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So how's that salary of yours measure up?

By Dian Vujovich

Amazing things about salaries in this mighty USA of ours. Some are flying high, other’s barely allowing for individuals to scrimp by.

Here’s what I mean:

• A cover story titled ‘How Low Can You Go?” in this month’s ASJA monthly magazine, it’s a mag for professional writers like me, focused on today’s salaries for freelance writers. One line from the piece written by Ellen Alperstein sums them up the best: “The bad news was the compensation—an anemic $500 for an article of 2,000 words, wages that when I began my freelance career a generation ago were considered substandard…”

She’s right. Ten years ago the standard pay was at least $1 a word. Have a good reputation and be an expert in your field and you’d easily get 2 to 4 or 5 bucks a word. Today, have decades of experience and be an expert and many two-bit and 10 cents a word offers come your way. Today’s freelance writer’s pay is beyond unconscionable.

• But, had someone decided to go to work for the government over the past five years—and if they were lucky—they might have been one of the many federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year. The number of G-employees in that income rage “has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office” according to research from USA TODAY. (Hum, wonder if any of them can write? Correction: I mean, are professional writers.)

• Of course the poor and the old collecting Social Security checks this year haven’t seen any kind of cost of living increase in their allotted monthly checks. Nor will they next year. Reason being: Since there’s no inflation there’s no need to raise those checks. This too is beyond unconscionable.

• And while one side agues about how business unfriendly the Obama Administration has been while in office, it’s going to be interesting to see exactly how that side spins the compensations of some of America’s CEOs.

Take for instance that of Gregory Maffei. He’s the head of Liberty Media Corp. and according to The Wall Street Journal his last year pre-tax compensation was $87.1 million. That would be about four times what he received in 2008.

Of the top 10 highest paid CEOs, John H. Hammergren was compensated the least. Add stock options and performance awards in and he got a measly $24.5 million.

•Let’s not even talk bonuses in corporate America or on Wall Street. Like most things, they’re going up this year.

• Then there are the salaries of college presidents. Who would have ever guessed that there would be so many earning $500,000 to around 1 million dollars a year? But it’s true.

A just released survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education showed that 30 chief execs at private colleges earned more than $1millon in total pay in 2008. Steven Knapp, president of George Washington University won the prize for most. He was paid $985,353 in 2008.

Finally, and in case anyone has forgotten, the Federal minimum wage in America today, that would be 2010, is $7.25 an hour. That works out to $290 a week and about $15,000 a year. Which puts it about 4 g’s above the government’s annual income federal poverty guideline level for a family of one, right around it for a family of two and way under the poverty level for a family of 4.

Looked at another way $15,000 is roughly what someone earning
$789,000 a year makes in one week; what someone making $5.5 million a year makes in one day; or someone earning $175,000 a year makes in one month.

So, how you doin?

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