I have been ranting about income disparity for years. (I encourage my denomination, the United Church of Christ, to have a conversation about poverty and economics, By the way). I have believed, since I was a teen, that the system is rigged and the “American Dream” of work hard ==> getting ahead wasn’t valid, as my mother and father worked harder than anyone I knew and we didn’t get ahead. I am also aware of people’s response to that news. My mother was mortified that I believed that, and that it was un-American to knock her beliefs that hard work was the way out of poverty. The fact is, though, I love America and wish it would live up to it’s potential.
That was 40 years ago, and things have only gotten worse since then. In the 1980’s, Studs Terkel wrote a book of interviews which said that the gap between rich and poor was growing. That was 30 years ago and things have only gotten worse since then. My wife and I were talking yesterday and we agreed that the Bush tax cuts weren’t needed then — that was 10 years ago, and things have gotten worse since then.
I have felt like I was yelling into a sound-proof world for 40 years about just how unfair things have gotten.I have been looking for the right fact or metaphor to convince people just how absurd and unfair this all is. Today in the mail it came. On page 4 of this week’s The Nation magazine:
=> Percentage of fast-food workers enrolled in public assistance programs — 52.
=>Hours a McDonald’s employee must work to earn the CEO’s salary — 1 million.
I kid you not. 1 million hours 1 person has to work to equal a year’s salary of a particular CEO,
That means — at a 40 hour week, one person would have to work 25,000 weeks to earn that particular CEO’s salary. Given that there are 52 weeks in a year, a person would have to work 480 years to equal the yearly salary of another. That employee would have to work twice as long as there has been an America to make the salary of that CEO. Those 480 years mean that a line worker at McDonalds would have to have started working in the year 1533 in order to make what their CEO makes!
In 1533, King Henry the VIII was on the throne, Anne Boleyn was being beheaded and Queen Elizabeth I was being born. Pizzaro had just made his way to Peru. It would be another 80 years before the Pilgrims would get on a boat to arrive in America. Put another way, a line worker at present-day McDonald’s would have had to start working in the time of King Henry the Eighth at a forty-hour week to make the same amount of money his CEO makes!
Put another way, 480 people work for a year to make the same amount of money that a CEO makes. If those people are single-earners in a family of 4, then the CEO makes the same as 920 people living on the salary of a full-time employee of McDonald’s. With 20 houses on a street, as in my neighborhood — 80 people — 6 streets worth of people live every year on one other person’s salary. The entire town of Hall, NY, where my first church was, plus 80 more people — an entire town could live for a year (if McDonald’s actually had full-time workers) on the salary of the CEO of McDonald’s,
And he’s only one rich person. There must be many more, but that’s it, that’s how it is in America today. Could we please redistribute it so that people get homes and don’t freeze this winter or that kids get education or that people get to eat. Is it really too much to ask? Seriously?