Like 'Work' of Burglar, 'Work' of Ridiculously High-Paid Corporate CEOs Hurts Rather Helps Society

Like 'Work' of Burglar,
'Work' of Ridiculously High-Paid Corporate CEOs
Hurts Rather Helps Society
By Erik Parsels
from the New Unionist, October 1995, page 3

The current crop of self-appointed guardians of morality in Washington are trying to sell us the notion that it is the poor, those on welfare, who are burdening the rest of us because they refuse to work.

In point of fact, the reason people are on welfare -in fact, the reason welfare was ever necessary in the first place-is not that they won't work but that they can't. Capitalism never has provided full employment, and never will.

Which brings us to the next question. Just what is "work?"

If I sit at a computer screen and punch data for eight hours, I put out a certain amount of effort, and in return I am paid.

But what of a burglar, who may put out a lot more physical effort to break into my house and steal my TV and stereo? He takes the stuff to a fence and sells it, so he is getting paid for putting out effort just as I am.

The difference, of course, is that his effort is not work that is useful and constructive for society. He is merely a parasite, living off wy work.

Now let's look at another species of parasite, the person who is, perhaps, the CEO of a major company.

Let's say that I, Simon Q, Public, working at my $6-an-hour job, must work 50 or 60 hours a week in order to afford my apartment, my car and my food and utilities, plus an occasional night out or some new clothes.

Compare that with the CEO who pulls in $250,000 ormore per year in salary, half a million or so worth of stock options, etc., not to mention returns from other investments outside the company he works for. He also spends maybe 60 hours a week -- doing what?

Well, first of all, he is busy trying to increase market share for his company. That means he is trying to replace another company's product with his company's in your shopping basket.

Does this effort increase society's quality of life? Probably not. When one company, say Pepsi, succeeds through advertising or price cutting in getting people to buy its soft drink instead of one made by Coke, their production goes up and they may hire more people. But Coke's production goes down and they lay people off. The net number of cans of soft drink produced may stay the same. The price for the consumer may also stay roughly the same,

dropping when Pepsi is underselling Coke and rising again later, after Pepsi's market share has grown, to help offset the cost of the nationwide media blitz. That's what the "work" of CEOs adds up to: stealing each other's profits.

Second, the CEO is trying to increase profits by cutting costs. He I can't do a whole lot about the costs of the raw materials and energy resources his company uses. But he can do quite a bit about what you, the employees, cost. He can make you work harder, by making sure your hands are moving every minute and speeding up the machines, and he can figure out how to delay or minimize your pay raises -- or even cut your pay.

All of this "work" done by the CEO increases profits but creates no new useful articles for society. And just because the CEO puts out some wasted effort, he thinks that entitles him to get paid for my work as well.

At least the burglar who broke into my house to rob me needs the money for food, or maybe he steals because he has to finance a drug or alcohol problem. What's the CEO's excuse? He has none. Not only does he make me work to produce what he then steals, he also thinks I should thank him for "giving" me a job.

If anyone's doing the giving, it's me, the worker, the chump. Only my relatively weak position- legally, financially and socially -- keeps me from claiming the full value of what I produce and from telling Mr. CEO and all the wealthy capitalist shareholders he "works" for to take a hike and get a real job. But once we as workers have wised up to the game and get ourselves organized, we will be able to get these welfare bums of our backs.