Free Markets, Free People


“More Czars Than The Romanovs”

That’s what John McCain has said about the Obama tendency to appoint “czars” to oversee various issues. As McCain points out, these czars operate outside of any real oversight.

And apparently there’s going to be another new “czar” in town. A – are you ready for this? – “pay czar”.

The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department, these people said.

A tendency toward fascism?

I’d have to say yes. There’s no question that this is a very deep intrusion into the management of a company which will have negative consequences on down the road (the companies still compete for talent in the same pool as companies not under these restrictions). But apparently their competitive health is less important than enforcing some arbitrary and political level of “fair” compensation.

~McQ

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22 Responses to “More Czars Than The Romanovs”

  • Last night I watched “The Last Days of Sophie Scholl,” a German film about the moral courage of a Munich student who stood up to the Nazis and was executed.  The film is worth seeing; mostly dialogue (her and her interrogator, her and her cell mate), but powerful — moral courage is moving.   Some how, hearing that the government will not pay executives of companies who have chosen to receive tax payer bailout money more than a certain amount doesn’t seem all that bad.   Is it fascism to say “if you take our money, we get to set some rules for how much your top earners make”?   I mean, I doubt they are going to keep them to $12 an hour or anything like that?   Fascism?    I’m having trouble seeing the ideology of fascism, even a more benign fascism than the kind Scholl endured, as part of this.

    • Last night I watched “The Last Days of Sophie Scholl,” a German film about the moral courage of a Munich student who stood up to the Nazis and was executed. You might think this has nothing to do with your post, but that’s because you don’t understand the holy principles of post-modernism. See, you used the word “fascism” and that means anything that has Germans in it is relevant and penetrating.

      The film is worth seeing; mostly dialogue (her and her interrogator, her and her cell mate), but powerful — moral courage is moving. And you can bet that if I were in the same situation, I would be standing up to those nasty Germans and showing the same moral courage. Because it’s not either true that I’m a cowardly pantywaist, so stop saying that! I would stand up, I would, I would, I would! Just because I bailed out of DC and set myself up in safe-as-a-bug-in-a-rug academia doesn’t mean a thing! And the fact that I’m a pacifist who can never find a reason to support a war doesn’t mean I’m a coward either! It just means I have much, much higher moral principles that you dense, militaristic righties, especially the ex-military basket cases that are front page posters around here.

      Some how, hearing that the government will not pay executives of companies who have chosen to receive tax payer bailout money more than a certain amount doesn’t seem all that bad. See how I managed to divert the whole subject? I didn’t have to actually offer any facts or even logic to refute you. Raw emotion and principled intuition is enough. Is it fascism to say “if you take our money, we get to set some rules for how much your top earners make”? And the fact that the government is forcing some of them to take the money and keep it just to exert control is completely beside the point, so you dense righties need to stop saying that!

      I mean, I doubt they are going to keep them to $12 an hour or anything like that? And who really needs much more than that anyway, eh? Those wicked corporate types are just being made to toe the line and live no worse that, say, university professors at obscure cow colleges. But fascism? Of course not! As long as it’s all under control of wise leftists who think Hitler is awful, it can’t possibly be fascism! I decree it!

      I’m having trouble seeing the ideology of fascism, even a more benign fascism than the kind Scholl endured, as part of this. Because hurting little girls is just unforgivable, but pushing around those corporate fat cats is not the same. The probably deserve it.

    • And that’s because you think it’s perfectly fine that the government has decided it should be controlling who succeeds and who fails in the market place. 

    • Fascism is government control of the economy for the common good (as defined, of course, by the government). For the Nazis and Italian fascists, that meant government control to increase production with the goal of military dominance. Obama’s fascism has a different goal no doubt, and it’s a “soft” fascism (so far), but fascism does seem the proper term.

      • No, Don, Communism had government control.  Fascism had a kind of partnership, where the government was in bed with big business.   The Nazis did take control in war time, but most governments do that.

    • Scott, I would agree with you if all other things were equal.  After all “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.

      But, all things are not equal.   McQ’s point is that pay restrictions at a subset of the companies (i.e those taking government money) have long term implications for those companies.  In the first place, you are liable to lose talent to companies that are able to pay better.  Second, it becomes difficult, if not impossible to hire talent equal to the the talent you lose.   It hardly seems to be in anyone’s best interest (except politician’s)   to put a company at a long term disadvantage when the government claims it does not want to be in the commercial banking business.

      Rick

      • That’s all well and good in arguing that this is a bad and dangerous policy.  I’m just questioning why it’s seen as fascism.

    • Is it fascism when the government says, take the money or else we’ll make life difficult for you (by using the power of law to hamper your ability to produce.) 

      And then when you take the money, they make like difficult for you anyway (by using the power of law to hamper your ability to profit from your labor.)

      How does the idea that “it’s only fair since they’re getting public money” hold when you extend it to, any public money.  How much is your university getting from the Feds, and State government there?  How much input should they have in your salary, and the tuition charged.  After all, education is a “public good” and should be managed for the betterment of all.

      And since your students parents are also providing tuition, shouldn’t they be deciding what your salary and benefits should be?

      • All legitimate questions, but it still doesn’t seem like fascism to me.  (My own blog today was in fact about the moral courage of those who resisted fascism).  Also, why should the ‘the market’s’ determination be the proper way to determine how much people are paid, especially when people can manipulate markets?   I’m not saying it shouldn’t be the market, but there seems to be an assumption here that the market is fair and the most just.   That certainly is not an assumption that all hold!

    • Scott, your place of employment takes federal money right.
      Would you be happy if Obama or Bush set your pay level ?
      Would you shallow a small cut .. say 15% .. if it’s for the children ?

  • Special Master for Compensation???

    “Yassuh, yassuh, Boss Feinburg, suh!  We ain’t gibing dem ekzecutibs no moah dan wut you tells us to, dat’s fo’ sho!”

    But perhaps I’m being too hasty in my condemnation.  There MAY be the germ of a good idea here.

    (think, think, think)

    I’VE GOT IT!

    Maybe TAO can next appoint a Special Master of Compensation… for the Congress!  Or (heavens forbid) himself.

    “Sir, I’m afraid that, according to Section 304, paragraph 14, part (b), you cannot have Wagyu again at this week’s Wednesday night party.  I’m afraid that paragraph 14, part (d) limits you to Wagyu only once per month and mandates pork and beans for the other four Wednesday night parties.  If you don’t like that, then I’d suggest taking it up with (dramatic pause) Sheriff Biden.”

    • No no, an educational professional pay Czar is next.
      Educational professionals, as enlightened thinkers, should be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to cut back expenses to help open MORE jobs in the educational field, provide the ability to hire MORE socialist professors, and bring more enlightenment to more students without increasing costs.
      It seems eminently obvious to me that a professional, based in Washington DC would be able to determine what IS and isn’t a fair salary for say, Dr. Erb up there in Maine.
      He’ll have all kinds of charts, graphs, and tables of data available to help him make these wise decisions which he will force on the Pine Tree State and Dr. Erb will understand completely if he has to maybe take a pay cut.

      • While the schadenfreude of your idea would be delicious, I’m still holding out for a czar to reign in our spendthrift president and Congress.  Imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth if we:

        — Made all members of Congress fly coach and / or military “space available” (Sorry, Nancy: no more Air Force Three for you)

        — Limited the size of their staffs and possibly (gasp!) instituted competitive civil service exams and eliminated patronage positions on those staffs

        — Revoked their automatic pay-raises or even (gasp!) cut their pay by some fraction for every $10 billion of budget deficit (talk about linking pay to performance!)

        — Made them use Medicare / Medicaid / VA healthcare instead of their very generous healthcare package

        — Replaced their very generous retirement plan with the same Social Security the rest of us (might) get

        What’s good for the (corporate) goose ought to be just dandy for the (political) gander.

  • I thought the companies that took the federal koolaid did so because they were going bankrupt. How much management ‘talent’ is there to lose? Heck, I could drive a company like AIG, Chrysler, etc.  into bankruptcy, at a fraction of the compensation they are now paying.

    • I think I was pretty clear that the problem is one of attracting talent since the companies under the restrictions will be competing against firms without such restrictions.

      • Obie’s ideal remedy would be to apply the restrictions to all companies, regardless of whether they took fed bailout money or not.

        • We’ll get to that because there will be ‘unfair competition’ against government run companies that MUST not fail, and the only way to make it all fair is for the government to establish the wages everywhere for the time being, you understand, until we’re out of the recession, you see.  And if you disagree, you’re just a stinking profiteer, trying to screw the American Taxpayer.

          Trust us, it’s just till this crises is over.

  • Sounds like a first,  five year plan to me.

  • I would suggest we plug in the names of those whose pay is controlled along with a list of political donations in 2009, 2010. I bet we see some amazing correlations come out. 

  • No, Don, Communism had government control.  Fascism had a kind of partnership, where the government was in bed with big business. ”

    Scott, I can’t help but notice that you make McQ’s point for him while correcting one of the posters here. Are we parsing things a bit? You say fascism had a “kind of partnership with big business”. Is government’s “kind of partnership “different because we are currently gassing  Jews? Or is it because your just an apologist for the century’s resurgence of fascism: A kinder, gentler, tolerant Fascism. And this time we’ll leave the Jews alone!  ( Really, they  will. They’ll leave them alone in the Mid-East.)

    So, you basically can’t reconcile the two issues because you watched a moving piece of cinema? 

    I’m having trouble seeing the ideology of fascism, even a more benign fascism than the kind Scholl endured, as part of this.”

    I believe you’re being deliberately obtuse. Then again, I could be giving you too much credit.

    • Edit
      I meant to say, Is it because our government is not currently gassing Jews.

      My apologies.

  • Could there be a more obvious play for bribe money than apointing a czar who chooses how much specific individuals get paid?  I wonder whether an FOIA request could produce the bribe schedule?  Let’s see, you want $1M per year, that means @200K per year to us, but we’re running a special right now on $800K per yer: only $150K to us!

    Pathetic.

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