It seems that every day the internet is consumed with a social cause that creates an uproar. Over the last couple of days, Twitter and other social media sites were lit up by a tweet and subsequent op-ed written by Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney cofounder Roy Disney.
The heiress sharply criticized the company for paying its CEO, Bob Iger, $65 million in 2018. In her piece for The Washington Post, she wrote, “It’s time to call out my family’s company—and anyone else rich off their workers’ backs.”
She bluntly asserts that Iger’s pay package is “insane.” Disney decries the large discrepancy between the CEO’s pay and the salary of the average worker at company. Iger’s compensation is 1,424 times the median pay of a worker at Disney. She claims that this is a prime example of what is causing the growth in inequality within the United States. Disney further asserts, “We are increasingly a lopsided, barbell nation, where the middle class is shrinking, a very few, very affluent people own a great deal and the majority have relatively little. What is more, as their wealth has grown, the super-rich have invested heavily in politicians, policies and social messaging to pad their already grotesque advantages.”
The heiress was raised in North Hollywood, California, educated at Yale, Stanford and Columbia and is a documentary filmmaker and activist for social causes. She also has a net worth reported to be in the $500 million range. Iger has an estimated net worth of $350 million.
This raises a plethora of other questions, in addition to Disney’s original tweet storm. If Iger’s compensation is too high, what about Disney’s massive inherited net worth and life of privilege? Why is it okay for Robert Downey Jr., on the Disney payroll, to earn about $200 million for Infinity War and Endgame, with a reported $400 million paid to the screenwriter, directors, producers and principal actors?
The heiress taps into the current political and social zeitgeist. A battle is being waged between those who are pushing for some sort of Democratic Socialism to deal with the disappearing middle class and escalating chasm between the billionaire class and the poor. The 2020 presidential race will revolve around these issues. The crowded field of Democratic politicians running for the presidency are calling for wiping out student debts, making college free for all, reparations for slavery, higher taxes on the ultra wealthy and other measures to stem the perceived growing inequality among Americans. Counterarguments from Republicans and conservative Democrats contend that capitalism, for all of its faults, is still the best system in the world. They believe that it would be ruinous to abandon capitalism—at a time in which the stock market is at an all-time high and unemployment is at an all-time low—for taking a chance on revolutionary social and economic changes. It is interesting and somewhat frightening where we are headed next.
In her critique, Disney raises some difficult questions with no easy answers.