Recently I received links to a few articles on the top income earners – the “one percenters” in this country. One is a recent Vanity Fair article, written by the economist Joseph Stiglitz, that provides a thoughtful analysis of the economic and political consequences of income disparity. A few days ago the movie critic, Roger Ebert, penned a more emotional article about the one percenters.
As I noted in a previous blog, an adjusted gross income over $410K gets a person in the one percent club. This club includes the New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez at $33M, his fellow team mate CC Sabathia at $24M, David Letterman at $24M, country star Tim McGraw at $23M and poker stud Daniel Negreanu at $14M.
Roger Ebert’s sentiments probably reflect a more common gut response to the one percenters. Ebert chose to note the $21M pay package of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world. Chase withstood the financial crisis with no bailout funds other than temporary liquidity funds that were quickly repaid. Quite the opposite. The government and Federal Reserve actually came to Chase asking for a bailout of another troubled banking giant, Washington Mutual. Had Ebert done a bit more homework in his hunt for a villainous financial robber baron, he would have picked John Thain, the CEO who earned over $80M in the year he steered Merrill Lynch into a collapse that threatened the financial system.
So, we can make life simple and reason that there are two kinds of one percenters: the good and the bad. On the good side are people who do stuff: Alex bangs out baseballs, CC throws baseballs, David throw jokes and Tim belts out tunes.
On the bad side then are the one percenters who don’t do anything that involves banging, belting or throwing. Since most of us can’t grasp what the CEO of a bank does to earn that much money, it must be nefarious back room wheeling and dealing, not hitting and throwing and singing.
In the recent and ongoing debates about whether to continue tax cuts for the wealthy, we should make it clear to our congressional representatives and tell them that we want only the bad one percenters to pay more taxes.
The one percent club also includes anesthesiologists and all we know about what they do is that they put us to sleep before surgery. Let’s put them in the good one percenter group. I want to wake up after surgery.