What's wrong with this picture? National unemployment is stuck at nearly 9 percent, millions have lost their homes, and a miserly Congress wants to take away overtime pay from IT workers. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook was just awarded $376.2 million in stock, plus base earnings of $1.4 million, the highest salary in the history of American capitalism.
Did Apple's board of directors lose its collective mind? Not entirely. In a sane world, no one person would earn as much as 6,330 middle-class employees (paid an average of $60,000 a year, not including benefits). In fact, on average, CEO pay is 243 times that of the workers he or she manages -- a huge multiplier to be sure, but not astronomical as in Cook's case. However, too many sectors of the American business world are not sane.
Although I'd like to pillory Cook's outrageously rich payday, let's admit that Apple isn't doing anything qualitatively different than many of its competitors in the technology industry, not to mention investment banking and other parts of the economy. His payday is only the most egregious example of a system that's completely out of control.
Cook, at least, heads a company that creates real products that people enjoy and use to get real work done. Apple not only employs a lot of people directly -- and at the risk of sounding like a Republican presidential candidate -- it creates thousands, maybe tens of thousands of jobs, at companies that are part of its worldwide ecosystem and supply chain.
Compare that to the seven- and even eight-figure bonuses paid to the smartest guys in the room who blew up the American economy. Or to bring the discussion back to tech, you can't possibly forget that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Léo Apotheker, who practically destroyed one of Silicon Valley's oldest companies (after nearly doing the same to SAP), walked away with more than $7.2 million in severance and benefits, plus $2.4 million in performance (performance?) bonuses.