Could You Live on $320,000,000.00?*

max_wageIt’s Wednesday night.  Every Wednesday night for the past six months I get a headache…tonight isn’t any different.

You see, every Wednesday night for six months, Seth (my spiritual companion here at Koinonia) and I have gotten together to “check in” with each other and see how everything is going and to share joys and prayer concerns.

And he always says something that makes me think.  And I get a headache.

Tonight we go up to Huddle House to get a cup of coffee, a burger, fries and settle in for a good conversation on a chilly December evening.  Things are going ok…good fellowship, good conversation…and then he makes a statement that snaps me back to reality.

“I think we should have a maximum wage law in this country.  We have a minimum wage law, so why not a maximum wage law”, he asks.

I give him my patented, trademark dumb look and he goes on to explain what he’s talking about.  And, well, he makes sense.

Why should some people make millions and millions of dollars on the backs of someone making minimum wage?  I believe everyone should be paid well for the value and innovation they bring to a company, but c’mon…should a CEO make a gazillion times more than the janitor that empties the trash?  Let’s figure out a way to level the income some to a more realistic reflection and put a cap on the ridiculous salaries so many CEOs make at the expense of so many poor.

I also did some research on this idea when I got back to the Mancave and found some interesting things.  There’s a dude that’s written a book that includes a discussion on this very idea.  Brian McLaren’s book Everything Must Change includes this paragraph:

“Some economists, including Herman Daly, also recommend a kind of maximum wage (in addition to an international minimum wage), but no the “invidious, forced equality” of the old, failed centralized planning economies.  Instead, they recommend a ratio-based arrangement in which the salary of the highest-paid worker in a corporation would be limited by its relation to the salary of the lowest-paid worker.  So, if the relation was a factor of fifty and the lowest-paid worker earned $20,000 per year, the highest-paid worker could earn up to $1,000,000.  Beyond that level, his salary could not increase without a corresponding increase among the lowest-paid workers.  Daly actually recommends a factor of ten or twenty, suggesting that the “bonds of community break at or before a factor of one hundred.”  Within a framing story that provides no moral context, this kind of ceiling may sound ridiculous, but within a framing story that takes bonds of community seriously, the lack of ceiling sounds even worse.” (page 261)

All of this makes me think about the early church as recorded in Acts, especially the 2nd chapter.  It says that they had all things in common.  People voluntarily sold their possessions so that a sort of economic redistribution could take place to aid those who had need.  They, as Brian McLaren would say, took the bonds of community seriously.

I would argue that it is damn near impossible to really take community seriously while at the same time worshiping at the altar of unbridled capitalism.

Now, I’m going to find the Tylenol…I’ve GOT to get rid of this headache!

*Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O’Neal was paid around $160 million for his five years of service as CEO, and then netted an additional $160 million in an exit package (never mind the fact that the company’s stock actually went down during his tenure). Consider also that the average CEO brought in $14.2 million in 2007, while federal minimum wage is a whopping $5.85 per hour (which adds up to $11,700 per year, assuming a 40 hour work week for 50 weeks per year).

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