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Published: Thursday, 7/21/2011

Taxing the rich

As Americans go into what presumably will be the last act of the Washington unreality show that constitutes raising the debt limit and possibly erasing at least part of the budget deficit, it is worth looking at a study commissioned by the New York Times on the pay of the country's top executives.

Equilar, an executive compensation data firm, reports that the median pay of top executives at 200 of America's big companies in 2010 rose 23 percent from 2009. Their median pay stood at $10.8 million, including cash bonuses and stock grants.

The highest paying companies were in the media, oil, commodity, and technology fields. The biggest check went to Viacom's chief executive officer, Philippe Dauman, who was paid an almost unimaginable $84.5 million. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts took home $28.2 million.

Meanwhile, the average American worker in 2010 was paid $752 a week, or $39,104 a year -- a pathetic 0.4 percent of what the top executives were paid. His or her pay rose a measly 0.5 percent from 2009, which means American workers lost ground to inflation. U.S. unemployment stands at 9.2 percent, with some 14.1 million Americans jobless.

This information comes into play in the debt-ceiling talks over the question of whether America's rich should pay more taxes.

In defense of the rich, Republicans renamed them "job creators," as opposed to "campaign contributors." The idea is that any increase in their taxes would discourage them from creating jobs. This has been proven to be preposterous by the fact that while the rich have benefited from the George W. Bush tax cuts for 10 years, job creation has ground to a virtual halt.

Given the revenue problems the country faces, whatever agreement President Obama and congressional Democrats arrive at with Republicans must include an increase in the taxes that these lucky top executives pay. The disparity between what they are paid -- and their obscene growth in earnings-- and the American workers' shrinking paychecks, is intolerable.

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