What Did The Heroes Die For?

Posted May 27, 2013
By Clay Cerny

On Memorial Day, Americans remember and honor our war dead, those who gave their lives to persevere our country’s values.  What has happened to those values?  Think Progress reports that average CEO salaries in 2012 were $9.7 million, a new record.  The people on top are getting these raises at a time when most working people face high unemployment, stagnant wages, and reduced benefits.

Some might argue that our soldiers and sailors died for “freedom,” and CEO salary increase are a sign of that freedom.  I would disagree for these reasons:

  1. American freedom has always been a matter of opportunity and mobility.  What we see along with wage inequality is growing social immobility.
  2. American freedom has always respected the value of labor.  Contemporary business practices put profit above all else.  They project an individual liberty (i.e., Libertarianism) that ignores a very simple fact:  We have to live together as a society.  Absolute individual freedom is a myth.
  3. American freedom has always looked to the future, to giving better lives to future generations.  Our current short term thinking focuses on the fiscal year and quarter rather than looking out to future generations.
  4. American freedom has always been about shared sacrifice.  It doesn't seem like those who have the most are doing too much sacrificing.

My father fought in WWII.  Two brothers fought in Vietnam.  I respect all the men and women who have served this country.  When we remember them, we also need to think about their sacrifices and how we honor those sacrifices.  The news about record CEO pay is one more sign that we have lost our way as a culture.