Elon Musk’s compensation is 40,000 times more than average Tesla worker
Elon Musk announces Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be the first private passenger on a trip around the moon last September. In 2018, it was Musk's compensation that rocketed into outer space. | Chris Carlson / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Elon Musk is known for pushing non-gasoline-fueled cars. Now he’ll be known for something else: His pay and perks. To be precise, $2,284,044,884 worth of them last year.

That was Musk’s payout in 2018, including stock options and other “compensation,” according to the AFL-CIO’s annual Executive Paywatch survey.

The data garnered from official federal filings, also featured, for the first time, another figure: The ratio between a CEO’s yearly pay and perks and those available to an average worker in that mogul’s company.

The higher the ratio, the greater the gap between the executive and the firm’s workers. Musk leads that category, too. The average worker at Musk’s car company, Tesla, earned $56,163 last year—not very much in the high-cost San Francisco Bay Area where Tesla is located. Musk earned 40,668 times as much.

The union federation argues the honchos don’t deserve such high payouts. Exactly 110 executives and CEOs, the figures showed, earned more than $20 million each last year. The CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, whose firm repeatedly breaks labor law against the Communications Workers’ organizing campaign, was sixth, at $66,538,206. And in a sign of the sexism that prevails even among the capitalist class, only four the 110—the CEOs of Williams-Sonoma, GM, General Dynamics, and Lockheed-Martin—were women.

“CEO-to-worker pay ratio data is important. A higher ratio could be a sign that companies suffer from a winner-take-all philosophy where executives reap the lion’s share of compensation,” the AFL-CIO said. “A lower ratio could indicate which companies were dedicated to creating high-wage jobs and investing in their employees for the company’s long-term health.”

Musk’s pay and perks were the extremely high end of a very tilted scale. He garnered nine times as much last year as the #2, Patrick Smith of Axon Enterprises ($246,026,710) and 17.8 times as much as the #3 executive, David Zaslav of Discovery, Inc.—yes, The Discovery Channel. His take: $129,499,005.

The average CEO, the federation reported, earned $14.5 million in total compensation, 287 times as much as the average worker. “The imbalance in our economy between the pay of CEOs and working people continues to be a problem,” the AFL-CIO drily commented.

It’s an old story, too, federation Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said in introducing the data.

The average U.S. worker got a $1,000 raise last year, she noted. But that’s not enough even to keep up with inflation. That “worker isn’t making enough to cover rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in 15 of the largest cities across the country. Meanwhile, 40% of hourly workers have nothing saved up for an emergency, while 75% have less than $500.

“We know this equality gap isn’t new. Over the past decade, the average Standard & Poor 500 CEO’s pay increased by more than $5 million, while the average worker only saw an increase of less than $800 a year.

“Productivity and corporate profits are through the roof, but wages for working people are flat—and staying flat.

“Bottom line: For too long, corporate greed and rigged economic rules have created a relentlessly growing pay gap between CEOs and the rest of us. It’s why everything from college education to retirement security to gas prices are getting harder and harder for people to afford. We see it every day in communities across the country. And that must change.”

But pay isn’t the only gap workers face against the rich. There’s the wealth gap, too—and at least 18 more far-sighted among the super-rich stepped forward the same day to tell all presidential hopefuls: “Tax us more.”

The richest, including top Democratic Party giver George Solos and two members of the Pritzker family—a third, J.B., is now the Democratic Illinois governor—said the imbalance of wealth is bad for the country and not just financially.

Amazon paid less in taxes in 2018 than you paid for your Prime membership. | AP

“The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans,” their letter said.

“America has a moral, ethical, and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more. A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic,” they stated.

Several of the Democratic hopefuls, notably Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., advocate such a wealth tax. National Nurses United has long campaigned for an extra tax on securities and other asset sales, to both raise revenue and to discourage the financial finagling and stock speculation that produced the Great Recession a decade ago.

But, as Shuler pointed out, there’s one presidential hopeful who’s gone the other way on taxes: The man in the White House.

President Donald Trump’s “tax cut only made things worse by widening the gap between the 1% and the rest of us,” Shuler said. “The corporate income tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21%, and 60 of the largest U.S. companies paid nothing in federal income taxes last year—despite being profitable. In other words, Amazon users pay more for a Prime membership than Amazon paid in federal income taxes last year.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.