Monday, April 17, 2006

How much does one man (or woman) really need?

Last week we learned that Lee R. Raymond, chairman of EXXON MOBIL, wrote himself a compensation package of $140 million last year, one in which the corporation he "ran" raked in a record $36 billion in profits. Along with another $258 million in options and other deferred compensation, Raymond will retire with a package worth more than $398 million. Without going into the usual comparisons of what this equates to or what else it could buy, or what countries have similar GDPs, let's just agree that it is a very large lump sum with which to live out one's golden years.

I've twice now received an email that is chock full of pictures of what is claimed to be the lavishly appointed digs of a Middle East sultan, including what is described as a silver plated Bentley in the driveway. The text in the mail message says something like "this is why gas is so expensive at the pump!". Friends, Mr. Raymond could easily afford these home upgrades and more than one silver-clad Bentley. But he must have somehow worked harder and played by the rules or we wouldn't be appalling the Sultan and applauding the CEO.

Raymond is attributed to merging EXXON and MOBIL into the largest and most profitable oil company in the world. Much of the profitability could be attributed to the doubling of world oil prices (which carry proportionate marginal profitability at the consumer level) and cost cutting (which primarily equates to the savings that come from laying off workers in redundant positions in a merger). Shareholders experienced less than 8% annual return during the past five years, which was nothing extraordinary.

For any who think this is an example of why America is great - that anyone has the same opportunity to achieve such wealth, I say you too must be a greedy, self-centered, ignorant drain on what could really make us a great nation. Oops, there I go launching pre-emptive class warfare!

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