American Elephants


Those Dratted CEO’s Get Way too Much Money! (or Do They?) by The Elephant's Child

Thomas Sowell had a wonderful column last week at National Review on CEO pay.  He began:

Congress is never more ridiculous than when it tries to look like it is serious.

In the midst of a major national financial crisis, what was one of the first things Congress zeroed in on? The pay of Chief Executive Officers of financial institutions.

If all those CEOs agreed to work for nothing, that would not be enough to lower the bailout money by one percent.  Anyone who was really serious would start with the 99 percent and let the one percent come later.

But however insignificant the pay of CEOs is economically, it is big stuff politically.  Whatever the shortcomings of the Democrats, they are consistent in their message and class envy is a great part of that message.

People who say that they cannot understand how CEOs in general get so many millions of dollars seem not to realize what a trivial thing they are saying.  Most people do not understand most things.  But that is no reason to have national policy guided by their ignorance. …

What really sets some people off is the fact that a CEO who has mismanaged some corporation into losing billions of dollars is rewarded with a severance package worth millions.

Think about it.  If the CEO’s decisions are costing the company billions, it is a bargain to get him out the door immediately for millions, rather than having his departure delayed by either internal struggles or battles in the courts….

Politically imposed limits on the pay of CEOs is one of the most penny-wise and pound-foolish things that can be done.  The difference between a top-notch CEO: and a second-rate CEO can be billions of dollars on the bottom line.

That is what drives up the pay of CEOs.  If you want someone who will be top-notch in running organizations as huge and complex as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is no point offering $5 million a year if similar enterprises elsewhere are paying $20 million for people with the kind of ability required. [emphasis mine]

Do read the whole thing. It’s a great corrective for faulty thinking, and being honest, we all indulge in a lot of that. Clarifies a lot of the conversation about the “bailout” too. Not too many CEOs enjoy a very long tenure at their firms.


1 Comment so far
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Thanks for posting it. Thomas Sowell is very astute, as usual. I admire his ability to explain complicated things in simple terms.

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Comment by renaissanceguy




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