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Gibson writes: "The concept of a maximum wage is in the style of Huey Long's 'Share the Wealth' radio addresses from the Great Depression. It won't make rich Americans poor, nor will it call for an equal distribution of wealth. A maximum wage would simply be legislation that states an executive shouldn't make more than 10 times what their average worker makes. A CEO can still make $5 million dollars a year if they wish. It just means their average worker has to make at least $500,000 a year."

This file photo shows a wage protest at Washington University in St. Louis. (photo: Huy Richard Mach/AP)
This file photo shows a wage protest at Washington University in St. Louis. (photo: Huy Richard Mach/AP)

Time for a Maximum Wage

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

14 July 12

Reader Supported News | Perspective


uring a February 1934 radio address, when unemployment and economic inequality were both rampant, Louisiana Senator Huey Long said, "We do not propose to say that there shall be no rich men. We do not ask to divide the wealth. We only propose that, when one man gets more than he and his children and his children's children can spend or use in their lifetimes, then we shall say that such person has his share."

There is no state in the union where someone working a minimum-wage job for 40 hours a week, or $15,080 a year, can afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market value.

At the opposite end of the financial spectrum, Mitt Romney made $15,080 every 6 hours in 2010, when he grossed over $21 million in income. It would take a minimum-wage worker 1,436 years and 10 months to make what Mitt Romney made in 2010.

If that hasn't sunk in yet, I'll say it differently. To make as much as Mitt Romney made in one year, a minimum-wage worker working 40 hours a week for $7.25 an hour would have to start work during the Liang Dynasty and work all the way to the present day. Assuming an average life expectancy of 65 years, since minimum-wage workers can't get the same nutrition and health care that everyone else can, that's 22 entire lifetimes of nonstop minimum-wage work, from infancy to death, just to make what one man made in one year.

Guys as rich as Mitt Romney make money for having money. He doesn't simply work for a living, but rather acquires wealth from investments already made with previously accumulated wealth. While a minimum-wage worker pays a third of their income in sales, property, payroll and excise taxes, Mitt Romney pays just a 13.9% tax rate on more than half of his income, because it comes from capital gains, instead of good old-fashioned hard work.

Congress is debating a bill to raise the minimum wage from a woefully inadequate $7.25 an hour to a slightly less inadequate $10 an hour over a two-year period, and indexing it to the consumer price index so it rises annually as the cost of living goes up. It's a good bill that puts a little more money in the pockets of hard workers just trying to stay above water, which mean more demand for local small businesses in the neighborhoods where these workers live, which means economic expansion and steady job growth in communities that need it the most.

But debating wouldn't be the right word to use. Since the Republican-controlled House refuses to even bring any bill up for debate that doesn't exclusively benefit their millionaire campaign donors in the financial, pharmaceutical, insurance and fossil-fuel industries, the minimum-wage bill is predicted to sink like a stone in a lake. House Republicans' attitude toward the bill can best be summed up by Republican Bill Young of Florida, who told someone to "get a job" after he asked whether the Congressman would support an increase in the minimum wage.

Getting by in America isn't done by just having a job; I've personally held four part-time jobs at one point just to pay $450 a month in rent, keep food in my fridge and gas in the tank. 20% of those on food stamps have jobs, but just don't make enough to feed their families without government assistance. It isn't that those with minimum-wage jobs on food stamps aren't working hard enough, they're just not being paid more than enough to stay alive through the next week.

On the other hand, corporate profits are at an all-time high, while wages are at an all-time low. The gap between the average pay of a CEO and the average worker is more than 231 to 1. While more and more Americans are struggling just to meet basic needs, the compensation of corporate executives has never been higher, nor have their lifestyles been any more extravagant. While a worker laid off from a company that Bain Capital shackled with debt and outsourced pays taxes on their unemployment compensation, Mitt Romney gets a $77,000 tax break from his dressage horse. It's likely that a Mitt Romney presidency would mean a continuation of excessive wealth inequality and tax loopholes for the richest 1%, and the struggle of the average worker to get by would worsen.

The concept of a maximum wage is in the style of Huey Long's "Share the Wealth" radio addresses from the Great Depression. It won't make rich Americans poor, nor will it call for an equal distribution of wealth. A maximum wage would simply be legislation that states an executive shouldn't make more than 10 times what their average worker makes. A CEO can still make $5 million dollars a year if they wish. It just means their average worker has to make at least $500,000 a year.

It's more likely that if a maximum-wage law was in place, it would simply mean CEOs would have to make do with a slightly lesser compensation package that would still be more than enough to live a luxurious lifestyle. And the average worker would be paid a comfortable living wage that would be enough to afford a home big enough for their family, enough to have plenty of food on the table, and enough to put away for their children's college education, retirement, vacations, and the like.

America used to be a country where one income could support a family with multiple children, and still be enough to live comfortably. It's time to treat workers with a decent wage that allows for families to sustain themselves and live with dignity. And if that means a few CEOs have to make do with a few million less, that's a sacrifice 99% of us are okay with.


Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut. You can contact Carl at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and listen to his online radio talk show, Swag The Dog, at

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+62 # pernsey 2012-07-14 18:31
America used to be a country where one income could support a family with multiple children, and still be enough to live comfortably. It's time to treat workers with a decent wage that allows for families to sustain themselves and live with dignity. And if that means a few CEOs have to make do with a few million less, that's a sacrifice 99% of us are okay with.

Amen to that!!
+6 # Bigfella 2012-07-15 20:17
The nords had this for years it was 4 times the lowest paid.
+82 # independentmind 2012-07-14 19:00
A maximum wage would be great and fair. I would also like to see our Congresspeople and Senators earn minimum wage and get no health insurance or pension. They should also need to clock in and out, so that we can see how many hours they actually work.
+30 # brux 2012-07-14 22:15
Congress should not get special privileges such as retirement or health plans, cars, whatever, they need to be sensitive to the American public, but there is such a thing as being too extreme.

Clocking in and out … very funny!
+6 # independentmind 2012-07-15 21:18
Glad you enjoyed it - that came sort of as an afterthought.
One of the Senators was complaining that he had to spend way too much time across the road in a boiler room soliciting money for the party, instead of doing the work he is supposed to do...
Does anyone else think it is obscene how much money is being spent on re-election campaigns?
0 # brux 2013-03-09 22:50
I don't know if obscene is the word for it, but it makes me sick, I'll give you that.
+14 # John Locke 2012-07-15 08:04
This could be done quite easily for any company that is public or for any company that incorporates!

It is a good Idea!

Rest assured, it will neve happen unless there is a worker revolution first!
+5 # PaineRad 2012-07-15 17:12
It is unfortunate that so many know so little about how members of Congress are paid. Members of Congress do not have separate pension or health ins plans. Theirs are the same as any other federal employee and have been since 1984.

However, one aspect of Congress' pay that skews their retirement benefits higher is the fact that their pay is supposed to be part compensation for having to maintain two homes -- one in DC area and one in their home district or state.

I think their pay should be broken down into two segments -- salary and living allowance (with the living allowance dependent on what they actually spend [diminishing the allowance if they live in a subsidized rooming house like a lot of GOPers do with The Family on C Street]. Only the salary portion would be counted for retirement purposes. That salary portion should probably be 2/3 or less of their current pay.

However, the average pension for a retired member of Congress as of 2007 was only about $41,000 plus Social Security. A potential problem with this average is that it may include a fairly large number of short timers. One factor in the retirement income of Congress members is that their time of service in the military or another form of federal service are all combined. I think that it is probably fair. What is not fair is that most of us do not have that same portability of pension plans. Ours need to improve without tearing down theirs.
+28 # DurangoKid 2012-07-14 21:55
The maximum wage should be indexed to the federal minimum wage. Indexing to some ill defined average opens the door to fudging. And it should also include other perks like expense accounts, stock options, bonuses, club memberships, etc. Benefits packages should also be standardized to close a possible sneak path through accounting tricks and such. Keep the index around 10 or so. If the minimum rises to $20/hr. the max is still quite generous. By the way, this could function as campaign finance reform, too. Just have to reign in the corporations a bit.
+18 # brux 2012-07-14 22:13
When someone's wealth or power becomes a threat to others' freedom and opportunity that is when they have too much. How do you measure this with what kind of metrics and then how does the discussion occur where that is set? I don't know, but there is a lot written on the subject. If we are going to meddle in the affairs of other countries, then we also should promote economic democracy in those who we do business with instead of allowing international criminal relationships that go on in the dark.
+15 # brux 2012-07-14 22:21
Here is an incentive based idea …

1. Index a progressive tax rate to the poverty level, or the GINI? (spelling) index or economic equality.

2. When the country is at war or running a deficit, large debt like we are the progressivity of the tax rates should be upped, and the tax-rates themselves should be raised.

3. This should create incentives for those who want to keep more money and have greater influence to solve these problems, not to ignore them and aggravate them.

So, if I'm a billionaire and everything is paid up and things are going well the tax rates should go down, maximum wage should go up.

If the same billionaire is in a downturn cycle then taxes go up unless investments are made in schools, health care, roads, communication and infrastructure - then tax rates go up to pay for it.

Also, we need some way of taxing wealth that is already owned, a kind of surcharge on wealth.
-15 # Zarrakan 2012-07-14 22:23
Talking about job without talking about the Job Pyramid is like going fishing without bait. You can play around with money all you want, it's not going to change the fundamental problems our society has when it comes to jobs and unemployment. I made a video about unemployment, and how we can fix it. It’s at my YouTube channel Zarrakan, and here’s the link:

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against those who want to kill all of us with destructive social policies.
+9 # fliteshare 2012-07-14 22:27
The problem isn't income as such the problems originate from execisve Net Capital Worth. So how about a Maximum on Net Capital Worth of give or take $60 Million.
+20 # mdhome 2012-07-14 22:28
All very good comments, that have the same problem, that is CONGRESS. I too remember when some could support their family with just one income, even if it was barely above minimum wage. now with two incomes they probably need food stamps to survive. I would gladly love to see that republicant Young try to get a job using the average unemployed persons resume
+5 # Capn Canard 2012-07-15 07:04
mdhome, yes congress is the major obstacle to making a system which could work. Congress could work if there were far more points of view represented, say about 3 more political parties, rather than the Party of Wealth and the Party of a Superficial Opposition to the Party of Wealth. We really need a complete overhaul of the system of control as in a even distribution of power to the people. The problem is ignorance. If ignorance weren't so pervasive and ubiquitous then I would recommend a direct democratic system or something like Anarcho-Syndica lism.
+10 # Elder_Geek 2012-07-14 23:49
Bill Young (R) is simply another example of the right wing's contempt for real working Americans.

I haven't been unemployed since I took a year off on being discharged from the USAF back in 1975, and I understand far better than Mr. Young, who feeds from the political trough we all pay to fill. I work 65-70hrs a week to support my wife and two children.

As their employers, we should be outraged at the way some of our elected officials spend their time: Pandering to the rich and super rich, while kicking dirt in the faces of those stranded below the poverty line.

If Jesus saw how many of his most vociferous "supporters" act, I believe he would weep.
+7 # readerz 2012-07-15 00:22
Have a national referendum that allows citizens to vote on policy; override Congress.

The maximum income is a good idea. Even if the maximum (including perks) is held at 100 times the minimum wage, it would be both saving companies money, and also keeping salaries up for the rest of the workers. And stop these off-shore accounts.

Congress isn't the worst problem: those people in the U.S.A. who grew up in the 1950s (now in their 70s) were brainwashed into thinking there is a commie under every rock. Communism back then meant that Ukraine starved and the black market thrived, but a maximum wage is not so brutal.

As recently as 1977, there were executives who took home only about $200,000; even with inflation that is far less than a CEO today. Then suddenly they expected 5 million dollars a year, for no added value. That was the height of the trickle down theory, and the height of the "oil crisis" and the pirate brokers who were able to "find" sources, just to prove that they should be paid so much more than everybody else.
+5 # hobbesian 2012-07-15 05:16
I think it was Calvin Trilling's wife who used to say there is such a thing as "enoughness". If you have enough to use to see you through all your needs for the rest of your life, you have enough. Give it away, give up working, give someone else a chance - you have ENOUGH. Already. There is never "enough" in their coffers for some greedy people; Romney and his like - well it is a long list. Where is the list of the philanthropic deeds of Romney? I would like to read about all the things the rest of the world needs badly, that he has funded. Anybody?
+6 # bingers 2012-07-15 05:38
The thing that really needs to be done is simply to repeal all the Reagan.Bush taxcuts and increases and return to the graduated income tax.

That makes it more fiscally desirable to reinvest in your company with capital improvements, pay increases, more research and hiring. Then the rich pay their fair share, the economy recovers fully and outsourcing ends.

When Reagan took office we were the #1 exporter of manufactured goods, now, as a result of his policies and the failure of later presidents to reverse his ridiculous policies we're the #1 importer of manufactured goods.

Additionally, the capital gains tax on money earned by financial manipulation needs to be raised to 70% or more. The only capital gains that should be given the current sweetheart rate should be the gains on your principal residence and on money earned from backing start up business.

Teddy Roosevelt said one person's income should be sufficient to buy a house, a car, feed your family well, take a yearly family vacation and put all your children through college. For that he was booted from the Republican party. Same ol' same ol' right wing stupidity then as now.
-5 # RightForAReason 2012-07-15 15:21
The top 5% already pay 58.66% of the TOTAL taxes.
I worked my mass off to get into that top 5%.
Between Federal, State, City, sales tax, gasoline tax, phone tax, utility taxes and a host of other "hidden taxes", they are taking well over 50% of what I make.
That isn't even counting the corporate taxes I pay hidden in the cost of the goods I buy that the corporations pass along to their consumers.

What % should I pay?
At this rate, I'm gone from home until August before I put a dime in my own pocket.
How many nights do my kids have to miss their Dad?

Why shouldn't everyone in this country have a skin in the game?
Why do 50% enjoy living in this country and pay absolutely nothing for the privilege?
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-07-15 18:37
Congratulations on "working your ass off". What do you think the other 95% are doing?

NOBODY gets by without paying taxes. That sales tax, renter's tax, utility tax, and Social Security etc. may not be much to you, but they add up to a substantial proportion of what happens to the incomes of the rest of us who also work our asses off for a living.

My guess is that you're "right-wing for the reason" that you're too rich to have a clue what the rest of us are up against.
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-07-16 06:39
My mistake. NOT everyone pays taxes. If you're rich enough, you know very well about income that isn't taxable.

By "total taxes" you're only refering to "Federal Income tax". Many of the rich aren't affected by this because they don't work for a living. If they do, it's taxed at a somewhat higher rate than when the extremely poor do it.

Why don't the rich pay Social Security after their first $103,000 per year? That's a perfect example of a tax you didn't bother to mention.
+2 # Selwick 2012-07-15 18:38
I am not in the top 5% but I pay Federal and State tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, phone tax, utility tax, and another host of hidden taxes. I also buy goods from coprporations that pass along corporate taxes in their prices.
Whiner, where do you live?
I strongly believe you are one of these people who only believe that they that they are part of the upper 5 - 1%. And these people are the enemies on the way to general betterment of ALL people in this country.
+3 # fliteshare 2012-07-16 00:12
The reason you're wrong is that the 5% you belong to, OWNS 95% of the production capacity. And that you managed to have other people contribute to your wealth by insinuating that "YOU WORKED FOR THAT" is disingenuous at best.
+8 # bingers 2012-07-15 05:42
BTW, I don't hate the rich, but 10X is way too low an indexing number. When we were at maximum economic power and equality the average CEO to worker ratio was 30X and that should be quite enough for anyone but the Sultan of Brunei. 8^)
-8 # MidwestTom 2012-07-15 06:05
This idea would get all of the low wage people fired and replaced with outside service companies.
+7 # Skippydelic 2012-07-15 10:26
But isn't that what obscenely wealthy people like Mitt Romney *already* do when they outsource jobs to China?
-9 # RightForAReason 2012-07-15 15:20
Pay attention a just little. Bain did outsourcing AFTER Ronmey left.
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-07-15 18:40
According to Mittens. Of course his former employees tell a different story. He probably forgot. He was too busy worrying about his dressage horses. Talk about "working your ass off"! Try hiring someone to keep your horses manicured for competition!
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-07-15 18:46
Pay just a little attention to what happens outside of your gated community and you'll see an entire world that disagrees with your fantasy trickle down voodoo economics.
+4 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-07-16 00:39
But Romney never left!!
And I am paying attention, attention to the facts.
According to legal documents that he signed and sent off to the SEC, he was the sole owner of the shares of Bain, the CEO, and by the definition used in all the MBA programs at all the business schools in the USA, for what a CEO is responsible for, the place where the buck stopped.
If he signed these legal filings untruthfully, he is guilty of a felony, and subject to a fine or jail time, or both.

You can't have it both ways. You can't be the CEO and not the CEO at the same time.

In fact, Bain Capital not only invested in companies that outsourced both manufacturing and services, they also owned outright, companies that did the outsourcing. Romney (the company) did this before he 'left' to run the Olympics, and the policies and tactics he started, continued while he was 'on temporary leave' but still the CEO of Bain Capital.

I believe that it's only fair that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however, they are not entitled to their own facts, so let's stick to the facts, or if you can't do that, at least try to 'pay attention' to the facts.
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-07-15 18:39
By your logic, the rich are only hiring low wage earners out of the kindness of their hearts. The rich will ALWAYS do what they can to make more money. PERIOD.
+3 # handmjones 2012-07-15 06:24
Why don't we graduate the tax right on up to 100% on some very high marginal dollar, say the 100 millionth dollar. At year end, if the pols have spent more than collected the point of 100% is moved down retroactively until the deficit is covered. This would share the grief on an ability to afford it basis and simultaneously satisfy those who want balanced budgets.
+1 # tedrey 2012-07-15 06:34
I completely agree with Carl, though we should remember that some people still wouldn't get minimum wage because they can't even GET a job.
+3 # hobbesian 2012-07-15 06:45
why didn't you print my note on "enoughness"? Calvin Trillin's wife's belief. ?


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+4 # jsgammato 2012-07-15 08:17
The idea that the superrich would somehow be dis-incentivize d to work if there were a maximum wage is specious, too. they are a competitive lot, and will find other ways to one-up each other, including having the best-run businesses, etc.
+2 # hd70642 2012-07-15 10:17
this idea was once formulated By Ravi Batra ,An economist who was gravely concerned by concentrations of wealth .I highly reccomend any of his books
+1 # nirmalandhas 2012-07-15 19:42
we did this in sri lanka in 1970 and we were called communists and our government almost toppled by rebells...
+5 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-07-16 01:13
#1. The President of the United States currently earns about a half a million dollars in salary and benefits.
#2. We can all agree to varying degrees that the job of POTUS is the most important job in the country.
#3. No CEO should make more than the person with the 'most important job' in the country.
#4. The maximum wage, therefore , should be indexed to the salary of POTUS.
#5. The 'fact' that the top 5% already pay 58.66% of the TOTAL taxes is meaningless in the overall scheme of things. The rich pay more because as Willie Sutton said when asked why he robs banks, answered with the fact that, "...that's where the money is."
#6. The real number to look at when it comes to taxes is the percentage of income that goes to taxes like sales taxes, which are regressive taxes. If a millionaire buys a pack of gum, and pays 10 cents sales tax, what percentage is that 10 cents compared with the 40 hour a week minimum wage worker making under $16,000.00 a year, paying that same 10 cents in sales tax for that same pack of gum.

You can twist and play with the numbers all you like, but you will never get away from the FACT that things are no longer FAIR in these United States, and as things get more and more UNFAIR, the fuse on the national powder keg gets shorter and shorter.

The mega-rich don't really care. They have already booked their flight to that nice new condo, off the 9th green, on Mars.
+1 # granny6 2012-07-17 10:25
My father always said he was happy to pay Somehow his anti-greed gene passed on to me.For the life of me I cannot feel that I am entitled to more just because I am. I worked at hard jobs until now at retirement I am experiencing the rewards of my labors. Arthritis, Joint problems, and just fatigue of fighting to keep my head above water. I was not a minimum wage earner. I was a nurse. Granted we are not at the top of the pay scale, but do you want to be sick if we are not there? There are untold other jobs that are overlooked. Think I am sure all of you can come up with a lot more jobs like mine. Overlooked but essential to keep our country together. If you are able to live "the life style you deserve" then I'm preaching to the wall. Because you will never experience life as it was meant to be lived.
+1 # tadn54 2012-07-17 19:53
Part of the problem with woefully inadequate wages, besides out-and-out greed, is in corporate charters, insistiung, by law, to increase profits for shareholders, and naturally, the first line-item to be looked at is salaries. It's all backwards, payroll is the first thing you should look at to INCREASE.

Don't tell me that increasing the minimum wage by 50%, and even doubling it now, would drastically decrease multi-billion dollar corporations income.

Entreprenuers would know this going into any venture, but it would not be a impedimint to start-ups.

I read an article in the WSJ, of all places, about an owner of a successful travel agency with 20 employees, who FULLY pays for their health care, has annual pay increase double the rate of inflation, paid 4 week vacations, annual bonuses REGARDLESS OF THEIR TENURE. The owner drives a Focus and pays himself a modest salary, and puts everything else into the company, with employee salaries FIRST.

It's nothing but a matter of choice and prioriies.

How many yachts can you waterski behind,
Mr, CEO?
0 # Livemike 2012-08-03 03:48
Right so if an executive fires marginal workers, like for instance the intellectually or physically disabled, and hires more expensive ablebodied workers that means he deserves a raise. People who write articles like this are professional non-thinkers, paid to indulge prejudices and allow people to continue to believe things that make them feel better.
+1 # jtaraei 2013-03-09 13:51
Well, if you want a maximum wage, here you go:
0 # brux 2013-03-09 23:03
Thanks ... you know, this petition only has 25 signatures out of the 100,000 needed to be taken seriously. I am sure that no one would want to deal with this idea, but we need something like it or a REAL graduate income tax with very high rates at the top. Are people not signing it because they do not agree with it or not signing it because they do not know about it.
0 # John Steinsvold 2013-03-09 22:37
An Alternative to Capitalism (since we cannot legislate morality)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to my essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein

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