It’s safe to say that Thomas Watson Sr., the first chairman of IBM (International Business Machines), truly revolutionized computing. While I’m sure Sam Palmisano, the current chairman of IBM, is a smart guy and has done some good things, I haven’t heard anyone claim he’s a technological revolutionary. So I found this post about Watson’s and Palmisano’s compensation and taxes very interesting (italics mine):
The newly released 1943 data make for absolutely stunning reading. We have simply never had clearer evidence of just how much America used to expect out of individual wealthy Americans — and just how little, by comparison, we expect out of our wealthy today.
We learn, for instance, that 1941′s top executive at IBM, Thomas Watson, collected $517,221 in compensation that year, about $7.7 million in current dollars. Watson paid 69 percent of his total 1941 income in federal income tax.
Last year, today’s chief exec at IBM, Sam Palmisano, took home $24.3 million for his executive labors. We don’t know how much income above that sum Palmisano reported in 2009, or exactly how much of that total he paid in taxes.
But we do know that the 13,374 Americans who reported incomes over $10 million in 2008, the latest year with IRS stats available, paid an average 24.1 percent of their taxable incomes in federal income tax.
In other words, IBM CEO Palmisano last year took home, after adjusting for inflation, over three times more than his predecessor Thomas Watson took home in 1941. Yet Watson in 1941 paid almost three times more of his income in federal income taxes than Palmisano likely paid in 2009.
Clearly, high taxes and lower CEO compensation prevent innovation. Or something.
Something to keep in mind when the wealthy cry wolf.