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Super-Rich CEOs Are Mad as Hell, and Not Gonna Take This Anymore

Business  (tags: abuse, americans, business, consumers, corporate, corruption, dishonesty, economy, ethics, finance, government, investments, labor, law, lies, investors, marketing, money, politics, society )

- 1860 days ago -
As the insensitive comments and sky-high salaries add up, it's easy to start thinking that CEOs and other execs have completely lost touch with the lives of everyday Americans. Sadly, that's likely the case.


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Kit B (276)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 1:14 pm
Photo Credit: Squawk Box CNN Money

FORTUNE -- Politicians have long been criticized for being out of touch with reality (see George H.W. Bush's gallon of milk), but these days, business executives are the ones who seem to be truly disconnected from everyday Americans.

The latest flub came Wednesday from Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of luxury fashion brand Nicole Miller, who on CNBC's Squawk Box said that the so-called 99% should stop complaining and realize how lucky they are. "We've got a country that the poverty level is wealth in 99% of the rest of the world," he said. "So we're talking about woe is me, woe is us, woe is this." He added that "the guy that's making, oh my God, he's making $35,000 a year, why don't we try that out in India or some countries we can't even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy."

Don't waste time trying to make sense of his suggestion. Just consider it the latest instance in an ongoing trend of execs failing to relate to anyone outside the 1%.

MORE: Tom Perkins: Taxes will lead to 'economic extinction' of the 1%

Tom Perkins, venture capitalist and co-founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, falls into this growing category after comparing the "progressive war on the 1%" to Nazi anti-Semitism. So does Sam Zell, billionaire chairman of Equity Group Investments, who defended Perkins by saying that "the 1% work harder." Throw Lululemon (LULU) founder Chip Wilson into the mix. He thought that blaming Lululemon's defective yoga pants on the female figure -- "some women's bodies just actually don't work" -- was totally acceptable. And AOL's (AOL) chief Tim Armstrong qualifies for numerous reasons, the most recent being pegging his company's decision to alter its 401(k) contribution program on ill newborns.

CEOs now make 273 times the average worker salary, according to the Economic Policy Institute, so it's easy to think that all those dollar bills have finally gone to these guys' heads. And that may be the case.

In a well-known rigged Monopoly game study, social psychologist Paul Piff found that the player who had publicly -- and by chance -- been given more money and advantage at the beginning of the game became ruder, less sensitive to the plight of his poorer counterparts, and more demonstrative of his success as the game progressed and he amassed a Monopoly fortune. Another study by Piff found that people who made less than $25,000 a year gave 44% more money to charity than people who made $150,000 to $200,000 per year.

The Konheim incident "shrieks of insensitivity and grandiosity," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor at the Yale School of Management. "It makes you wonder about other decisions he's making. His flippant style makes it seem like he's never going to be able to hear bad news," Sonnenfeld says.

Whether that sense of privilege ever sets in depends a lot on whom CEOs keep in their company. "You better have a few people -- a spouse, best friend, or sibling -- who won't let you forget who you really are and where you came from," says Harry Kraemer, a clinical professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and the former CEO of Baxter International, Inc. Executives get a lot of positive press and plenty of pats on the back. "If they're not careful they'll start to believe it," he says.

MORE: The depressing reason you're about to get a raise

That's what happened in Piff's study. When asked to explain why they thought they won the rigged Monopoly game, the winners talked about how they'd wisely purchased property and earned their victory, losing sight of the flip of the coin that had assigned them extra money and privilege at the outset.

"There's a lot of serendipity in a CEO's success," says Sonnenfeld. "You have to have the humility to recognize that."

By: Claire Zillman | reporter | Fortune Magazine and CNN Money |

Kit B (276)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 1:17 pm

There are many articles out there based on the interview with Fortune Magazine, but I decided to go to the source. It truly amazes me the things that so easily come from the mouths of the Powers That Be, just as it was stunning for Louie and Marie Antoinette when the people had finally had enough.

There is an old relic just collecting dust in France.

Animae C (507)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 1:41 pm
They live in their own exclusive bubble of delusion, lacking a sense of compassion & empathy, it's been the elites problem since the beginning of time. i don't think the entire 1% would be like this but it would be a rare few who aren't. Even with all their wealth & splendor they are miserable & discontented individuals because they haven't realized the joy & fulfillment that an open heart, mind & hand brings.

Richard S (209)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 2:55 pm
Sickening greed and selfishness. And they don't even know how to be ashamed of themselves. Shame, shame, shame on them all.

Yvonne White (229)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:23 pm
I really believe you Have to have people around you who know who you Really are & where you really came from! "CEOs now make 273 times the average worker salary, according to the Economic Policy Institute, so it's easy to think that all those dollar bills have finally gone to these guys' heads. And that may be the case."

Angelika R (143)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:30 pm
Little or nothing to add to AniMae's great comment! WE can just believe in Karma I suppose. As desoicable as it is, we should feel sorry for these blind fools. Thx Kit. (partly I thought I hear Dianne talking there..)

Angelika R (143)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:32 pm
yep, 273x pennies, great! Makes for a nice Andy headline as well!

Christine S (134)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 7:24 pm
boo hoo- poor rich folks...

Shirley S (187)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 11:02 pm
They probably WORRY about their wealth constantly.

Craig Pittman (52)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:31 am
The trouble is, sufficient numbers of the 99% still equate wealth with happiness and success and the myth that we all have a chance of becoming a member of the 1%. Ah but the serfs are becoming restless. Well some of us anyway.

Freya H (345)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 7:51 am
True, Craig, wealth and happiness are not the same - but there is a difference between being wealthy and caring about those less well off than you, and being wealthy and not giving a rat's patooty. Too many of the super-rich seek to trim business costs to the bone, and get as many tax breaks as possible so they can rake in even more wealth - at the expense of the 99%. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett set a good example by giving away trainloads of money to help people around the world, but very few of the 1% follow that example.

I see a parallel between not just the USA but the entire world today, and Russia just before the October Revolution. The czar and the nobles lived in their ivory towers while the peasants and workers slaved away for crumbs. Remember what happened? Of course, the "peasants" need to remember what happened, too, lest the next "jacquerie" end up a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 9:36 am
They sure know how to whine and this is for what...they want us to feel sorry for them? Ha, isn't going to happen. They need to watch what they say as there is power in numbers and the people vote for something every time we spend our hard earned dollars. I bet they don't work anywhere near as hard as the rest of us do that are making much less. Most of them do not have a clue.

Sabine A (17)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 10:59 am
Who cares ! Cry me a river........

JL A (281)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 1:24 pm
Many great comments that made me think of a biblical parable about how it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel through the eye of needle.

Barbara K (61)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 2:26 pm
These whiney babies can just go out and buy a new car. At least that will give work to the actual workers in this country. Heck, buy a new one for every family member. While you're at it, if you have employees (though most don't except for maids and gardeners) give them a raise in wages, you selfish slugs.

Vallee R (280)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 2:33 pm
Totally agree.

Angela J (61)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:47 pm
Thank you.

Robert B (60)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 6:06 pm
True wealth is AWARENESS. The more aware you become, the richer you are. Material wealth is nothing more than a trap that keeps you Spiritually Poor.

Joanne D (37)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 9:44 pm
I'm not sure remembering where you came from will help if where you came from is the Bush family, the Kich family, the Walton family. even the Gatti family.

i for one am tired of inherited sociopathy.

Susanne R (236)
Monday February 17, 2014, 12:00 am
You'd think that Bud Konheim would want more people to be wealthy. Who else can afford to buy his over-priced fashions?

I wonder if this guy DOESN'T put his pants on one leg at a time...

Leanne B (46)
Monday February 17, 2014, 11:41 pm
Boo hoo for the selfish greedy pig!

Roger G (148)
Tuesday February 18, 2014, 1:45 pm
noted, thanks
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