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Fidel=Ken Lay

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There’s nothing more pathetic than watching a right-winger apologize for bloated CEO pay. In the latest example of this hackneyed genre, one Howard Owens oozes forth on Blogcritics:

“But of course there’s a reason CEOs make millions and baggers make mere thousands — CEOs contribute more to the bottom line than baggers do. Good CEOs are harder to find than good baggers. CEOs need more training and more experience. CEOs deal with greater pressures. And if they do their job well, the $88 million they earn in stock options are a mere pittance compared to what they earn for the entire pool of investors.”

Well, anyone who’s ever pulled crushed eggs and flattened bread out of his grocery bags at home can attest that good baggers are indeed a rare breed. But more importantly, Mr. Owens has apparently been sleeping the last few years: Enron, Tyco, Arthur Anderson, ad nauseam, all demonstrate the breathtaking criminality and incompetence of the CEO class. Nor are these names exceptions: just in the past 2 weeks alone, Wall Street has been gripped by a wave of scandals over market timing and after-hours trading (i.e., “cheating”). As Alexander Cockburn has remarked, the business schools in this country have bred criminality on a scale that dwarfs the inner city ghettos.

Why do CEOs make so much money? They do so for the same reason Fidel Castro has attained so much power: They can. Business executives sit on each other’s boards and belong to each other’s country clubs: when it comes to compensation, they are just rewarding their own.

Nor do executives hold themselves to the rigorous performance standards they demand of others. When stock prices fall, options are conveniently “reset” so they don’t lose their value. CEOs dismissed for “failure” reap abundant compensation packages. As one who toils in corporate America, I can confirm that most companies succeed despite, not because of, their CEOs.

Mr. Owens also weighs in with the view that CEO pay is not that excessive because, stretched out over a company’s many thousands of employees, it wouldn’t amount to much. This is irrelevant. What is sickening about executive pay is the stomach turning hypocrisy it embodies: CEOs who face no real penalty for failure lecture everyone else about “pay for performance.” Executives who have never struggled with a healthcare deductible for their children, or watched a chintzy 401(a) decline in value, destroy the livelihoods of the deli clerks and store managers who do the actual work.

Like so many other institutions in American life, such as the Catholic Church and the Congress and the White House, the American corporate class is rife with cronyism and self-dealing. A reckoning is way overdue.

I say hail the striking grocery workers in California and their noble struggle. Like most movements of the dispossessed, they are most likely doomed. But even the chance they might succeed is an inspiring thought.

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About mike larkin

  • debbie

    On one hand people think that actors, baseball, football, and basketball players deserve millions a year for playing a game or pretending to be somebody else, on the other hand, the people that “really provide job opportunities” for millions of people are supposed to have their income limited because of class envy.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want the stress of being responsible for the livelyhood of thousands of people resting on my decisions. I also recognize that I do not have the knowledge or the training to take on that challenge. So, since I do not have the knowledge or training to do that job, why should I be paid as much as the person that does? Why should I expect that person to be paid less because I wish I had more? Companies tend to pay what the market will bare. If you don’t get anybody applying for a job that pays minimum wage then they will offer to pay more than minimum. The position needs to be filled. If you don’t like the job you have or the amount of money you make then you need to make some decisions. You can either go back to school and learn something else or look elsewhere for a job. But to whine that you don’t make as much as the owner of a business, or the CEO of a business is childish.

    This does not make any sense to me. Why should some baseball players make 3 or 4 million a year playing a game? What fantastic employment opportunities are they providing to others? The chance to work part time in the stadium? What type of retirement and pay do these workers get? How about actors getting 15, 20 million for 3 or 4 months work on a film? Why aren’t we screaming for them to turn over their money and pay for the “lowly workers in the local movie theaters”? I think there is a big difference between the millions that movie actors make and the $6.00 an hour that the movie theater workers get. I don’t even think that they get a 401(k), the only insurance they get covers them while they are at work.

  • You attack the poster’s intelligence and integrity; you cite three corporations with executive scandals (I know a guy who worked at a spuermarket and saw far more than 3 of your noble workers steal from the company–in your logic, that would justify all manner of condemnation of all grocery workers) to prove that all CEOs are crooked; you refer to a radical journalist; you compare all business men to a murderous dictator; you apply your personal experience to all of the country; you assert that all CEOs gleefully destroy the lives of workers as if that is their main goal.

    Baloney, aisle 5. Baloney, aisle 5.

    Stop this man before he shoots some bourgeoisie and sneds their families to Alaska.

  • mike


  • I get tired of talk about what someone “deserves” or is “worth” in their job. The simple fact is you “deserve” or are “worth” whatever somebody is willing to pay you for whatever it is you do.

    And what somebody is willing to pay you is almost always – unless you are in a union – a figure that’s below what they expect to earn by hiring you. And that’s the case whether you’re a minimum-wage burger flipper, a CEO, an actor or an athlete.

    Sure, a lot of CEOs rake in more than they probably contribute to a company’s income, profits and valuation. In some cases, this happens because of cronyism, sometimes it’s a supply-demand situation for “top CEO talent” and sometimes it’s just poor decision making.

    And many, many more CEOs rake in far less than they contribute.

    Did Phil Knight at Nike do enough for the company to deserve the $3.3 million he took home in 2002? Maybe, maybe not. Will LeBron James do enough for the company to deserve the $12.85 million Nike will pay him each year for the next 7 years to endorse shoes? Maybe, maybe not. But in each case, Nike thought it was worth it. And that’s the company’s call.

    Bottom line is that people like to complain about what others make, but would anyone ever turn down more money if it’s offered? If you’re a grocery store bagger and your company said they wanted to pay you $125 a hour, would you decline because you don’t think you’re worth it?

    Similarly, if you’re a CEO and you’re offered a stock package worth $125 million, do you turn it down because you don’t think you’re worth it?

    — You’ve just experienced Cap’n Ken’s Homespun Wisdom

  • sneds… like in the blues brothers.

    “they’ve probably got SCMODS.”
    “state county and municipal offender data system.”

    sneds = soviet northern executive deployment system.

    next time i’ll put it in quotes.