Well that must be very cheerful. David Sirota at Salon points out that super-rich people think they’re not super-rich.
By Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s reckoning, being a millionaire does not constitute living high above the ranks of ordinary people. Lew said last week that back when he was in the private sector enjoying six- and seven-figure pay packages, “My own compensation was never in the stratosphere.”
Lew made that pronouncement as he sought to defend President Barack Obama’s embattled Treasury undersecretary nominee Antonio Weiss from charges that as a financial executive, he is out of touch with the interests of regular people. Lew was seeking to cast his own lot with the ranks of ordinary Americans at a time of growing economic inequality.
Seven figure pay packages? And he thinks that’s not the stratosphere?
According to IRS data, 99 percent of American households make less than $388,000 a year, and 95 percent make less than $167,000 a year. The true middle in terms of income — that is, the cutoff to be in the top 50 percent of earners — is roughly $35,000 a year.
Sirota must think that’s basically lunch money, walking-around money.
According to New York University records, Lew was usually paid between $700,000 and $800,000 a year as the school’s vice president, while also receiving a $440,000 mortgage subsidy. Lew also earned $300,000 a year from Citigroup, with a “guaranteed incentive and retention award of not less than $1 million,” according to an employment agreement obtained by Businessweek.
So he made $1.5 million, and thinks that wasn’t stratospheric.
Sometimes I really hate this country.
While Lew’s comments leave him open to charges that he is out of touch with economic reality, he is not alone, as surveys show many Americans also have misconceptions about income distribution.
A recent study by Harvard University and Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University found Americans grossly underestimate the divide between CEO and average worker pay.
Because people like the Treasury Secretary make sure they do.