Free Market Compensation

February 11th, 2010

By Tom Carter

The President is taking incoming fire from the liberal left on recent comments he made regarding the bonuses of a couple of Wall Street CEOs.  When asked about the bonuses of the CEO of JPMorgan Chase ($17 million) and the CEO of Goldman Sachs ($9 million), he praised both as “savvy businessmen” and said,

I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.

But what about his recent statement that Wall Street bonuses are “obscene” and that the people who receive them are “fat cats who are getting awarded for their failure?”  Maybe his turnabout on these two examples of bonuses is explained by the fact that he personally knows both CEOs, or maybe it’s because of their campaign contributions (and those of their employees).

I don’t really care about any of that.  Big whoop — politicians reward their friends and supporters with access and kind words.  No surprise there, and nothing wrong with it.

What irritates me is the intrusion of politicians into the private sector for partisan reasons.  It can be said that the left is in high dudgeon these days over executive bonuses because some of the companies these executives lead played a role in the economic collapse.  That’s at least partly true, but it’s far from the complete explanation.  Leftists have always hated business, and they’ve always objected to executive compensation levels.  At the same time, they have nothing to say about their fellow liberal politicians and bureaucrats who spent years pushing the “affordable housing” concept, which resulted in “liar loans” and at least part of the housing boom, which also contributed significantly to our economic woes.

The left also doesn’t utter a peep about all the other people who make humongous amounts of money while contributing little of real significance to society. 

Take, for example, the salaries of professional basketball players.  Some of these players, armed to the teeth and weighed-down with bling, have IQs that approximate their height in inches.  Aside from their ability to bounce a ball and throw it through a round metal ring, many have no other discernible skills and would be failures in normal life.  And the proles, so beloved of the left, have to pay exorbitant ticket prices to support the salaries of the players.  But nary a peep from the left.

Movie stars, famously undereducated and often not very bright but consistently supportive of leftist causes — their huge incomes are okey-dokey with liberals.  And TV talk show hosts like Oprah, a reliable leftist and famously an Obama supporter, makes $275 million a year.  No problem.

Check the list of celebrity incomes, and think about their relative usefulness to society.  50 Cent, for example, makes $150 million a year.  Please.

I consider myself a moderate Democrat and, on may issues, a liberal.  But I usually part company with the loonies of the left in cases like this.  Compensation paid in the private sector is not the business of government and politicians, especially when they pick-and-choose whom to criticize based on partisan politics.  CEO pay is under the control of shareholders, basketball players are paid what the market thinks they are worth, and movie stars and TV personalities earn income based on their ability to make money for lots of other people.

So butt out, liberals.  Compensation in the free market is none of your business.

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