|Smiling all the way to the bank|
We are all aware, that there has been a bit of a backlash against this sort of thing since the economic crisis began in 2007. Not just from workers and the middle class but investors and others who live off the profit of capital as opposed to productive Labor. There has been a bit of a shareholder revolt as these CEO's got these huge salaries whether the company they manage made money or not. In the last decade shareholders playing the S&P 500 lost 14% of their investments but the CEO's still took in the dough.
As workers and the middle class lose jobs and homes and social services from education to transportation are cut, these characters get richer. Larry Ellison's lavish lifestyle is well documented; he once owned the world's second largest yacht which, became a bit of a problem due to its size. "When he pulls into shore," the Wall Street Journal noted, "...he has to tie up with oil takers and container ships at industrial ports. (Not very posh.) Or he has to anchor offshore and take tenders to the dock." Poor Larry, having to moor alongside some dirty oil tanker where no one can see him and how successful he is.
Globalization (and technology) has accelerated this vast increase in wealth accumulation as capital has a wider pool of Labor power to exploit. "over the last few decades", president Barack Obama commented, "huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less." There are some lessons here for the rest of us: firstly, with access to cheaper Labor power the pressure heats up on higher paid workers to compete. Ireland is an example of this as the unit cost of labor power there has dropped 12% in the past two years and workers there are becoming more attractive once again. A relatively well educated workforce and stable political environment is a first step in the decision by investors to throw some capital in to the production process, many of them US capitalists. 70% of Ireland's foreign investment comes from the US.
The issue of Labor saving technology is an important one also. In an economy such as ours where production is set in to motion for profit, new technology or devices that increase the productivity of Labor benefit the owners of the Labor process not workers. Technology or machinery that improves the productivity of Labor would allow us to work one quarter the time we do today and eliminate unemployment if the means of production and the Labor process was not in private hands and under the direction of private individuals. We have to own the new technology not reject or be hostile to it; we are not Luddites.
The obscene wealth of these CEO's and their wasteful lifestyles should be a reminder to us that the austerity the capitalist offensive is imposing on workers throughout the world is not due to lack of money or social wealth, it is the policy of a class that wants to maintain and expand that wealth. The interesting thing is that even these vast sums are but a drop in the bucket. Business Week points out that in 2008, the CEO's that run companies in the S&P 500 stock index earned in total, "less than one percent of what everyone who's a 1 percenter earned.". So we can reject the idea that austerity is unavoidable and that the money is not there, there's money, we just have to go after it. After all, the collective Labor of society generated it.
The developments of the last 18 months from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement in the US and the struggle of the Greek workers and youth against the IMF, EU, ECB imposed austerity package are just the beginning. The crisis in Europe is in its early stages and the bosses and the leaders of the workers' parties are trying to keep the resistance contained to Greece but that will inevitably be resisted.
Just to note, there are protests in solidarity with Greek workers and youth scheduled in London, Lisbon and other cities throughout Europe and the world today. You can find out more here.