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You Can't Spell “Screw You” Without “CEO”

Recentlythis blog paid appropriate homage to America’s CEOs, who, if you’ve been paying attention, were compensated last year at the respectable average annual salary of $10.8 million dollars. (CEO’s of an S+P 500 corporation make them look like fast-food workers, taking home anaverageannual income of more than $15 million in 2006: That's 411 times as much as the average worker, up from 107 times in 1990 -- and a mere 40 times in 1975!Some of you might think that’s a bit excessive. Othersmay think it’s greedy, bears no relation to performance, and that their enormous compensation reduces corporate profits and your shareholder dividends. To the untrained eye, it may even appear that the primary task of America's CEOs over the past three decades has been their own enrichment.And you’d be right!

But that view isn’t just myopic, it’s short-sighted. America’s CEOs are paid so much because they are powerful, superior and important. Yes, they are all those things because of the jobs they hold and the compensation we give them, but this is no place for a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Have you stopped to consider that CEOS are so highly valued not because of their performance, experience, cronyism, amorality, or even their superior attributes as white middle-aged males -- but on the sheer merit of their title? Let's break down what it means to beChief Executive Officer.

The concept of CHIEF goes all the way back to the Indians who, long before we begrudgingly agreed to refer to them as Native Americans, practically invented the hierarchy most corporations favor today: The Chief (boss) gives the orders, the warriors (workers) do the work and battle the other tribes (corporations), the squaws (squaws) scurry and fetch and respond to the needs of the elders (sexual harassment). The tribe grows corn (product), builds teepees (vertically integrated conglomerates), and loses their property (starter homes) in exchange for worthless beads (ARMs) to white traders (predatory sub-prime lenders). But even when his land is stolen and people slaughtered, it’s the Chiefwho’s in charge!

As for EXECUTIVE, one need look no further than the ultimate boss for example: the president of the United States. As“Chief Executive,”his amazing powers include the ability to make executive agreements (not subject to pesky Senate approval), and issueexecutive orders (a rule or order, however inane, that becomes law). He enjoys executive privilege (the right to refuse accountability), and may even attend executive sessions in the Senate (closed to the public, while these superior beings decide that which is good for the rest of us). EXECUTIVE! Just the sound of the word is enough to generate goose-bumps, if your flesh can stop crawling long enough to feel them.

OFFICER: Quick, in your favorite classic TV show, who’s the most trustworthy man on the block? That’s right, your friendly police OFFICER. SheriffAndy Taylor. Jack Webb. Muldoon and Toody. Those of you who grew up watching WPIX in New York during the ’70s will recall that only Officer Joe Bolton had enough authoritative gravitas to host The Three Stooges. If you can’t respect the superior authority of the police OFFICER, I’m not going to argue with you; but let me also point out that “officer” has the word “office” in it, and leave it at that.

Chief. Executive. Officer. When did three little words eversound so sweet?

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A Modest Proposal for a film by Kurt Engfehr and Ken Pisani.
2006 Ken Pisani and Kurt Engfehr.  All rights reserved.
All "Blogging Poorly" posts  Ken Pisani.