“Oh my, oh my,” chittered the Chicken Littles of Wall Street when the public demanded cuts in their obscene pay packages. “The sky is falling,” they cried, flocking to Washington to save their pay.
Wall Street’s preening executives insisted that the linchpin of America’s financial system was their multimillion-dollar salaries, bonuses, stock options and perks. Cut their money, they threatened, and they would flee to greener pastures, taking with them the expertise needed to repair the financial system.
That was a ludicrous claim, since there’s not a huge job market for failed bankers demanding rich rations and constant stroking. Nonetheless, skittish officials backed off, and the bankers are again feeding on multimillion-dollar pay packages. But would they have actually fled if Washington had stood up to them?
One who did take a stand was Kenneth Feinberg, a special regulator brought in to set the pay of top executives in five financial and automobile companies that got multiple bailouts from us. He has cut their pay by 77 percent since 2008. Yet most of them stayed on the job.
Why? Even with their paychecks whacked by three-fourths, the top execs are still drawing an average of $1.6 million a year—enough to make ends meet, even for a corporate big shot. And it turns out that not every executive is a greed machine motivated only by money. Such human factors as personal pride and loyalty (to both their companies and their country) made them want to stay and help fix America’s economic wreck.
So let’s stop pampering the Chicken Littles. They’ve got nowhere to go, and even if some leave, others can do the job.
Find more information on Jim Hightower’s work—and subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown—at www.jimhightower.com