Sanders’ bill targets sky-high CEO pay: A push for economic equity

The legislation, titled the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, targets corporations with stark discrepancies in compensation between CEOs and their workers.


Senator Bernie Sanders, alongside fellow progressives and Democrats, has introduced a groundbreaking bill aimed at addressing the expanding wealth gap in the U.S. The legislation, titled the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, targets corporations with stark discrepancies in compensation between CEOs and their workers.

The bill proposes a novel approach to taxing corporations based on the ratio of CEO pay to the median worker’s salary. Companies with a CEO-to-median worker pay ratio of 50 or higher would see an increase in their corporate tax rate. This rate would escalate, starting with an additional 0.5 percent, and could go up to 5 percentage points for companies where executives earn over 500 times the median worker’s salary.

A critical component of the bill is its requirement for private companies to publicly disclose their CEO-worker pay ratios, aligning with existing rules for public companies. The Treasury Department would be tasked with implementing regulations to ensure compliance. These regulations would include measures to prevent companies from circumventing the tax by employing contractors instead of regular employees.

Senator Bernie Sanders underscored the necessity of the bill in light of the extreme income and wealth inequality in the United States. “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American people are demanding that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes and treat their employees with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Sanders stated. The bill is supported by other notable figures, including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, Chris Van Hollen, and Representatives Barbara Lee and Rashida Tlaib.

The bill responds to the dramatic increase in CEO-worker pay ratios over recent decades. Data from the Economic Policy Institute highlights that CEOs in the early 1980s were paid about 30 times the median worker, a figure that has since soared. In 2022, CEOs were paid on average 345 times the median worker. The bill points to extreme examples like Walmart, where the CEO’s compensation was 933 times that of the median worker.

The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act could generate significant revenue, projected at around $150 billion over the next ten years. In 2022 alone, companies like Walmart, Google, and McDonald’s would have faced substantially higher tax bills under this act, emphasizing the scale of potential revenue collection.

Public sentiment strongly supports the idea of capping CEO pay. A nationwide survey indicates that most Americans believe CEO compensation should not exceed six times that of the average worker. This view crosses party lines, with significant majorities of both Republicans and Democrats in favor of limiting CEO pay relative to worker salaries.

Senator Markey commented on the need for the bill, stating, “It’s more than time to rein in the millionaire and billionaire CEOS. The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act puts an end to corporate greed, closes the income gap, and ensures that the wealthiest members of society pay their fair share.” Similarly, Senator Van Hollen emphasized the detrimental effects of wide pay gaps on workers and the overall economy.

Despite its potential impact, the bill faces hurdles in passing through both the Senate and the House. The current political climate, with a narrowly controlled Senate and a Republican-led House, presents significant challenges. The upcoming U.S. elections add another layer of complexity to the bill’s prospects.

The business community, including groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has yet to formally respond to the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act. Their reaction will be pivotal in shaping the discourse around this legislation and its implications for corporate America.

The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act is more than just a tax policy; it represents a significant step towards addressing income inequality and reshaping corporate culture in the United States. Its impact on worker compensation and corporate accountability could be transformative.

“In the richest country in the history of the world, it is unacceptable that CEOs are making 300 times what their workers are making,” said Senator Sanders. “This legislation will begin the process of creating a fairer economy where large, profitable corporations start paying their fair share of taxes and start paying their workers a living wage.”


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