The recession officially ended in June 2009, but it sure doesn’t feel that way for many Americans negotiating high unemployment, stagnant job growth, and a depressed real estate market.
The greater sting for those struggling: Census data shows that the income gap between the rich and the poor is wider than ever. In this not-quite-recovery, tales of big paydays for a fortunate few continue to make headlines, as the have-nots watch from the sidelines.
Not that the American workers begrudged a reward for hard work. Maybe that accounts for the popularity of “Undercover Boss,” a reality TV show where the head of a company goes undercover doing grunt work in his own company, whether it’s scrubbing toilets or working the assembly line. In the end, the dedicated but overlooked employees the boss encounters are rewarded, while incompetent managers are punished. In that narrative, the employee just wants to be understood.
But, as the American worker faces a long, dispiriting journey to prosperity, a collective outrage from liberals and tea partyers alike focused on financial titans suspected of double-dealing or plain misbehavior in 2010. The spotlight burned brighter on financial titans who were at the center of the economy’s crash, while CEOs linked to other scandals fell under scrutiny.
2009 median salary for a chief executive of an S&P 500 company. Total pay package rounded up to $7.5 million.
Combined compensation of the chief executives who slashed their payrolls the deepest in 2009. The amount would cover unemployment benefits for 37,759 workers for a year.
2009 median salary of a private-sector worker in 2008 (latest available) — $36,000 with benefits.
Amount A.I.G., relying on taxpayer money, paid out in bonuses.
Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein’s bonus in 2010. Company profits in 2009 were $13.4 billion. Blankfein’s $9 million is more than 2008 ($0), but a drop from the all-time Wall Street record in 2007 of $68 million.
Value of bonus awarded to Apple COO Tim Cook, for covering for Steve Jobs during his six months’ medical leave in 2009. Jobs has earned$1 a year. No need to fret: His bonus in 2001, the decade’s largest, tallied up to $43,511,534.
The nonprofit Boys & Girls Club of America’s CEO’s salary in 2008. Senators criticized Roxanne Spillett’s earnings. In comparison, the CEO’s salary at the nonprofit American Cancer Society is $1,045,887.
Number of viewers who watched the premiere of “Undercover Boss,” a reality TV record. The CBS show puts CEOs in the trenches of their own companies.
Salary of Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, since 1997. Apple became the most valuable tech company in the spring.
$25,000,000 & $71,000,000
Amounts that California insurance commissioner Steve Poizner and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman respectively spent of their own money, in the Republican primary campaign for governor. Whitman won and went on to spend more, but lost to Democrat Jerry Brown.
Record settlement that Goldman Sachs agrees to pay to settle charges of securities fraud in a 2010 civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
80% of $2 billion
How much of the bonus pay at troubled banks in 2008 was unmerited, according to the Obama administration’s pay czar in a July 23 report.
Estimated pension payoff for outgoing BP Chairman Tony Hayward in his parting package. He stepped down in July after the oil-rig explosion that killed 11 workers in the Gulf of Mexico and set off an ecological disaster. In addition to his pension, Hayward received $1.6 million in salary (a full year’s worth). SimplyHired.com notes that the average salary in the oil services industry is $57,000.
BP corporate losses that same quarter, mostly tied to cleanup.
Estimated value of outgoing HP CEO Mark Hurd’s exit package after being fired in relation to a sexual harassment suit and fudged expense reports. (A $40 million payout is said to be a “standard” corporate exit package.) Hurd, who would come under SEC scrutiny in December, received $24.2 million in 2009, the same year that 6,420 workers were said to be let go.
Fine that Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of the home-loan giant Countrywide that was central to the mortgage market meltdown, agrees to personally pay to settle the government’s fraud lawsuit.
Tuition increase at the University of California schools. This followed a 32% increase in 2009. More than a third of UC students (48,968) come from households whose income was less than $48,000 in 2008-2009. Students’ median family income ranges between $48,000 and $96,000. About 3,840 UC employees earned more than $200,000 in 2009.
Number of criminal defendants that the government has arrested in Operation Broken Trust, targeting Wall Street financial fraud cases.
Safety-related performance bonus issued to Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in 2009 — the same year that the company received 458 safety violations. Blankenship announced his retirement in December, and would not testify in the hearings investigating, among other things, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 miners in April.
Cicely Wedgeworth is a Yahoo! editor who also writes the Chowhound Digest for the San Francisco Bay Area. She previously wrote and edited for the Los Angeles Times.