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As workers face more job losses...
Corporate fat cats are cashing in

July 20, 2001 | Page 1

WINIFRED THORNE is nervous. For the first time in 20 years, she doesn't have a job.

Winifred has been a secretary all her life, but the small Boston firm that she worked for recently closed. Now she's scrambling to finish computer training before her unemployment benefits run out next month.

"I feel confident that I'll get a job, I really do," she said. "But I'm not a young girl anymore. It's a very scary time right now."

But Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill isn't worried. At a July meeting of finance ministers from the world's most powerful industrialized countries, O'Neill squawked about how much the Bush administration has done to combat America's economic slowdown.

"I continue to believe that the prospects for long-term global prosperity are better now than at any time in our history," O'Neill said.

Cold comfort to Winifred Thorne.

The truth is that many U.S. workers--especially the most vulnerable among them--have already been dealt a harsh blow by the slump. Recent jobless figures show a spike in Black and Latino unemployment, and decline in the high-tech sector has led to big layoffs, hitting immigrant workers with visas that only allow them to work in technical fields.

Unemployment figures remain low--at least in part because so many workers have simply stopped looking for work, the government stopped counting them.

But while these "discouraged" workers are invisible in unemployment statistics, their hardship isn't.

According to the National Housing Conference, the number of low-to moderate-income working families who pay 50 percent of their income on rent or who live in substandard housing jumped by 23 percent between just 1997 and 1999.

The Bush administration claims help is on the way--thanks to its $1.35 trillion tax cut. They say that they'll be mailing out tax rebates in August and September. Single people should expect $300 checks and married couples $600.

But some people stand to make a mint on the tax deal--literally.

Take Paul O'Neill. Last year, he "earned" more than $60 million as the CEO of Alcoa. His estimated tax savings over the 10 years of the Bush tax giveaway? A cool $3.5 million, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

And O'Neill isn't even at the top of the heap. Apple CEO Steve Jobs raked in $872 million last year.

As Fortune magazine reported in an article called "The Great CEO Pay Heist," compensation for top corporate executives is higher than ever--"ballooning into nine-figure totals, almost defying comprehension."

Today, CEOs of major corporations on average rake in 531 times what their employees earn.

Even the bosses' mouthpiece BusinessWeek magazine warned that the gap is getting obscene. "Let the pay that CEOs earn keep rising--and watch the economy continue to sour--and execs might well remember the fate that has awaited royalty in the past," the magazine wrote.

It's time to fight for our share.

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