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Gibson writes: "Who knew that a former executive at General Electric, a company widely-known for its tax dodging and outrageous lobbying expenses, would take a bold, selfless stand against income inequality as president of a public university?"

Interim Kentucky State University President Raymond M. Burse (right). (photo: KSU)
Interim Kentucky State University President Raymond M. Burse (right). (photo: KSU)


One Percenter Sacrifices Some of His Wealth to Raise Minimum Wage

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

12 August 14

 

ho knew that a former executive at General Electric, a company widely-known for its tax dodging and outrageous lobbying expenses, would take a bold, selfless stand against income inequality as president of a public university?

Raymond M. Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University in Frankfort, was re-hired at his old job (he previously served as president from 1982 to 1989) at a generous salary of $350,000. He decided to give himself a pay cut of almost 25 percent to raise the wages for 24 KSU employees, effective immediately. As a result of Burse’s sacrifice, those workers will now receive $10.25 an hour instead of $7.25. Burse has said he will take additional pay cuts if any other minimum wage workers are hired at KSU under his watch.

“In this situation, the people making the least are doing the greatest amount of work, and I wanted to acknowledge that,” Burse told me in a phone interview.

Burse worked at GE for 17 years, eventually moving up to becoming a vice president and senior counsel of the company. He retired in 2012, and became KSU’s interim president just over a month ago. He was previously a partner at the Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs law firm in Louisville, Kentucky. To his credit, Burse acknowledges that rather than taking a radical position or trying to inspire a trend, he was simply in a unique position to give up some of his wealth.

“I did something I could afford to do, and I chose that. Other people may not be similarly situated,” Burse said.

Even still, the former top-level executive at one of the world’s richest corporations acknowledges that income inequality is a growing problem. Bloomberg recently reported that America’s richest 1 percent may be even richer than previously thought. Additional research from Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics and Philip Vermeulen of the European Central Bank shows that those with $20 million or more in net worth, or the richest 0.1 percent, actually control closer to 23.5 percent of all wealth.

The previous estimate of the 1 percent controlling 21.5 percent of all wealth didn’t account for the wealth hidden in overseas tax havens, according to Zucman. Vermeulen discovered that the world’s richest 1 percent control closer to 37 percent of the world’s wealth, rather than the previous estimate of 34 percent. Nobel Economics Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz blames the greater concentration of wealth on the drop in consumer spending since the recession officially ended in 2009.

“It’s pretty clear that there is a growing gap between the richest people in this country and everyone else,” Burse said of his fellow 1 percenters. “I think the data speaks for itself.”

While Burse repeatedly acknowledged that his decision to volunteer for a 25 percent pay cut was chiefly his own, borne out of his own values of dedication to his community, it is reflective of a nationwide trend to increase the minimum wage. In 2014, 10 states from Hawaii to Maryland have raised their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as suggested in President Obama’s State of the Union address. The city of Seattle recently raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour, the chief demand of the fast wood and retail workers’ movement. Burse’s decision to take it upon himself to give minimum wage workers a pay raise aligns him with that movement.

“I think something should be done, and done soon,” Burse said in a response to a question from MSNBC’s Ed Schultz about raising the minimum wage.

When Burse’s proposed pay cut was accepted at a university board of regents meeting, the room erupted into a standing ovation. According to Burse, one of the regents approached him afterward and said there had never once been a standing ovation in the board room. On The Ed Show, Burse recounted a story of one minimum wage worker who approached him after the fact with tears in her eyes, thanking him for taking action that would raise her standard of living. Burse said the university is reaping lasting benefits as a result of the viral news surrounding his voluntary pay cut.

“What I’m hearing from our people is that people are making contributions to the KSU alumni fund, and more parents want to send their daughters and sons to KSU,” Burse told Ed Schultz. “We’ve been getting calls, emails, and texts from people all over the world.”


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+37 # kyzipster 2014-08-12 12:50
Great story, I'm confused that the university is 'reaping lasting benefits' from his decision. It should shame KSU into paying a living wage to all employees. If a university can't set an example, that's sad.
 
 
+46 # wrknight 2014-08-12 14:47
"Nobel Economics Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz blames the greater concentration of wealth on the drop in consumer spending since the recession officially ended in 2009."

Duh! Could that possibly be because 99% of consumers are barely eking out a living?
 
 
+3 # economagic 2014-08-12 16:07
Actually I think Stiglitz has it backwards. He may have spoken hurriedly or he might have been misquoted. He knows the causation runs the other way.
 
 
-69 # Roland 2014-08-12 15:11
Nice story after you get past Carl’s cheap shot at GE. All of us as well as corporations try to pay as little in taxes as allowed by law. GE taking advantage of huge losses and green energy tax credits to offset profits is and should be legal. But like many things the left finds it better to mislead and create resentment and division.

For him to take his own money to do this is wonderful. He didn’t ask the school to raise the wages—he did it himself with his own money. He could have given this extra money of his, to charity, but somehow he thought this to be of more value. Personally, I would have given it to children’s hospitals or starving children, either in the US or abroad. There are many worth while organizations that help people with life changing or life threatening problems. And lets not forget the Make a Wish Foundation.

I want to emphasize that what he did was nice and commendable, but would any of you have elected to spend your extra money this way as opposed to helping many who are in much dire straits?
 
 
+30 # economagic 2014-08-12 16:12
Cheap shot at GE my butt. In how many of the last ten years you had income did you pay no taxes? How many times have you been fined for tax evasion (say a nickel, because that would be reasonable considering your income in comparison to that of G.E.)? General Electric is one of the most profitable companies in the world, yet one of the most successful (not inclined) at avoiding taxes where possible and evading them otherwise.
 
 
-16 # Roland 2014-08-12 21:24
Where do you get your information? Really, stuff like you presented is what is so divisive. It isn’t true but it creates resentment. According to Value Line, 2009 was the only year they didn’t pay taxes and that was because of losses at GE Capital and the green energy credits. Where are you hearing otherwise? Their stock was worth $60.00 in 2000, $41.00 in 2007 and today is worth $25.00. This is what you consider one of the most sucessful and profitable companies?
 
 
-9 # Roland 2014-08-13 08:22
This is what is either so hilarious or sad about these posts. Economagic puts up some false accusations and I then post easily accessible facts that contradict him. Because my facts dispel the notion that a company is cheating people give me thumbs down. At the same time by repeating false accusations Economagic gets thumbs up. Hilarious or sad?
 
 
+6 # MidwestDick 2014-08-13 10:44
GE takes advantage of its world wide business to take profits in its low tax foreign subsidiaries. Free trade anyone?
That is one important dodge it used to keep its tax bill down to zero.
It also claims big credits for its green programs, but this is not, I think, as important as its offshoring technique in keeping that bill down.
GE does pay a lot of taxes, however, on its employees. That's the American way. Profits are sacrosanct but as far as people are concerned -- create a job, pay the taxes.
 
 
+8 # Helen Marshall 2014-08-12 17:38
How do you know what else he does with his money????
 
 
-16 # Roland 2014-08-12 21:30
It doesn’t matter if he gives other money to charity. He gave this money to these people. Is that the best use of it to help people? In other words, just because he may have been more efficient with other money, why be inefficient with this money?
 
 
+26 # ericlipps 2014-08-12 17:52
Quoting Roland:
Nice story after you get past Carl’s cheap shot at GE. All of us as well as corporations try to pay as little in taxes as allowed by law. GE taking advantage of huge losses and green energy tax credits to offset profits is and should be legal. But like many things the left finds it better to mislead and create resentment and division.


Once you get past the cheap shot at the left, it's important to realize that while everyone tries to pay as little in taxes as is legal, most ordinary Americans can't afford to buy politicians to install trap doors in the tax code that we, but not other people, can use to pay little or nothing no matter how much we earn. GE, on the other hand, can afford to do exactly that, and (in company with other large corporations) it has.
 
 
-16 # Roland 2014-08-12 21:37
While what you say about them and other companies lobbying is true, I think it might be best for many on this site to consider this quote.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. Alexis de Tocqueville
This explains why so many democrats get elected.
 
 
+5 # bmiluski 2014-08-13 11:30
Roland.......wh ere do you come up with this stuff?
I gotta tell ya, since I don't have any Harry Potter or Hunger Games books to read, in order to get my fantasy fixes, I look forward to your posts.
 
 
-6 # Roland 2014-08-13 12:51
Do you disagree with Tocqueville or do you disagree that democrats are buying votes? Keep the min. wage platform, entitlement programs and public sector uinions in mind before answering.
 
 
+5 # bmiluski 2014-08-13 15:37
Well, well, well, look at the kettle calling the pot black. Oh wait....I forgot Florida. No votes bought there. No siree. After all when your brother's the gov. who needs to buy them. Just throw out the ones you don't want.
 
 
0 # MidwestTom 2014-08-12 19:56
Take a close look at those Green Wind Turbines going up all over the country. They make no sense without BIG tax incentives, and GE is the largest beneficiary of the benefits. No body would build a wind turbine if it were not for the tax credits. Basically the government said "build a wind turbine and you can deduct what it cost from what you owe in taxes", and GE leaped on it.
 
 
+7 # Texas Aggie 2014-08-13 08:22
Actually, the point has been reached where wind power is now competitive with fossil fuel. And since the cost of wind doesn't change, when the price of gas goes up, they will be even more competitive.

And the deduction for wind power doesn't go to GE. It goes to whomever is putting in the windmill. The deductions that GE is taking are entirely different.
 
 
+10 # Texas Aggie 2014-08-13 08:17
It is one thing to use tax law to reduce your taxes. It is quite another thing, completely different, to use your lobbyists to write the laws that allow you to reduce your taxes. The former is morally justified. The latter most assuredly is not.
 
 
-2 # Roland 2014-08-13 08:27
.
 
 
+3 # bmiluski 2014-08-13 11:17
Roland.......it 's not a cheap shot if it's true.
 
 
+1 # bmiluski 2014-08-13 11:21
Roland......it' s not a cheap shot if it's true.
 
 
+3 # kyzipster 2014-08-13 11:31
I don't blame GE, I blame all corporate lobbyists and our corporate controlled Congress that have made it legal to reap billions in profit overseas while paying $0 in taxes in the US. These companies benefit greatly from our infrastructure, military, education system, etc.
 
 
+6 # Eliz 2014-08-13 12:21
Excuse me, but don't you think helping the "working poor" counts, along with all the "starving children" and people with life-threatenin g problems? Since when was $7.25 a livable wage? You talk about giving to starving children - well, how about these families living on $7.25 an hour with STARVING CHILDREN? Who can live on that anywhere in this country? There are millions of people in this country who are the "working poor." They are working at least 40 hours a week and are not able to afford rent, let alone raise children and put food on the table. Those are wages for teenagers, not adults in their 40s or 50s, unless you go back 40 years. Why shouldn't he choose to help the working poor IN OUR OWN COUNTRY who are working far harder than many CEOs for a fraction of what most CEOs and college presidents make?

You may say to them, "Get a college education." But in this day and age, who can afford one, even with a livable income? And there are no guarantees that they will get a job working in their chosen professions, even after spending or taking out loans of upwards of $100,000 or more. There are plenty of former college graduates who are unable to get work paying more than $10.00 an hour nowadays. That was a good wage 20 years ago!

This man has done an unusual and very commendable thing. Even though $10.25 an hour is still not easy to live on in these times, he has still made a generous use of that 25% cut to his salary.
 
 
+29 # margpark 2014-08-12 15:39
The man is simply wise enough to realize he has quite enough money all ready. Would be wonderful if many in his economic cohort felt the same. I am certainly not going to condemn him for not trying to rescue the whole world. "I am one man. I cannot do everything. But as one man I will do what I can."
 
 
-14 # bigkahuna671 2014-08-12 16:53
25%? What's that to a man who "retired" from GE as an executive and was also a partner in a successful law firm? If he really, really cared about the workers at his university, he'd work for $1.00 a year as several of this country's Presidents have done. It would show true compassion.
 
 
+7 # bmiluski 2014-08-13 11:22
Yo bigkahuma671... ...nice way to dump on someone who at least did something.
 
 
+11 # Art947 2014-08-12 21:16
My main concern is what happens after his term as interim president is over. Will the University continue paying these employees at a reasonable hourly rate? What will the next president do to lift those boats that are actually sinking?
 
 
+6 # Texas Aggie 2014-08-13 08:20
From another article, it appears that the wage that they are now paying has been written into the contracts and will continue no matter what as university policy.
 
 
+2 # medusa 2014-08-13 23:00
Who is that attacks someone for doing a good deed? And for evidence offers make-believe?
 

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