CEOs Share Insights on the Income Inequality Issue

Another CEO has also gone public with his frustrations about the inequality critique. In an open letter to former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in February, tech entrepreneur Rob May first “confessed” to starting four businesses, two of which failed, and to becoming a millionaire. “It only took 15 years,” the CEO of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Talla wrote in a missive published on Fortune.com.

As a result, May continued, “I’m the bad guy. I’m the white male who is only successful because everything was handed to me. I don’t deserve the money I made. All the things I sacrificed don’t matter. The additional stress I was under doesn’t matter. The risks I took don’t matter.”

May concluded by asserting that it’s the wannabe, not the accomplished person, who needs to learn from the “rigged” economy.

“Any economic structure will favor some at the expense of others. But the wonderful thing about America is that if you are willing to make the right sacrifices, you can achieve whatever you want.”

“Any economic structure will favor some at the expense of others. But the wonderful thing about America is that if you are willing to make the right sacrifices, you can achieve whatever you want. Unfortunately, we’ve come to believe that achievement should be easy. Changing that attitude is the first step towards making yourself more successful.”

Another important question is: After the elections in the fall, will the inequality issue fade, or will it continue to create a huge cleft in the American body politic?

Chief Executive put the question to May, who reported that he got lots of feedback after his Fortune.com contribution, much of it critical, some in support. In theory, he said, the U.S. divide on income inequality “is bridgeable.” If someone shadowed a CEO for a few days “and saw the kind of work we do,” for instance, “I think they would walk away saying, ‘Wow, that is difficult and stressful and they earn their pay.’

“In practice though, [the divide] is unbridgeable. There isn’t a simple answer, and to get through to people today, you have to package things up in nice little sound bites. Problems that aren’t packageable as sound bites aren’t solvable in modern American politics.”

Read more:

Letter to the Editor: How Real is the Income Inequality Issue?