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Obama’s cathartic CEO pay caps
Will executive pay limits of $500,000 soothe an angry public?
 

With “fat-cat CEOs” of bailed-out companies using taxpayer money for fat paychecks, we’re having a “‘public mood’ moment,” said Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times, and the pubic mood is ugly. President Obama called it “shameful,” but “words will never hurt” these high-flying, junket-taking, jet-buying "rich dimwits.” No, “I want groveling,” and “I want my 401(k) money back.”

You might have to settle for Obama’s “long overdue” $500,000 pay cap on companies taking taxpayer funds, said Kauffman Foundation CIO Harold Bradley in The Kansas City Star. “I’m a BIG free market guy,” but somebody had to take on bloated, short-sighted Wall Street pay packages, since corporate boards and shareholders have failed to.

What “a blizzard of moralizing twaddle and disinformation,” said Terence Corcoran in Canada’s National Post. Like all government price controls, the $500,000 cap will “produce a rash of destructive consequences,” notably an “exodus of talent.” Average lower-level “Wall Street employees riding the subway home to New Jersey” took home $400,000 last year—why would the boss stick around for not much more?

“If they do go, who cares?” said David Callaway in MarketWatch. Earning $500,000 is “doing better than 99% of the rest of the working masses,” and there are plenty of smart people willing to take their place. Besides, Obama’s pay cap is “incredibly popular” among those masses, and it might defuse the mounting anger at Wall Street greed—the sort that has “led to uprisings in the past.”

It might also spark a broader “cultural shift” in finance, said Steve Lohr in The New York Times. Wall Street pay “goes through cycles of excess and correction,” and Obama’s limited caps mesh well with “market forces and public opinion.” Look for top bankers, bailed-out or not, to be compensated “more in line with other professions, like doctors and lawyers.”

 

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