2010 was a good year for CEOs—a very good year.
The heads of some of the biggest companies in this country taking home record pay, even as unemployment stayed above 9% throughout the year - before falling to 8.8% last month.
According to analysis by USA Today, pay for CEOs jumped 27% last year - pretty close to pre-recession levels.
Median pay was $9 million, compared with $9.2 million back in 2007. Three-quarters of CEOs saw their paychecks increase in 2010... by a lot.
The median salary is now over $1 million - up 7% from 2009. And pay comes in all shapes and sizes – meaning big bonuses are back.
The median bonus for CEOs was more than $2 million - up 47% in one year.
And thanks to a remarkable stock market rally, CEO stock options are up one-third to a median number of more than $5.5 million. Again that's just the median - some CEOs are blowing those numbers out of the water.
Viacom's CEO is taking home $84.5 million in 2010 - a 149%increase from 2009, and 11% higher than the number two—CEO of occidental petroleum - which lost the number one ranking by only taking home about $76 million last year.
Here's the thing – I know these are private companies and they have every right to pay their workers what they want.
I'm just pointing out the widening gap between these CEOs and the average American worker. Now remember, CEO pay is up 27%.
The average private sector worker saw their compensation grow just about 2%. And it's not as if these companies are going gangbusters - revenue was up only 7% last year.
Thanks to new rules - shareholders now have a "say on pay," and some have already blocked planned pay packages to their executives.
And I've heard all the arguments before - that you need to pay for the right people—but that should hold true on all levels - not just in the corner offices.
Gerri Willis is the host of "The Willis Report" (5PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers. Click here to see more from Gerri Willis.