Slika dneva: Zgornji 1% pobere četrtino vseh dohodkov

Trije najvišji dohodkovni razredi kot odstotek celotnega dohodka ZDA v obdobju 1913 – 2008

Top income_USVir: Atkinson and Piketty: Top Incomes over the Twentieth Century (2007), povzeto po Lazonick (2010).

Zgornji 1% Američanov danes zasluži skoraj četrtino celotnega dohodka ZDA. To je najvišji delež po letu 1930. V času New Deala in Velike moderacije je ta delež postopoma upadel na vsega 8% sredi 1970-ih let. Konec 1970-ih let pa je spet začel naglo naraščati in s 23% v letu 2008 dosegel raven izpred gospodarske depresije 1929-1933.

To kažejo davčni podatki, ki jih skrbno zbirajo Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty in Emmanuel Saez  in objavljajo na spletni strani The World Top Incomes Database. Thomas Piketty in Emanuel Saez (2006) v študiji The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective trdita, da je glavni razlog za povečanje dohodkov zgornjega 1% in s tem povečanja neenakosti predvsem povečanje plač v najvišjem razredu.

Lazonick (2010) pa pravi, da to ne pokaže celotne slike, saj Piketty in Saez ne upoštevata celotnih nagrad vodilnih – predvsem plačil v obliki delnic ter opcij. Prav ta način nagrajevanja vodilnih pa naj bi vplival ne samo na tako drastično povečanje razlik v distribuciji dohodkov, pač pa tudi zmanjšanje vlaganj v razvoj in inovacije podjetij ter na povečano nestabilnost poslovanja:

Piketty and Saez ignore the role of stock-based compensation in general and stock options in particular in driving the increases in the “salaries” of the top income recipients.

In this paper I argue that a prime cause of the growing inequity and instability in the US economic system is the stock-based compensation of the executives who run the nation’s leading industrial and financial corporations. In the 1980s and 1990s agency theorists advocated this type of compensation as an incentive for corporate executives to “maximize shareholder value” (MSV), and thereby improve the performance of the economy as a whole (see Jensen 1986; Jensen and Murphy 1990). … I argue that the basic tenets of agency theory are contradicted by the theory of innovative enterprise (see Lazonick and O’Sullivan 2000; Lazonick 2002, 2010b and 2010c).

… I show that in the corporate economy of the United States, the implementation of the incentives advocated by agency theory for the sake of MSV have over the past three decades resulted in an explosion of top executive pay. I go on to document the importance of stock buybacks in the United States as an instrument for MSV that, by manipulating a company’s stock price, helps to boost executive pay.

Finally I contend that in the United States the use of stock-based compensation, and in particular stock options, to motivate corporate executives to have a strong personal interest in the performance of their companies’ stock prices has resulted in not only an inequitable distribution of income but also reduced investment in innovation and unstable economic performance.

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