Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A CAP IN THEIR ASS. Obama's half-million-dollar salary cap is, as they say in the old joke about 5000 dead lawyers, a good start. It does inspire a childish hope that a lovable deadbeat dad played by Kevin Costner can be employed to manage Citigroup as effectively as Vikrim Pandit at a fraction of the cost. As to its actual effectiveness, we can also hope that it does to these geniuses what it has already done to Nicole Gelinas who, clearly shell-shocked, suggests that Treasury is trying to get "these companies to sell off their salvageable assets to new private owners as quickly as practicable, even at fire-sale prices." That is probably not Treasury's idea, nor the best idea, but if the attention of CEO-humpers like Gelinas can be so quickly and powerfully concentrated by the salary cap, there is some hope it will do the same for CEOs, too.

As I noticed over at the big house, rightblogger reaction shows some confusion. It's as if their Morning Memo simply read, "Sorry, folks, you're on your own." Some of the more rabid among them have at this writing played the news very low-key. I'm guessing they don't want to buck the populist tide too much.

Of course it's more fun when just let it all hang out.

There are some straight-up shouters ("Executive Pay Capped at $500,000: Liberty Just Died in America"), but I prefer the ones who think they have a clever response, like Hindrocket at Power Line. He says the cap is unfair because "a number of banks were forced by the federal government to accept TARP funds that they didn't want." Likewise, they were forced to take FDIC insurance; government nannies are always making these brave rebels follow their stupid rules. Then he quotes a "reader" who says why don't they put a salary cap on PBS, hmm? There's a lot of this sort of thing going around as conservatives try to redefine "bailout" as "any government spending we don't like." I half hope it catches on, so I may suggest that the government stop bailing out churches, faith-based organizations, the military, etc.

Over at the Heritage Foundation, Andrew Grossman asks, "$500,000 per year, while a large amount, is hardly extravagant. Think: Is someone like Steve Jobs at Apple worth that much? The market seems to think he’s worth billions to the company." Indeed it does, but probably because Jobs isn't running his company into the ground, which is more than we can say for the TARP babies. "And," adds Grossman, "even if the brilliant types stay on at lower pay, they may not put their all into their work. After all, once you’ve maxed out compensation for the year, why bother putting in 12-hour days and working weekends?" Why indeed? They were doing that all the way up to collapse; clearly a radically different approach is needed, one that might involve spending time with their loved ones. Let bankers' hours be bankers' hours! Then maybe we can all work less, like the French.

Finally, Grossman worries about
the end of job-exit as a signal. In economics, 'signaling' is how individuals convey information to others, often through their actions... On Wall Street, talent walking out the door signals that your firm is in big trouble. But with pay caps, there’s little reason to exit so swiftly.
First, it's a little fucking late for "signaling," and second, they don't need pay caps as a reason to stick to their jobs when there's a looming depression already in place --which happens to have been largely caused by these bright boys -- to convince them not to take their chances on what's left of the open market.

Always a good pick to close out a Rule of Three post is The Anchoress, who photoshops (or perhaps MacPaints) an "OBAMA TO NY: DROP DEAD" newspaper cover. Normally The Anchoress shows much less affection for our godless Sodom, but pretends concern now because a newsreader told her the cap "Could Seriously Hurt New York" -- though, the newsreader admits further down, a precisely opposite impression "dominated among those CBS 2 randomly spoke with on city streets," and pretty much everyone else she spoke to except for a flak from Partnership for New York, "a membership organization comprised of a select group of two hundred CEOs ('Partners') from New York City’s top corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms." (Among the member organizations of this club are Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Yankee Stadium, HSBC, and other fans of government largesse for the right kind of people.) The Anchoress clearly believes Jesus didn't mean for her to read beyond the second graf, and to trust to Him that no one else would, either.

Then The Anchoress descends, as is her custom, from ignorance to paranoia: "We all know that once the government learns they CAN get away with doing this, they’ll try to expand it to include others, not just the bailout recipients." Yeah, that's the word on the streets -- first they came for the TARP recipients but I was not a TARP recipient -- Attica! Attica! In the muddle that follows, she suggests that Obama "should hire someone like me, a real person," to advise him on financial matters. Among her real-person advice:
"What? You wanna do what? Don’t you realize you’re just exacerbating the problem when you mandate something that lowers tax receipts and blows the mind of an already half-psychotic market? The market has a psychology and so does the populace..."
I have to tell you, I've never heard a real person talk like, and I know some real windbags. Maybe she's thinking of characters in Kevin Smith movies.

Though, as I've said, I have doubts about the effectiveness of the salary cap, I encourage Obama to pull more populist bullshit just to get a rise out of these people.

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