No one prays for CEOs

Abello, Oscar

I imagine they have friends and family who pray for them as a friend or family member, but have you ever prayed for a corporate CEO? We pray for the poor, the sick, politicians and soldiers whom we may never meet. But what about those CEOs – does anyone pray for an unknown CEO?

Maybe stockholders.

Yes, it may seem excessive, given that chief executives are paid well beyond many of our wildest dreams. Most CEOs earn more money in one hour of work than many others will earn in a year – assuming they even step into the office and away from a golf course.

According to Forbes Magazine, Fortune 500 CEOs collected $7.5 billion in 2006. That’s a collective 38 percent pay raise versus 2005, and most of it comes from stock options, which account for 48 percent of total compensation for chief executives. There’s also the popular practice of offering severance packages to retiring CEOs, such as AT&T’s Edward Whitacre, who retired this past summer with a lump sum of $18.8 million, plus $4.5 million per year until his heart stops beating.

So chief executives really do have hearts.

Hearts can be hurt – or broken you might say. Excessive chief executive compensation is quite a target for the ire of the masses. But to say greed is the cause of such gluttony is far too simple. There is more to that picture, and besides, we’re all a bit greedy. Were we in their shoes, most of us would take the money and just keep on putting. Think twice about directing your financial or philosophical frustrations on any one group of people.

Anger is just another mortal sin.

When we angrily draw lines between the haves and have-nots, we only give the haves an excuse to further alienate themselves from the have-nots. In class warfare, the haves will always win. It’s a challenge to acknowledge that excessive compensation does not divide the human family. The lives of the wealthy seem so radically different from the lives of the poor – but then again, any one person’s life is never exactly the same as the next.

So why should we pray for a CEO?

The thing about the haves is that they live in constant fear; it’s a fear that we can all relate to. It’s the fear of adjusting to a different lifestyle.

The way of the wealthy requires a lot of income, and, to sustain it, the wealthy use any means necessary to protect that cash flow. All too often, government policy is used as their weapon of choice in the war of classes.

Fiscal policy such as the mortgage-interest federal tax deduction, which is supposed to encourage homeownership for all, instead does more to offset the cost of an extra mansion or two. Over half the $80 billion deducted for mortgage-interest, goes right back to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans (says who?). If the wealthy want second or third homes, it’s their choice, but they don’t need tax incentives to ease that burden.

According to “The Economist,” the U.S. Federal Tax Code is riddled with over $700 billion in tax incentives that similarly send money right back to the wealthy, serving to protect that precious cash flow. But it’s hard to blame the wealthy for these and other actions, when others plainly and sometimes avariciously declare war upon their way of life. It’s especially hard to blame the wealthy when our government insists on spending our money on a poorly managed war.

So the next time you’re praying for the poor, don’t forget the poor in spirit – both the CEOs who feel alienated from humanity and also anyone whose frustration brings them to alienate people from each other. Pray that they, and you, will not live under a tyranny of fear. Fear makes us forget that no amount of money determines whether or not you are a member of the human family. When we fear, the human family breaks down.

No one wants a broken home.

Oscar Abello is a senior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]