Executive excess: How taxpayers subsidize giant corporate pay gaps

More than two-thirds of the top federal contractors and corporate subsidy recipients paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay in 2017.

Image Credit: KeystoneUSA-Zum/Rex Shutterstock

ll across the political spectrum, Americans are feeling outraged about the huge gaps between what corporations pay their CEOs and what they pay their workers.

In fact, one poll shows that a majority of Democrats and Republicans want to see a cap on the CEO-worker pay divide.

But this outrage hasn’t had any effect on how our government spends our tax dollars. Every year, billions flow into corporations that pay their top execs more in a year than their workers could make in a lifetime.

In this video, I share the findings of a new Institute for Policy Studies report looking at the federal government’s top 50 contractors and top 50 subsidy recipients. What did I find? In 2017, more than two-thirds of these firms paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay.


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IPS Global Economy Project Director Sarah Anderson’s current work includes research, writing, and networking on issues related to the impact of international trade, finance, and investment policies on inequality, sustainability, and human rights. Sarah is also a well-known expert on executive compensation, as the lead author of 16 annual “Executive Excess” reports that have received extensive media coverage. In 2009, she served on an advisory committee to the Obama administration on bilateral investment treaties. In 2000, she served on the staff of the bipartisan International Financial Institutions Advisory Commission (“Meltzer Commission”), commissioned by the U.S. Congress to evaluate the World Bank and IMF. Sarah is also a board member of Jubilee USA Network and a co-author of the books Field Guide to the Global Economy (New Press, 2nd edition, 2005) and Alternatives to Economic Globalization (Berrett-Koehler, 2nd edition, 2004). Prior to coming to IPS in 1992, Sarah was a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development (1989-1992) and an editor for the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (1988). She holds a Masters in International Affairs from The American University and a BA in Journalism from Northwestern University.