Whenever my family gets together for dinner, the men at the table invariably talk about sports, and the women inevitably complain about our sports-mad culture and the outrageous salaries paid to professional athletes.

That someone could get paid millions of dollars to throw, catch or hit a ball is debatable. What I find ironic, however, is that no one ever complains about the salaries paid to corporate CEOs. Yet, according to a recent study conducted by the Associated Press, the compensation granted to America’s top CEOs has vaulted to the level of pro athletes and movie stars. Half the CEOs of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 make more than $8.3 million a year, and some make much, much more.


Whenever my family gets together for dinner, the men at the table invariably talk about sports, and the women inevitably complain about our sports-mad culture and the outrageous salaries paid to professional athletes.

That someone could get paid millions of dollars to throw, catch or hit a ball is debatable. What I find ironic, however, is that no one ever complains about the salaries paid to corporate CEOs. Yet, according to a recent study conducted by the Associated Press, the compensation granted to America’s top CEOs has vaulted to the level of pro athletes and movie stars. Half the CEOs of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 make more than $8.3 million a year, and some make much, much more.

Combined, these CEOs received $4.16 billion in 2006, according to the AP study. That’s more than three times what Toyota will be investing ($1.3 billion) to build a new assembly plant in Blue Springs, MS-a plant that, by itself, will employ some 2,000 people.

The top 10 CEOs on the list were paid at least $30 million each in 2006. Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo Inc., led the pack with a total compensation last year of $71.7 million. That’s more than 2.5 times the $27 million in total compensation this year for the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, baseball’s highest-paid player.

On average, CEOs make 179 times as much as rank-and-file workers. In 1994, CEOs made only 90 times as much as the rank-and-file. If the minimum wage had risen t the same pace as CEO pay since 1990, it would be worth $22.61 today. Instead, the federal minimum wage will increase to $5.85 per hour on July 24, the first increase in a decade.

So next time the executives at your company say there’s no money in the budget for assembly automation, ask them how much they pulled down last year. Then ask if you can use the company skybox this weekend. A-Rod’s in town... You can read about the AP study here.