Friday, February 6, 2009

Brain Drain?

Below is a link to a fabulous article on President Obama's plan to cap the compensation available to executives at banks that receive Federal Bailout funds.

The thing that's great about this article is that it flatly calls out those who oppose this plan in the clearest and best way - by contrasting their stance on executive/corporate welfare recipients with their stances on public welfare recipients. Calling out the obvious hypocracy of the Republican't party is something that we've been all to afraid to do in the past, and it's why a progressive agenda is routinely hijacked by the superior and ruthless discipline of the right wing. This article does that. It shows, with relative clarity, the pure hypocracy of the opposition to this common sense measure.

The one thing it fails to do, however, is draw the obvious conclusion as to why these folks would support the onerous burdens placed on the standard welfare recipient but oppose even the most reasonable restrictions on compensation for corporate welfare recipients (and seriously, does anyone think these folks deserve to be making more than $400,000 per year with what they've done?). While you can argue that it's a race thing, black and brown folk on welfare versus white folk in the board room, you'd be missing the point. Yes, it's a color thing, but that color is green. A recent article showed that bailed out banks spent more than $100 million (yes, you read that right) lobbying congress last year. While certainly there's a large chunk of that spent on high-powered lobbying firms' services, there's another large chunk going into campaign coffers. I doubt too many folks on welfare were able to lobby Congress last year.

My final comment, and something I wish this article expanded on, is the comment by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), regarding the threat of a so-called "brain-drain" at these institutions. Sen. Bennett believes that capping corporate compensation will mean that top executives will leave these banks for work in fields where their earning potential is unlimited, leaving the banks to wallow without quality leadership (and doubtless this will be echoed in the Republican't spin chamber).

Let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that executive compensation is currently at near feudal level as compared to average employee compensation, outpacing historical levels by double and triple-digit multiples. Let's ignore the ridiculous concept that anyone NEEDS to make more than $400,000 per year. Let's simply focus on where we are, and how we got here. The current economic cataclysm was conceived, gestated and birthed by bankers obsessed with the potential profits of subprime loans, and then nurtured and coddled in these very boardrooms, where those self-same bankers created complex and convoluted systems to support their monstrous creations. Blinded to the long term risks of their investments by the seemingly endless earning potential, this "brain-trust" of Sen. Bennett's imagining abandoned their responsibilities to their shareholders and the larger society in a feeding frenzy of greed. Like sharks, they smelled blood in the water and whipped themselves into a frenzy, and, like sharks, were too literally shortsighted to see beyond the churning water to realize that the water was churning because a very large propeller was backing into the feeding frenzy. Now, the sharks want to flee ahead of the propellor, leaving us in it's path, but still carrying off as much as they need to fill their already bloated bellies.

It was the housing market collapse that destroyed the credit markets, dashed the dreams of millions of honest home buyers, and brought the entire global economy to its knees. Now Senator Bennett and his ilk are concerned about brain-drain at these institutions? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like we're worried that the Captain of the Titanic won't come back to pilot a sister ship if we dock his pay until he gets it safely to port. Pull the lever, I say. Let the sacred brain trust at the head of these banks out with the shitwater that we're all living in because of their mismanagement and greed. If we're gonna get slashed, it's only reasonable to expect their lifestyle to be reduced from outlandish to simply extravagant.

No comments: