Two weeks ago, I took a look at my 401(k).
Side Note: Of course, I opened this only a few years ago and I work a fairly menial job with a national corporation whose CEO "only " made one hundred times my pay last year (down from two hundred fifty times my pay a year earlier). In the interest of full disclosure, during the same year, he cashed in over 1,300 times my annual salary in stock options, raising his 2007 income to nearly fifty million dollars. I made well under fifty, or even forty, thousand. Seems fair to me, I'm sure that if one thousand four hundred of us entry-level schmucks took a bus to corporate, that we could barely pull together to accomplish his single-handed accomplishments.
Anyway, the 401(k) wasn't doing too bad. A lot of guys had lost their rear ends as our retail company's stock had slid downhill at an alarming rate. I was very diversified and hadn't been hit that badly. Two weeks later, I logged in and realized that even I, fully diversified, have lost 20% of my retirement savings in the past fourteen days.
This is unacceptable for various reasons, but my own personal account is not the biggest issue here. As I observe regular folks in their homes every day as part of my job, I have noticed something much more alarming. The clients I serve are often elderly. By elderly, I mean that over ten percent of my clients are over age seventy and have a bit of a hard time getting around simply due to their age. These are people in the twilight of their lives and you'd imagine that they're preparing for a trip, a cruise, the beach, golf, some leisurely retirement activity.
No, they're preparing for another day at the office.
While CEO's continue to make more in one year than the average American sees in his or her entire lifetime, average Americans are working until they fall into the grave, exhausted from a life that never gave them the luxury of walking away from it all and enjoying the fruits of all those years of labor. AIG is sending millionaire employees to luxury spas while accepting billions of your taxpayer dollars. These people are enjoying these luxuries while still working, never once thinking about all the little guys who are paying for these luxuries while working until their dying days.
Articles abound on the major news sites with quotes from "regular guys" who were going to retire at sixty years old but now have no plans to retire... ever. This is not the way life is supposed to work. What are we working toward if not a peaceful retirement to enjoy the remaining years without the stress of waking every morning to ensure the success of a boss that we'll never meet because he's in an ivory tower?
This article may not be what you're used to, but it's more of a frustrated rant due to the fact (not opinion, but fact) that nobody listens, nobody cares, and these CEO's could literally break into the workers' homes tomorrow night, steal all their worldly possessions, and pawn them, and the workers would just shake their heads and say, "what can ya do?"
What you can do is stand up to it. Individuals can't accomplish much at our level, but the working class outnumbers the "elite" by a ridiculous margin. As John Lennon wrote, "a working class hero is something to be." We could come together to demand that our CEO's cap their pay at half a million per year and use the rest to reward the workers who actually create all that profit. If you can't live on half a million per year, drop by and see me. I can show you how to live on half a million for the rest of your life.
We need to get angry, people. This type of bailout to the rich and ignorance of the working class would ignite a workers' revolt anywhere else in the world. We can't just stand by and keep living paycheck to paycheck anymore, because for many of us, the paychecks are shrinking or stopping altogether. We need to fix the problem, and we can't count on the ones who started the problem to fix it.