CNN columnist John D. Sutter has smartly suggested a maximum wage set at 100 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (or $15,080 a year based on a 40-hour work week). That works out to a maximum of roughly $1.5 million a year.
Or if that’s too harsh, how about making it 200 times the minimum, raising the maximum to $3 million a year. Hell, we could even peg the maximum to 1,000 times the minimum wage — $15 million a year — and still allow CEOs to be filthy rich while reining in the most obscene excesses at the very top. (Forbes reports that top-earning CEO John Hammergren of California medical supply company McKesson earned total compensation in 2011 of $131.2 million.)
An added benefit of tying maximum pay to the minimum wage is that it would give the super-rich an incentive to back (or at least to stop opposing) a minimum wage hike. Now there’s a way to inspire democratic fellow-feeling across classes!
Of course it’s hard to imagine Washington’s political class moving to impose anything like a maximum wage at a time when it can’t even manage to pass a (solidly popular) increase in the minimum wage. (This inertia is yet another indication of why bold reform is so desperately needed.)