I worked with the Shepherd Express on their current cover story, "What's Your Worth". It takes a revealing look at the salaries of prominent people in our community and compares them to the wages of several average workers. The story is pretty straight forward; it reports what certain people make and asks readers what they think about it and how they compare. While doing research for the story, a few random observations and thoughts came to mind that wouldn't quite fit in the story itself so I will raise them here.
- The most obvious surround the corporate elite and the organizations that exist to protect every shiny nickel no matter the impact to the rest of the community. Groups like the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) suing the City of Milwaukee over paid sick day benefits that would greatly benefit the working poor while at the same time paying their leader over $300,000 a year. A person making the minimum wage earns only $12,576! I can't imagine how you survive on such a little amount, much less make up for even one day of lost pay because of illness. Yet without a thought and sporting a six figure salary, the head of MMAC rushes off to court to keep this worker from having SOME relief?
- Michael W. Grebe is the President of the ultra right wing Bradley Foundation. Its specialty is being a funding factory of the most extreme right wing organizations in the state and country. Many of these alleged "think tanks" spend much of their time trying to convince average Americans to forget their own economic interests and instead cater to the needs of the already rich and powerful. Apparently we are supposed to keep a straight face when Grebe and Co. marches in with his $569,967 salary and pretends to give a hoot about the average Milwaukee County resident making $42,865.
- Many have repeatedly made the argument that area health care systems and hospitals operate much more like the biggest corporations than they do as nonprofits. The look at their top executive's salaries only verifies this observation. Although all of the systems looked at in the story are noteworthy, Aurora's executive certainly deserves special mention. Over $2 million a year? That is significantly more than some of his higher profile "for-profit" counterparts! Good luck explaining how you can't afford to give your frontline workers a modest raise or a better benefits package.
- I have often thought that the real power brokers in the conservative movement have only been using the social conservatives that so willingly follow them. It has been my observation that they are only useful around important elections and then their hot button issues are all but abandoned. It was particularly interesting to see how little the right wing pays one of its main social conservatives as compared to what they dole out every year for the ones carrying the corporate water. Say what you will about their actual positions, Wisconsin Right to Life is an actual statewide grassroots organization. Yet their leader makes only $33,389 a year? I suspect that many of the other leaders of socially conservative groups also make very modest amounts of money. So what does it say when the sugar daddies of the right wing give the leader of the latest corporate shill over $100k and leave the social conservatives to fight over pennies?