The spirit of shared sacrifice was shattered in October as a parade of companies led by Enron began imploding from CEO greed.
Some of America's worst CEOs make more in a year than the best CEOs of earlier generations made in their lifetimes.
CEOs pumped up stock with accounting steroids, hitting quarterly earnings homeruns while doing serious damage to their companies, workers, shareholders and the economy.
Global Crossing Chairman Gary Winnick, who Fortune called "the emperor of greed," cashed in $735 million in stock over four years while leading the company to bankruptcy. The double crossing Winnick bought a California estate worth $94 million after $30 million in renovations. Meanwhile, reports NBC, "Global Crossing workers lost their jobs, their severance pay, and promised medical benefits. Entire 401(k)s were decimated. With the exception of a select group of executives, Global Crossing employees could not unload their stock for five years."
Back in 1950, when Business Week began ranking CEO pay, the highest-paid executive was General Motors President Charles Wilson, who made $4.4 million in inflation-adjusted dollars. In 2001, the highest paid CEO was Oracle's Lawrence Ellison at $706 million--nearly $2 million a day.
CEOs made about 565 times as much as security guards, 445 times as much as emergency medical technicians and paramedics, 442 times as much as secretaries, 312 times as much as firefighters and 271 times as much as police officers.
Back in 1960, CEOs made an average 38 times more than schoolteachers, according to Business Week. By 1990, CEOs made 63 times as much. In 2001, CEOs made 264 times as much as public school teachers.