The Occupation of Wall Street, Zuccotti Park and burgeoning movements across the USA and abroad have a singular aim, which is to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth to the lower and middle classes. More than a half million dollars in cash, clothing, food and other donations have come to the protesters in Lower Manhattan. Even some elected officials have come to the aid of the protesters. Sub-groups of protesters have emerged all over the United States.
When the occupation first evolved in Zuccotti Park on or about the night of Sept. 17, only a few hearty souls spent the night. At this point over 200 people including students, union members and other interested parties have joined the occupation.
The focal point of the movement is summed up as follows: “We are the 99 percent.” Ostensibly, the other one percent are the holders of most of the wealth in the United States. Over the past decades, more money has been flowing to the corporate top echelon as CEO and senior staff average salaries have ballooned from 40 times the entry level salary to 400 times and growing.
And so, the challenge is to deal with this aspect forthrightly. Only the boards of directors, professional human resource entities within corporate organizations and trade associations have the power, discretion and authority to adjust compensation more equitably throughout the respective member organizations. This is not something that any governmental unit can mandate except through moral suasion and perhaps changes to the tax code.
A number of corporate organizations have made successful changes in the equitable distribution of profits, among them Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Avis. From the outset, Ben and Jerry's set the executive salary structure at a very reasonable level. Avis changed ownership multiple times in the seventies and eighties, becoming employee-owned in 1987.
President Roosevelt was able to limit executive compensation successfully by ultimately taxing exorbitant salaries at a much higher rate. The basic threshold was over $25,000, or equivalently, $350,000 or so in today's inflated dollar. After $25,000, salary increments were taxed at 90 percent or more. These resources were used to pay down the national debt, which ballooned after the conclusion of World War II, which followed the Great Depression. In the days of the Great Depression, corporate organizations increasingly found other forms of non-cash compensation such as stock options to reward the top corporate executives and alleviate cash flow problems.