Public outrage over sky-high CEO pay runs across the political spectrum. Note, for example, how both major presidential candidates have been railing against it on the campaign trail.
Donald Trump has said huge CEO paychecks are a “complete joke” and a “disgrace.” Hillary Clinton has complained that it “just doesn’t make sense” for big company CEOs to make 300 times more than workers, especially when other countries’ gaps are so much narrower.
Neither candidate has offered much in the way of solutions. But that’s nothing new. In fact, on the problem of runaway CEO pay, American politicians are known for speaking loudly but carrying a small stick.
Frustrated with Washington inaction, some activists are taking the CEO pay fight local. Much like advocates for a federal minimum wage increase, they’re realizing that national change may need to bubble up from the grassroots.
These efforts are most advanced in Portland, Oregon, where the city council is holding a hearing on Oct. 26 to consider what would be the nation’s first-ever surtax on corporations with wide gaps between their CEO and worker pay. Firms that do business in Portland would owe a 10 percent surtax on the city’s existing business tax if they pay their CEOs more than 100 times what their workers receive. For example, if a large company owes the city $100,000 and has a pay ratio of 175-to-1, its surtax would be $10,000.