I hear ya...
"...without the people making the food, running the registers, keeping the stores clean, McDonald's as a successful business wouldn't exist and the CEOs and shareholders would not be able to make any wealth..."
And without the enormous real estate management operation, supply chain, relationships with farmers and trucking companies and regulatory agencies and FDA and and and... none of those workers would have a job.
That's the core of it, really... the attempt to correlate different types of "work".
Without the CFO assessing different ERP platforms, and deciding on the tech infrastructure that will be used to run the company, the Accounting Department can't produce a quarter of a million paychecks, which means nobody gets paid.
Of course, without someone wearing a headset and running a register and taking orders at the drive-thru window, there's no income.
But there is no equivalency between these roles.
Each requires the individual to have a certain set of skills and experience, which can be measured and quantified (somewhat), but you can debate every variable used in that calculation. How valuable is an MBA? Or previous experience with enormous ERP system installations? Or being a short-order cook? Or being able to work quickly and under extreme pressure during the lunch rush? Etc...
We like to be all up in arms over $26m pay packages. But the fact is that this is a publicly traded company, with a board of directors, and shareholders, who have all approved that compensation package. They have weighed the responsibilities of the role, put a number on each aspect of it, and set awards for achieving a specific set of goals. If he hits X profits in the first quarter, he gets $Y bonus amount, etc.
His bonuses have been vetted by people whose SOLE RESPONSIBILITY is to make the company money... and they have decided that number is commensurate with the responsibility, and good for the business overall.
Neither of us have the information or right to question that, until we are sitting on that board, or a shareholder who is disgruntled with our stock performance.
And again, the problem is not the CEO's pay. It is what his board and shareholders have placed THEIR values on. They want short-term growth. Not long-term employee retention and benefits. If they were incentivized to make a business that was Good For The World, they would have different measurements that they would give the CEO to meet, so he could get his awards.
Looking at the money is easy.
The actual problem is the way we value business, as a whole, and Wall Street's skewing of all measurements to be towards profitability, rather than a Triple Bottom Line type of structure.