CEOs Are Not Overpaid

4/14/19
 
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from TIME Magazine,
4/11/19:

‘Why CEOs Actually Deserve Their Gazillion-Dollar Salaries

It is fashionable today to bash Big Business. And there is one issue on which the many critics agree: CEO pay. We hear that CEOs are paid too much (or too much relative to workers), or that they rig others’ pay, or that their pay is insufficiently related to positive outcomes. But the more likely truth is CEO pay is largely caused by intense competition.

It is true that CEO pay has gone up—top ones may make 300 times the pay of typical workers on average, and since the mid-1970s, CEO pay for large publicly traded American corporations has, by varying estimates, gone up by about 500%. The typical CEO of a top American corporation—from the 350 largest such companies—now makes about $18.9 million a year.

While individual cases of overpayment definitely exist, in general, the determinants of CEO pay are not so mysterious and not so mired in corruption. In fact, overall CEO compensation for the top companies rises pretty much in lockstep with the value of those companies on the stock market.

The best model for understanding the growth of CEO pay, though, is that of limited CEO talent in a world where business opportunities for the top firms are growing rapidly. The efforts of America’s highest-earning 1% have been one of the more dynamic elements of the global economy. It’s not popular to say, but one reason their pay has gone up so much is that CEOs really have upped their game relative to many other workers in the U.S. economy.

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