The Public Interest

Are CEOs overpaid?

Irwin M. Stelzer

Winter 1997

AMERICA’S corpocrats can take some solace from recent polls. In a recent Roper Center survey, higher percentages of those polled said that athletes (90 percent), entertainers (86 percent), and lawyers (86 percent) are overpaid than said the same of presidents of major corporations. Still, 79 percent of those polled said that CEOs “’are generally overpaid.” But this is no indication that an anti-big-business bias is abroad in the land, for only 26 percent took the view that middle-level managers in major corporations are overpaid, while many more--42 percent—said that middle-level managers in the federal government get more money than they should. Surely, a public that can tell the difference between the worth of a hard-working vice president of sales and that of a middle manager in the IRS is entitled to have its views on the propriety of executive compensation given weighty consideration by corporate policy makers. 

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