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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
Americans 'angry over corporate pay'
Harris Poll graph
Americans say execs are overpaid at workers' expense

A majority of Americans believe the nation's top executives are overpaid and that their bloated salaries come at the expense of other workers, a survey has found.

Corporate scandals, such as those involving WorldCom, Enron, Global Crossing and Adelphia, have had a significant impact on the public perception of business managers, according to a Harris Poll released on Friday.


The struggle is to have [economic] issues become part of the political dialogue in the next several weeks

Robert Leitman, researcher

The effect of the tarnished view of corporate execs has wider implications beyond just those companies under investigation.

"Fully, 87% of all adults believe that most top company managers are paid more than they deserve," says Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll.

Additionally, the survey revealed that most (85%) are angered by extravagant corporate pay and 46% are very angry.

Shrinking savings

The contempt felt for business leaders is reflected in the increase in the number of people who feel there is disparity in the workplace among workers and management.

Two-thirds of all adults believe that rewards in the workplace are distributed less fairly today than they were five years ago.

Number who feel execs are paid...?
Too much - 87%
Too little - 1%
About right - 12%
Source: Harris Poll

While anger at the unfairness of top managers' pay and perks is widespread, it is particularly strong among those who say they are worse off today than they were five years ago.

In general, older people believe they are worse off and angrier than younger adults, the poll found.

For example, among those aged 18 to 24, just 49% felt angry about company managers' excessive compensation, while 86% of those over 65 felt the same way.

"It's much more likely to be an immediate or short-term pocketbook issue for older people," says Robert Leitman, researcher at Harris Interactive.

Those aged 65 and older for the most part are living off a combination of social security and investments in the stock markets which have shrivelled during the recent market tumble, Mr Leitman told BBC News Online.

Grandstanding

The political fallout from pay disparities, the falling stock market and corporate malfeasance may prove to be a boon for the Democratic party in November's elections.

House of Representatives Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
Gephardt: Hoping to turn anger into votes

Older people tend to vote in larger numbers than younger ones. And with a larger percentage of them far angrier than their youthful counterparts, it would seem easy for Democrats to woo them over to their side.

Still, the Democrats have been timid about battling President George W Bush on economic issues as a possible war with Iraq looms on the horizon.

That is until this week.

Hoping to draw on the growing unease among Americans towards the economy, the House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt attacked the Bush administration on Tuesday for its lack of leadership on economic issues.

Mr Gephardt put forth his own proposal calling for additional tax cuts and rebates and greater fiscal austerity, which was backed by Senate Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.

But it may take far more than grandstanding and populous rhetoric on the part of Democratic leaders to convert Americans' anger into winning votes.

"In the end, the struggle is to have [economic] issues become part of the political dialogue in the next several weeks," Mr Leitman says.

"At the moment, it's been a very, very difficult time to raise these issues."


Politics of regulation

Worldcom goes bust

Enron fall-out

Andersen laid low

FORUM
See also:

15 Oct 02 | Business
14 Oct 02 | Americas
10 Oct 02 | Business
04 Oct 02 | Business
23 Sep 02 | Business
02 Sep 02 | Business
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