After the killing of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan, much of the nation’s focus has turned to the men in our military who were responsible for the raid. The combat team that attacked Bin Laden’s compound was composed of an elite unit of Navy SEALS.
As economist Dean Baker points out, ABC News did a feature story about the SEALs to highlight the sacrifices those enlisted in the unit make. ABC compared their base salaries of $54,000 a year to the average annual salary for teachers. Baker notes that perhaps their salaries should be compared to Wall Street CEOs who earn tens of millions of dollars:
In the wake of their successful assault on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, ABC News did a short feature on the Navy Seals. The report tells us that the people who hold this highly demanding and dangerous get paid about $54,000 a year. It then adds that:
“The base salary level [of Navy Seals] is comparable to the average annual salary for teachers in the U.S., which was $55,350 for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Digest of Education Statistics.’ That is one possible comparison. There are other possible reference points. For example, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan both pocket around $20 million a year.
Baker’s query poses an interesting question. What would the numbers look like if the base salary of a Navy SEAL — who risk their very lives in their day-to-day work — was compared to the compensation of the CEOs of some of America’s wealthiest corporations? Data from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch finds that the average 2010 CEO compensation at an S&P 500 company was $11,358,445. ThinkProgress has demonstrated this gap in compensation visually:
It’s important to note that the gap between executive compensation and average worker compensation has exploded over the past few decades. CEOs at America’s largest companies now earn 343 times more than the typical worker. In 1970, the average CEO earned 28 times as much as the typical worker.