Gaps Upon Gaps

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The Democratic presidential field has been at each other's throats of late over how much they're taking in campaign contributions from private equity fund and hedge fund managers (particularly as the subprime storm rages on). Hedge fund money is just the latest campaign cash seam to be tapped, and quite a lucrative one it is considering the latest studies showing that the wage gap is widening to the point that CEOs look like paupers next to the Wall Street boys and girls.

In 1989, CEOs earned 71 times more than the average worker: today they make 364 times more (270 times more when adjusted for full vs. part-time workers). If they don't spend it all on Swarovski-encrusted yachts, chances are many will write a few checks to candidates and party committees. In 2006, according to opensecrets.org people listing their occupation as "CEO" or "President" put north of $1 million into federal races. But even they look like amateurs next to the hedge fund folks, the top tier of whom make more in ten minutes than most of us make in a year and dumped $2.8 million into the 2006 races.

For purposes of comparison, people listing their occupation as "administrative assistant" donated $1,225, those identifying as "office manager" put in $39,180, and those listing their occupation as "waiter," "waitress," "construction worker" or "housekeeper" combined for $6,125.

Will this gap in salary -- and so in contributions -- effect who is heard when the big debates on subprime mortgages and abusive lending practices take place? It's clear that the subprime spiral and its attendant housing crisis are going to be big debates in this campaign and I wonder when it happens who will have the ear of the candidates: the workers who stand closest to the foreclosure precipice, or the hedge fund managers who bet on this debt and are scrambling to recoup profits?