• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Just How Unequal Are America’s Major Corporations?

That America’s income distribution has grown dramatically more unequal in the past 40 years is beyond debate. The share of the top 1 percent has doubled since 1980, to over 20 percent of all income.

Could it get any worse? A look at America’s large, privately held corporations suggests it could.

When Americans think of large corporations, most of us think of corporations like Pepsi or ExxonMobil, whose shares are publicly traded.

We can know a fair amount about these companies from the reports they file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Thanks to an Obama-era rule that recently went into effect, we even know how much their CEO makes compared to typical workers.

Many large corporations, however, are privately owned. Typically a single shareholder, members of the same family, or perhaps a small group of investors owns all the stock of one of those corporations.

These private owners aren’t required to release much financial information, and few do so voluntarily. So their finances are much more opaque.

According to Forbes, there are over 200 privately held corporations in America with over $2 billion in annual revenue. The largest, Cargill, had $109 billion in revenue in 2016.

Unlike at publicly traded corporations, we don’t know just how unequal things are between the employees of those privately held corporations and their owners. Might those owners be stingier with workers?

I began to wonder about this when I saw an announcement by Ronald Cameron, the owner and CEO of the poultry processing Mountaire Corporation, of bonuses he’d decided to give his hourly employees. Those bonuses, he said, were made possible by the tax legislation recently passed by the Republican Congress.

Mountaire, according to Forbes, has 6,000 employees and just over $2 billion in annual revenue. If every employee qualified for the maximum bonus of $1,000 Cameron announced, Mountaire’s employees would receive $6 million in bonuses total.

Cameron, I’d noticed, is also a major Republican donor. He contributed over $14 million to Republican candidates for the 2016 election, including $2.4 million to Trump.

In other words, he was substantially more generous with politicians than with the 6,000 employees whose hard work has made him a very rich man.

What then, I wondered, might the income distribution be for the population at Mountaire — that is, the 6,000 employees and Cameron? What percentage of Mountaire’s profit does Cameron pay to his 6,000 employees, and how much does he keep for himself?

Mountaire doesn’t release that information. But we can make an educated guess based on what we know about similarly sized, publicly traded poultry processing companies.

Based on profit margins from those companies, along with data from a recent salary survey of Mountaire employees, Mountaire likely is paying $180 million or less in wages to its 6,000 employees each year — leaving about $200 million in pre-tax profits for CEO and owner Cameron.

In other words, over half the income at Mountaire may go to one person. That’s 600 times as concentrated as in the country overall.

Mountaire could be an outlier. But consider this: CEOs at publicly traded corporations resisted reporting their ratio of CEO compensation to median worker pay for seven years. Honeywell recently became the first corporation to report its CEO to worker pay ratio, an eye-popping 333 to 1.

That’s how bad it is at the companies we know about. How bad might it be at the companies we don’t?

More articles by:

Bob Lord is a veteran tax lawyer who practices and blogs in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail