Thursday, March 19, 2009

pointless outrage

I get that riling people up about executive pay sells papers and puts "butts in seats" and wins votes and campaign contributions. I get that. Nevertheless, I find myself reading past the headlines and breathless paragraphs about AIG executives' bonuses and looking in other directions because, frankly, I just don't care that much. It's not that I think they deserve their bonuses, or that I don't think corporate executives are wildly overpaid, or that I don't notice the contrast between their compensation and that of the entry-level workers in their companies, because I do in every case.

It's that, so far as I can tell, executive pay is neither what took down the economy, nor the key to fix it. Bringing the hammer down on the smug bastards at AIG might make us feel a little better, and I suppose that's not nothing, but it won't do anything to keep people in their homes or open up more jobs or, so far as I can tell, do much to protect their savings. Even though it's admittedly for political reasons when Obama calls the AIG matter "a distraction," I think that's absolutely correct.

I think, too, that there's a faction in the press and the government who want to make all this about a couple of bad apples at the top of certain companies, rather than about a fundamental flaw in the system (i.e., lack of regulation and consumer protections in the financial sector).