Try scrutinizing the bad guys
Thank you to Rick Carroll and The Aspen Times for providing this opportunity to reflect on the value of the nonprofit and service professionals and volunteers in this valley in response to your recent series on nonprofit compensation.
As a community member who has spent much of my free time volunteering in spaces such as the Pitkin County Citizen Grant Review Committee (where I became familiar with the work of most of the health-and-human-service nonprofits in the valley) and in service to organizations including Neighbor to Neighbor, Response, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and, more recently, the Aspen Chapel, Aspen Community School and the Right Door, I have nothing but deep respect and appreciation for the work done and sacrifices made by the nonprofit leaders in our community. Personally, I believe that educators, counselors, advocates, organizers, case workers – and yes, even executives – who dedicate their lives to making ours better, bring more value into this world than, say, the good folks at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase or Shell Oil (or insert the name of any other resource-extractive, polluting industry giant here) and should be compensated accordingly.
There will be people who read this and say, “But nonprofits don’t pay taxes and ask for donations, so they should be scrutinized.” My response would be that if you want to scrutinize the people who are doing good, why not also do the same for corporations that not only pay no taxes but also benefit from government subsidies and pay ludicrous salaries to their executives? Example: In 2011, General Electric’s net profit was $13.2 billion, its CEO brought home a whopping $21.6 million, and yet the corporation enjoyed an effective tax rate of minus 18.9 percent. That’s right, minus 18.9 percent, meaning that it actually received a tax credit. In that same year, GE demanded concessions from its union workers including a wage freeze, the elimination of its defined contribution pension and a reduction in health-insurance coverage.
I would gently suggest that the next time an update to the nonprofit-executive-compensation story is due, perhaps The Aspen Times will choose to report on a topic as juicy as this one and examine a local corporate subsidiary, its impact on our community’s people and health and its executive compensation – or even consider highlighting and paying tribute to some of our valley’s spectacular nonprofit heroes.
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