On Friday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Robin Roberts complained about the "staggering" salaries of American CEOs. Citing a new Forbes magazine report claiming that these individuals received a 38 percent raise last year, Roberts engaged in typical class warfare. She incredulously stated, "It has us saying, come on, you must be kidding."
Reporter Dan Harris and guest William Baldwin, editor of Forbes, listed several examples of supposedly outrageous CEO salaries and proceeded to divine who deserved such money and who did not:
Dan Harris: "Even the editor of Forbes has some trouble stomaching some of the things his staff uncovered this year. Oddly enough, number one on the list is Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, who makes just $1 a year in salary."
William Baldwin (Editor, Forbes magazine): "Mr. Dollar-a-year, Steve Jobs, he's a great executive, don't get me wrong about that, but he gets a lot of money for substitute paycheck."
Harris: "Last year, by Forbes' calculation, Jobs made nearly $647 million in a stock bonus. That bears repeating $647 million. That's more than the GDP of the nation of Djibouti, more than the combined income of Oprah, Tiger Woods and Steven Spielberg. You have no problem with people getting rich, but they need to earn it."
Baldwin: "They need to earn it."
Irrelevant comparisons aside, Mr. Harris neglected a few pertinent details. For instance, in May, shares of Apple stock closed above $100 for the first time and increased 18 percent overall in 2007. So, perhaps, Mr. Jobs is earning his compensation.
The analysis of Mr. Baldwin continued, alternating from attacking highly paid CEOs of companies with stagnating stock prices, to complaining about businesses that he implied would have done well on their own:
Harris: "Or Ray Irani who made nearly $322 million last year running Occidental Petroleum."
Baldwin: "Did that require great genius to have a stock in the oil business that went up a lot over the last five years? Remember, your gas prices are going up anyway, I don’t think that's because this executive is clever at pricing gas."
Harris concluded by wondering what could be done about "skyrocketing" CEO pay:
Dan Harris: "The people at Forbes believe public disclosure, sunlight, is one of the best remedies, but they say companies seem to be trying to make it harder to find out how much their executives are making. They point to this corporate filing from Sprint/Nextel corporation for the section on executive compensation is 60 pages long. And I brought this for you for some weekend reading."
Roberts: "60– A little light reading. 60 pages long? Again, it's okay to make a good salary, but it's when your company is not doing well that people scratch their head a little bit and say how can this be?"
Harris: "As the editor says, that's the sin."
It should be noted that companies such as Apple and Occidental Petroleum are doing well.
Finally, at least Roberts allowed for the caveat that it’s "okay to make a good salary." Perhaps, in a future segment, GMA could investigate the skyrocketing salaries of network morning show hosts.