Mad Money

The problem with income inequality is not CEO pay — it's everybody else's, Jim Cramer says

Key Points
  • CNBC's Jim Cramer on Monday defended high CEO pay packages, such as the one J. P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon received in 2018.
  • "If he were a free agent, he'd be making a heck of a lot more than he's making now," the "Mad Money" host says, while acknowledging the issue of income inequality in America.
  • "Income inequality is a real problem in this country … but the problem is not CEO pay. I think it might be everybody else's pay," he says.
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Jim Cramer: CEOs are not to blame for income inequality in America

CNBC's Jim Cramer on Monday voiced his support for both large pay packages for CEOs and addressing income inequality in America.

The "Mad Money" host likened the process of recruiting and retaining the cream-of-the-crop chief executives to the way that sporting organizations land elite players — demand bids their price tags higher.

"The way I see it, you need to look at CEOs like they're great athletes. Any major bank in the world would happily top Jamie's pay package if they thought they could lure him away," the "Mad Money" host said, noting that the bank's stock has increased about 365% since Dimon assumed the role in 2005. "If he were a free agent, he'd be making a heck of a lot more than he's making now."

The comments come one day after Dimon was questioned in a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday about his 2018 $31 million compensation as head of the bank and amid fiery debates about growing income inequality in America.

Cramer suggested that anyone opposed to the big paychecks that Dimon and other notable CEOs receive should take it up with the respective companies' boards, who solicit outside help to put together the best pay and bonuses for leaders.

The host went on to acknowledge that swelling gap between haves and have nots helped catapult Sen. Elizabeth Warren to frontrunner status in the Democratic primary. Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, is pushing a headline-grabbing "two cents" wealth tax plan that a growing cohort of billionaires is speaking out against.

Her fellow progressive opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing his own version of a wealth tax. Warren, Sanders and the moderate former Vice President Joe Biden are the three leading candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to take on President Donald Trump in the November 2020 General Election.

CEO aggregate compensation has surged more than 1,000% in the past four decades and, comparatively, clocks in at about 278 times the average worker's salary.

"Income inequality is a real problem in this country … but the problem is not CEO pay. I think it might be everybody else's pay," Cramer said. "I don't know the right answer ... but I do think that there are better approaches that don't upend our system of free enterprise, which the last I looked is a heck of a lot better than every other country's set up."

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Jim Cramer: CEOs are not to blame for income inequality in America

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of J. P. Morgan Chase.

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