The CEO or chief executive officer is the highest-paid employee of a company. They are also the public face of a company and the person in charge of making business decisions. They are responsible for maximizing business value by setting the vision, long-term goals, framework and direction of the organization.

According to AFL-CIO, CEO pay currently outpaces the pay of working people. In the past 10 years, CEO pay at S&P 500 companies increased by more than $260,000 per year to an average of $15.5 million in 2020, while the average production and nonsupervisory worker saw a wage increase of just $957 a year over the past decade, earning an average of just $43,512 in 2020.

There are quite a few factors that come into play when looking at total compensation for America’s top paid CEOs. There is a straight salary, but there’s also a compensation package that includes straight salary, bonuses, stock awards, option awards and perks.

Bloomberg lists the top10 CEOs and executives in 2020 as: Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla, $6,658,803,818; Mike Pykosa, CEO, Oak Street Health, 568,442,024; Trevor Begdek, Co-CEO, GoodRx Holding, $497,838,903; Douglas Hirsch, Co-CEO, GoodRx Holding, $497,836,647; Eric Wu, CEO, Opendoor Technologies, $388,713,679; Alex Karp, CEO, Palantir Technologies, $369,553,959; Geoffrey Pace, COO, Oak Street Health, $356,271,777; Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, $265,043,550; Griffin Myers, CMO, Oak Street Health, $221,354,227; and Chad Richison, CEO, Paycom Software, $220,003,916.

CEO compensation is an average of 320 times higher than the typical worker. Today’s larger companies have much more of a global reach than ever before. A good CEO is in touch with selling an innovative product and productivity that benefit the company in which he or she is in charge of. Good CEOs will also not only increase their own earnings, but the earnings of their workers.

There are some large companies where their CEO makes over 1000 times more than their workers make. Whether such an enormous pay gap is justified is a matter of debate. The constant pressures and responsibilities that come with the top job at any major American company, however, are undeniable. CEOs of publicly traded companies are accountable to customers, regulators, shareholders, board members, and their own employees in both good times and bad.

With the attention focused on the high-profile CEO of major companies and their generous and more often than not exorbitant compensation packages, the plight of the average worker tends to go unnoticed and unmentioned. There is no denying the cost of living, goods, products and services are increasing at a rate the U.S. hasn’t experienced in the past 30 years. Inflation is far outpacing typical earnings of the average worker.

While the mean U.S. salary is more than $56,000 annually, more than 11 percent of the U.S. population currently lives at or below poverty thresholds. As of May 2020, the median hourly wage in the U.S. was $20.17; the mean hourly wage was $27.07, and the annual mean wage was $56,310. In the second quarter of 2021, the median weekly earnings of full-time workers were $958, or $43,513 per year.

According to one Pew Research study, middle-income earnings vary between $40,100 and $120,400 per year. In 2018, 52 percent of U.S. adults lived in middle-income households, with 29 percent in lower-income households and 19 percent in upper-income households. In May 2020, 37.2 million Americans — or 11.4 percent of the U.S. population — lived in poverty. This was a 1 percent increase over 2019, which represented the lowest recorded rate since 1959.

It’s a shame to me, and an embarrassment to the CEOs, to live a life of such extravagance and opulence while the people who work hard to provide that lifestyle for them to enjoy struggle to get by living paycheck to paycheck.

Devin Gordon is a Tahlequah business owner.

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