Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Neediest and The Greediest

Earlier this week a friend drew my attention to a New York Times Sunday edition story about the results of the paper’s end-of-the-year “Neediest Cases Fund” drive.

The friend’s adult child had a hand in raising $77,000 at her place of employment, the financial giant Citigroup.

The entire, laudable Times campaign effort raised nearly $6 million for the “neediest” in the New York City. The Times story, in addition to devoting four paragraphs to Citigroup’s contribution, detailed the plight of several served by the fund.

It happens that I read this heart-warming story just as I’ve been reading “The Price of Inequity,” by Joseph Stiglitz. It’s a book that sensitizes the reader to the underlying causes of poverty in our society. Among those causes is the political and financial clout of organizations like Citigroup.

So with Stiglitz's book and inequity on my mind, I thought that it might be instructive and add perspective to see what the CEO of Citigroup makes in a year.

Turns out in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, CEO Michael Corbat was compensated to the tune of $11.5 million. I think it fair to assume, given the bloated nature of executive compensation, that last year he topped $12 million (we'll know in the next few days).

Now go back to that the Neediest Cases Fund TOTAL of nearly $6 million. It is about half Corbat's entire compensation for one year. Makes one wonder that Corbat contributed to Citigroup’s $77,000.

Interestingly, the Times story didn’t include the comparison of Corbat’s compensation with Citigroup’s "Neediest" contribution or with the total amount of money raise by the Times campaign. (Could the omission have something to do with what top executives at the Times make?)

Such comparisons would provide insight into why the pressing needs of this nation’s neediest are going unmet,  and why the Times effort, as worthy as it is, represents a token effort. The real solution lies in addressing inequity, greed and concentrated political power, as Stiglitz points out.

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