By David Cay Johnston
The views expressed are his own.

It’s time to prick the popular image of ballooning executive pay with some sharp new facts.

As a group, corporate officers — executives with broad authority to act on the company’s behalf, not just follow orders from the CEO or some other boss — are making less, not more, my analysis of newly available tax data shows.

This is in sharp contrast with the thoroughly documented excesses at the very top revealed through analysis of disclosures to shareholders. The new tax data includes CEOs, but the few score of wildly overpaid ones at the biggest companies become statistically insignificant within the universe of nearly a million corporate officers covered in the new tax data.

Many CEOs get paid far beyond what economic theory says is necessary to motivate them. Worse, a fair number enjoyed soaring pay while shareholders saw their wealth dwindle, as with John Snow when he ran the CSX Corp railroad company. When Snow left to become Treasury secretary his pay had grown 69 percent, while the price of CSX shares fell as much as 64 percent, just one of many disconnects between CEO pay and performance.

But among the nearly one million corporate officers in the United States, this new data, never available before, show that the overall story is one of shrinking pay.