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There's no easy way to talk about CEO pay. But Tony Stark GIFs are a good start.

They may be paid like Tony Stark. But they're no Tony Stark.

In 2014, CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms made 303 times more than their average workers.

Chart by Economic Policy Institute.


First of all, are we talking about hundreds of Tony Starks? Are we dealing with f**king Ironmen? Because payouts like that could make sense if they're saving the world like everyone's favorite "genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist."

In Stark we trust. All GIFs from "Iron Man 2."

But they're not. There are no arc reactors MacGyvered in desert caves to keep their hearts beating. No flying armored suits with rocket-propelled, evil-seeking missiles.

These are just regular human people who happen to make tons of money.

They're the ones steering the companies that source our groceries, genetically modify our foods, pipe in our oil and gas, throttle our Internet service, drape us in sweatshop denim, and invest in ways to keep society more or less the same: unequal. Among other things, of course.

Why do we pay them so much?

It's not all a matter of choice, some might say. It's the market at work. And the ultimate payouts are just the costs of top talent.

That's what they all say. But again, they're not all Tony Stark.

But in the Harvard Business Review, John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, suggests we need to rethink how CEOs are rewarded:

"A bias to focus only on the external market in recent years has helped push executive compensation way out of whack. Because of the yawning gap between the leaders and the led, employee morale is suffering, talented performers' loyalty is evaporating, and strategy and execution is suffering at American companies."

Mackey says Whole Foods uses salary caps to "keep the external and internal equity perspectives in balance." Today, the company's salary cap ratio is 19:1.

Maybe you're thinking, "These CEOs run the nation's largest companies, so maybe they deserve a pass?"

True. They run huge companies with a lot at stake. But the fact that they lead the largest companies is precisely why they matter most on this issue.

"The reason to focus on the CEO pay of the largest firms is that they employ a large number of workers, are the leaders of the business community, and set the standards for pay in the executive pay market." — Economic Policy Institute

These folks are the spearhead of rising income inequality. The Economic Policy Institute found that 41.2% of people who are heads of households in the top 1% are executives or high-level managers.

If their pay packages look like they've been struck by elephantiasis...

"Oh my god, is that elephantiasis?!" No, Tony. That's just an outsized pay package.

...that's going to affect how a lot of other companies pay their leadership.

All of this might be a non-issue if all workers received a fair and living wage, which they should.

But they don't. Until they do, to anyone who argues that top CEOs deserve 303 times their average workers' salaries, Tony and I have only this to say:

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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