Columns » Hightower

No big deal, just a Mickey Mouse pay increase




Good news, people: America's wages are up — the average worker is making more today than a year ago! How much more, you ask? Get ready to be excited: 58 cents a week.

Of course, averages don't tell the whole story. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith graphically explained the problem of averages with a story about a 6-foot-tall man who drowned when wading across a stream with an average depth of 3 feet. Similarly, while average workers are trying to decide how to spend those extra five dimes, a nickel, and three pennies they're getting each week, your average CEO is wallowing in an extra $860,000 this year over last.

That's just the increase in their bonuses. It does not include their multimillion-dollar salaries, which are also up, nor their golden pensions, free health care, limousines, corporate jets, etc.

And, as you might imagine, many corporate chieftains did much better than average in their bonus checks. Take Robert Iger of Walt Disney Co. He pocketed a bonus of $13.5 million this year, 45 percent more than he got a year ago.

Well, explained his PR agent, bonuses provide incentives for excellent executive performance, and Iger deserves his riches this year because Disney's profits are up by 24 percent.

Swell, but why is his increase double that increase in profits? And, by the way, Robert's salary is $2 million a year — why does he need any extra incentive to do his job?

One more question: Does Iger really think that he alone produced Disney's rise in profits? Notice that the animators, performers, and other hard-working employees at Disney World and Disney Studios got no 45 percent increase in their pay.

No one goes to Disney World to see Robert Iger. If he wants bonus money, tell him to put on a Mickey Mouse costume in the wilting heat of Florida's summer and earn it.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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