As we prepare for another Presidential election, barely a day goes by without hearing a mastermind plan to fix the country's problems from a Presidential hopeful, or long shot. The problems facing our country are too enormous to be easily fixed and the political rhetoric is difficult to tolerate. That being said, it is beyond disturbing that politicians willingly and knowingly distort facts and lie in order to keep their political money flowing. Despite the economic collapse over the past several years, the facts are that the rich have been getting richer while things keep getting worse for the poor, the downtrodden, the unemployed. The folks picketing Wall Street and corporate headquarters do have a legitimate point. Can the middle class ever be restored without meaningful financial and corporate reform? We will probably find out in a few years because corporate America understands the game of public opinion. Corporate America has the insight to fool the American public and the money to peddle their snake oil. The deception of the American public is so outlandish as to be criminal. A simple review of an issue near and dear to our hearts here at Rosen Louik & Perry provides a frightening illustration.
While the stagnant economy continues to hurt those at the bottom of the American workforce, politicians and corporate America are telling the public that the civil justice system needs major reform in order to "save" healthcare. The story begins with false assertions about malpractice insurance premiums driving up the cost of providing medical care and forcing doctors to flee states. The answer: strip citizens of their Constitutional right to a trial by jury of their peers who will determine what verdict, if any, should be given and place government mandated caps in place. Fearing for their own well-being, most Americans accept the rhetoric without fully understanding what they are giving up. More shocking, however, is that these lies are being perpetuated by individuals who are benefitting from the bad economy in an industry that is not suffering!!
Annual compensation totals, compiled by Forbes' Scott DeCarlo, include salary, bonuses, perks and the value of exercised stock options through September 6, 2011, were recently released. Compensation for the chief executives of America's biggest companies is way up in 2011, 28 percent higher than last year on average. Those already in the Top 25% saw their compensation nearly double! Cash bonuses are triple what they were before the recession.
Healthcare is particularly interesting. Occupying the top spot as America's highest paid executive is John Hammergren of McKesson, the largest distributor of both pharmaceuticals and health care I.T. systems. His compensation, only $131 million this year!! Not far behind are George Paz (fifth place at $51.5 million), who runs prescription drug distributor ExpressScripts as well as Stephen Hemsley (eighth place at $48.8) of UnitedHealth Group.
Those in other industries are doing just fine as well: Ralph Lauren $66.7 million - ranking him in second place; Michael Fascitelli of Vornado Realty is third, with compensation of $64.4 million; Bob Iger of Walt Disney at $53.3 million, is in fourth place; Michael Watford of Ultra Petroleum, at $43.7 million. Poor Rex Tillerson, of ExxonMobile didn't crack the top 25 because he only made $13.9 million.
I am not here to argue that these individuals do not deserve the money they are being paid. How would I know? How would anyone know? What we do know is that in the American system of capitalism, the executives have convinced their companies that they are very valuable. Capitalism is as American as apple pie. Capitalism is a defining feature that sets America apart from many other countries in the world. I am not here to question capitalism. I am here, however, to question why Politicians and corporate America only want to restrain capitalism in areas that might have a slight negative impact on a company's bottom line. This is wrong. Individual Americans deserve the same hands off government treatment as rich corporate America enjoys. And if a jury of twelve decides that a pharmaceutical company should pay an injured victim $5 million then the verdict should be paid and not reduced because of artificial government caps made into law in exchange for campaign contributions.