National Consumers League

Politicians take note: Wall Street protests reflect popular sentiment


By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director  NCL has joined with consumer and labor groups over the last few years on measures to reign in the egregious executive compensation provided to heads of American corporations. Since the 1970’s, executive pay has more than quadrupled while the salaries earned by average workers has fallen by 10 percent. The Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 included provisions requiring companies to report the spread between the highest and lowest paid employees. I’ve often been surprised at the lack of public outrage when CEO pay hits these ridiculous levels – rising well beyond $10 million in many companies. But now we are finally seeing public outrage in the form of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests about the excesses of too many banks and corporations – including getting bailed out with taxpayer funds, as they were several years ago, and then distributing generous bonuses and benefit packages to executives. To their credit, the anti-Wall Street protests are going far beyond executive compensation and bailouts. They are tapping into what the Washington Post’s polling shows is widespread anger and mistrust of Wall Street: 68 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of big financial institutions. Polls also show that 65 percent or so of Americans believe that millionaires should pay higher taxes – and the same number supports the President’s jobs plan. I don’t know whether these anti-Wall Street demonstrators have begun a movement that will last – I hope they have – but I think the leadership in the House and the minority in the Senate, which has blocked the higher tax on millionaires and the Obama jobs plan, should take notice of this movement that is spreading to cities, not only in America, but across the globe. They ignore these protests at their peril.