The Saintly Purity of Government
So the story is that business executives and corporate boards have created a scheme of mutual backwashing that has resulted in salaries disconnected from economic reality. I’m open to that possibility, as well as solutions that open up the process to light and give tools to shareholders, but how in the world does the concept of imbuing an unelected individual with power over these decisions of the powerful respond to the insight that riches can corrupt?
The regulations followed requirements set by Congress earlier this year when it passed the $787 billion economic stimulus legislation. The regulations will limit top executives of companies that receive TARP funds to bonuses of no more than one-third of their annual salaries. But the administration also went beyond the steps mandated in the legislation.
The administration named Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who oversaw payments to families of Sept. 11 victims, as a “special master” with power to reject pay plans he deems excessive at the seven companies with the biggest injections of public money. Feinberg also would have authority to review compensation for the top 100 salaried employees at those companies.
Going one step more deeply, how is it that we can assert the guilt of those who run individual corporations but not fear the result of expanding power on a president who is now not only the top government executive, not only commander in chief of the military, but also the de facto head of auto companies, banks, and other financial institutions? A handful of rich people can manipulate investors to ensure their little empires, but an unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of a federal administration yields no opportunity to corrupt the democratic process?
The right-wing view of a capitalistic free market isn’t that it’s a divine ideal. It’s that nothing else will work as well for as long — a historical observation that the left wing is intent on proving true once again.