This could be THE big political challenge of the next several decades, starting with getting support and recognition of the need for reasonable reform of the existing system, since there's no "natural representation" of the middle class (although clearly the Tea Party is far from hostile to them). According to the "political elites" if you're a moderate on the left, the union system is supposed to "provide all the answers to your problems" and if you're not a union member then you're PART of the problem! If you're further to the left then you're an advocate of class warfare and income redistribution and the only possible "reform" to capitalism that's acceptable is to tear it up and start over. If you're a moderate on the right it's almost "politically incorrect" to even bring up the topic that the system is less than fair, if you're further to the right then "reform of the system" probably consists mostly of an agenda to get rid of unions altogether and to radically shrink government regardless of the consequences. And of course it's not at all helpful that the left represents the Tea Party as a social club of racist, homophobic, gun-loving redneck "haters"!
The closest that the political consultants have come to identifying the middle class as a constituency is probably "soccer moms" and that's clearly more than a little off the mark. And economists have for decades considered the measurement of economic "efficiency" nearly as important as profit itself, and historically that was OK because there were always new jobs coming to replace the ones that were lost. They never want to discuss economist David Ricardo's finding that "labor arbitrage" (which we see all the time in the form of offshoring, outsourcing and bringing in immigrants on visas and paying them very low wages) is such a fundamental disturbance to the economic system that it renders most economic models essentially worthless. Yes it's going to be a very long time before any kind of meaningful economic "equlibrium" is established, whether it's imposed by some sort of government decree or by the market itself.
Postscript: It seems there is starting to be some general interest in the topic of artificially low wages among tech workers, see http://www.cnbc.com/id/101312871 in which an analyst actually downgrades Apple and Amazon on "moral and ethical grounds".
Basically if most of the people are working (hard) and over the years a higher and higher percentage of the total wealth of the nation ends up to be possessed by fewer and fewer people then something is wrong, isn't it ? I wouldn't point a finger at somebody particular. It's not an evil club of old men, it's just the "system" itself which makes that happen. Unfortunately the consequences are very unpleasant.
It seems we all agree that CEOs are overpaid and this is not fair...perhaps only some CEOs will object to that statement ;-)...but they probably don't post at EE Times...the question then becomes what can be done about this? Kris
Still, having the CEO of a company with ~100,000 employees or more paid a few hundred time more than the average worker means that it's not so much a question of his salary affecting negatively the workers' salaries. It's more a question of basic fairness, common sense, and you know, decency. Those intangibles.
One problem with the concept of "responsible to the shareholders" (owners of the company), is as Bert suggests, many of those shareholders are looking for quick returns and may in fact be shareholders only for a very short time. As an "owners," that type of shareholder has little regard for the company's health or future plans, and his behavior more closely resembles that of a gambler. Executive responsibility must -- and therefore usually does -- extend beyond the stock price movement this week or this quarter.