Over the weekend Swiss voters overwhelmingly supported a referendum to limit executive pay as well as the all-too-popular golden parachutes.
Before any of the usual suspects start talking about communism, Switzerland is one of the more expensive places in the world to live. It’s not exactly Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. You can’t go anywhere in the country without seeing signs of extreme wealth. These are people who appreciate the finger things in life. But they simply had had enough.
After the collapse of the banking systems, the big Swiss banks Credit Suisse and UBS required a considerable amount of taxpayer assistance. What used to be part of the national pride of Switzerland, its renowned banking system, went from embarrassment to fury. The Swiss had had it, and forced the hands of the political class to implement change.
The national support for the referendum was 68%, and in the Zurich region, the home of the Swiss financial sector, support was a whopping 71%.
Going into the referendum I wasn’t sure how successful this would be since this is, after all, Switzerland, the land of the rich. What sounded like a long shot passed with ease. Even better, it wasn’t just out of control executive pay that was reined in. It was the entire dysfunctional pay system that has been squeezing the middle class for decades
You really ought to read the entire article in The Guardian because it’s amazing, not to mention unthinkable in the US today.
As many already know, the US is at the far end of worker-to-CEO pay ratio, and it has been getting worse, even during the recession. Despite cutbacks to healthcare coverage, and weaker earnings for everyone else, times have never been better for the executive class in America. To make matters worse, Washington is now committed to cutting even more of the safety net for workers yet doing nothing about out-of-control executive pay.
If the Swiss can support a return to sanity, why can’t other countries do the same?