Years ago, Project Censored did a story on income inequality in this country, something that was--if not totally unreported--at least grossly under-reported and tucked demurely away under a rug. The story talked about how the richest 5% of America controlled around 25% of all our goods and services. That ratio--5% owning 25%--maintained itself from our beginnings as a nation through the Civil War, the First World War, the Great Depression, World War II, on up to the Reagan Era. That's when it started to climb. By the time the folks at Project Censored got around to it, the top 5% controlled 47% of America's wealth and there can be little doubt that it has only gotten more exacerbated since. I am guessing right now it's somewhere north of 60% that is owned by a very small club of people. Which, if you think about it, makes us just another Third World country, another Ecuador or Paraguay, only we have freeways and missiles and credit cards.
I was thinking about this as I heard about the difference between what the top executive makes at Walmart as compared with an entry level employee. I don't have the exact figures but that starting employee would have to work (I hope you're sitting down about now) almost 800 years to equal the annual pay of the CEO. That's eight centuries, count'em. Now, of course, you can justify the disparity. The entry level guy or gal isn't juggling spread sheets and mulling over how to put the squeeze on his subcontractors in China. That must be hard work, and at some point, probably ulcer-producing. Still, they are both working for the same company.
I sat down with a calculator and figured what the disparity is between what I make and what my newest employee makes, and let me tell you, it gladdened my heart. In fact, if you look at what I take home and divide it by the hours I work, I actually make less than my newest employee! Now you can also justify this by saying, well, you're the boss, you like what you do, so of course you work more. True enough. But the larger truth is that we independent retailers would love to earn more, but if we took larger draws we'd soon go out of business. There aren't many ways out of this box: you have to sell more books to make more money, but then you have to hire more people, or you have to work fewer hours and take the same amount of money, but then nobody's watching the store and things go to hell in a handbasket. I suppose we could sell stock in our venture, but who would buy such a thing?
Meanwhile, the rich get richer. Which is a wonderful thing, if money is your goal in life. One day, I imagine, if past is prologue, the top 5% will own 100% of this country. Then we can all relax. It'll be their headache then, thank God.