque that they've perverted our tax laws to underwrite their excess. To see the IPS report and recommendations for reform, go to www.ips-dc.org.

"CEOs Tax the People," Austin American Statesman," August 25, 2012.

"Bush Tax Cuts Saved 57 CEOs More Than $1 Million Each Last Year," www.alternet.org, August 16, 2012.

"Taxpayers Subsidize CEP Pay, Report Says," www.yahoo.com, August 16, 2012.

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