A most interesting study came out of the left leaning Institute for Policy Studies. They found 26 corporations paid more to their CEO than they actually paid in taxes. IPS compared executive compensation to how much tax write offs that pay package gives and conclude excessive compensation is a tax on you. Corporations are raking it in and not paying much to Uncle Sam. CEOs aren't being rewarded for actual performance, the excessive pay is more reflective on our loophole ridden corporate tax code. IPS estimates CEO pay at 26 firms is equivalent to a $46 dollar tax on every person in America, or $14.4 billion per year.
- Of last year’s 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 26 took home more in CEO pay than their companies paid in federal income taxes, up from the 25 we noted in last year’s analysis. Seven firms made the list in both 2011 and 2010.
- Once again, low corporate tax bills, or large refunds, cannot be explained by low profits. On average, the 26 firms had more than $1 billion in U.S. pre-tax income but still received net tax benefits that averaged $163 million.
- The CEOs of these 26 firms received $20.4 million in average total compensation last year. That's a 23 percent increase over the average for last year’s list of 2010's tax dodging executives.
- Two of the firms that paid their CEOs more than Uncle Sam, Citigroup and AIG, owe their very continued existence to taxpayer bailouts.
- Combined, the 26 firms have 537 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and Gibraltar.
Now, firstly, all compensation is a business expense, deducted from gross receipts of any business as an operating cost. Businesses don't pay taxes on gross receipts, they pay taxes on profits, or what money is left after deducting the costs of running a business. Still, this report's premise is a great way to look at excessive executive compensation.
We have a culture of CEO. Chief Executive Officers are worshiped, every word they utter considered golden and even politicians gush and glow at the prospect of touching the hem. Instead of corporate meetings and announcements, we have worship groups shouting praises and singing hallelujah over the latest product launch or press release. Financial groupie press publish pictures of executive mansions, rejoice over their billionaire status and executive lifestyle and salivate at the excess most of us will never know. Not one word is written connecting CEO pay or corporate profits to the poverty that the latest round of fired workers were thrown into. Our Corporate Culture Worship never writes about the mega poor, showing their foreclosures, repossessed cars, lost retirement and broken dreams. No, only the mega-rich can make the headlines.
America is no longer a democracy, that's only for show. What we are is a kingdom, with glorified feudal lords called CEOs. Most of America is now the mere peasantry of society.
Income inequality in the United States is at all time highs. Social mobility, or getting ahead by your own bootstraps, has disappeared in America. The American dream is simply some sort of past fantasy used by advertisers to sell product. It's gone, sold down the river by corrupt politicians.
Even the CBO has shown the rich got richer and the rest of us got the shaft. CEO pay now has a 380-to-1 ratio to average pay in America. In 2011, the S&P 500 Index CEOs received an average of $12.9 million in pay. That's a 14% raise from 2010. The average unemployment rate in 2011 was 8.9% with millions dropping out of the labor force.
The Bush tax cuts put income inequality on steroids, as noted also in the IPS study. IPS estimates that 57 CEOs saved over $1 million each per year, thanks to Bush and the GOP.
The GINI index is a measure of income inequality and puts the United States below Iran and right above Uruguay. Think about that next time you hear how America is the richest country in the world. That's a false statement, America has some of the richest people in the world sucking her life blood dry. America is more like other third world countries. A few elite living of the sweat and toil of the peasants. Think that statement is extreme? The GINI index says not.
IPS wants something done about executives sucking America dry while we run up massive deficits and fire workers. The report mentions a fact we've seen time and time again, regulators have failed to implement most of the executive pay-related provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. This is the story of the last four years, Congress does nothing and if they do even a little bit, one can bet regulators won't implement what Congress passed. IPS lists four loopholes, which if closed could save $14.4 billion a year, shown below.
IPS recommends a few bills languishing in Congress. Congress is the place where all great policy and ideas go to die.
A couple of bills mentioned are H.R. 382, The Income Inequality Act, which is currently buried in the House Committee on Ways and Means. This bill would limit the amount of executive compensation that is tax deductible and also ties executive compensation to regular employees salary.
Another bill going off to die, buried in the Committee on Finance, is S.1375, the The Ending Excess Corporate Deductions for Stock Options Act. There is a double accounting standard for stock options and this bill would stop that at an estimated $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues per year. Employees are granted stock options but they are not deducted from the corporate books until that employee exercises those options. Ignoring incentives for joining start-ups and forming new businesses, it seems corporations can use this double accounting method as a tax refund, against future corporate earnings. The report notes Facebook will get a $500 million refund from the IRS due to the double accounting standard for stock options, like that?
Other attempts to close loopholes have already been killed in Congress or by regulators and the executive branch. Whether Democrat or Republican, anyone who dares try to stop corporations running amok are met with legions of corporate lobbyists flooding the halls of Congress, demanding politicians kowtow to their whims.
The IPS report is 42 pages and at the bottom are various legislative efforts and failures in a two page table to curb executive compensation. They also are launching a campaign to do something. Fat chance. Not with this Congress and our current 2012 candidates.