Friday, February 06, 2009

Trickle Down Obamanomics

So, apparently people have been heeding my warning. I have been saying for a little while on this blog in this post that the disparity in incomes has got to stop. I say the thing to keep an eye on was the multiple. What i mean by the multiple is how much a top-level executive makes as a multiple of how the least compensated person in the company (janitor, etc) makes.

Over all but the last couple of decades, the most highly compensated person made let's say 20 times what the lowest paid worker makes. Now, we see compensation packages of up to 570 times what the average worker makes. You can find good info here , here and here . And you wonder why the rich keep getting richer?

So, recently Emperor Obama has decreed a limitation on the total compensation an executive can get if their company receives bailout money. This is a great slippery slope I detect. I hope, really really hope, that somewhere and somehow that this extends not just to companies who take bailout money, but all companies doing business with the federal government! before we get to that though, let's look at this.

So the companies that take bailout money are restricted from getting extravagant compensation packages for their 'best and brightest'. One consequence of this can be that a company that takes bailout money will shed good, mediocre and bad people like a butterfly sheds its cocoon. Now you have an over-saturation of people who want to be employed as finance gurus who will take lower and lower wages. But their wage demands will compete with one another to lower the bar on compensation.

The other option is for these folks to go abroad, as a friend from Goldman Sachs proclaims, as its easier to make stupid amount of money fleecing the locals. I say good riddance to these robber bankers. So in the short-term, i think executive compensation will reluctantly plummet and the multiplier will drop from some over 500x the average worker's salary to somewhere closer to 100x the average workers' salary. This will then create downward pressure on the luxurious compensation packages of the next lower and lower tiers. this will never reach Peter Drucker's (management guru) 25-1 ratio, but it'll be something significant.

I think to accelerate this trend, what Obama should do is to spread that cap to all companies doing business with the government. I mean if we're really about saving taxpayers' money, how come the CEO of Lockheed Martin gets 24mil a year (757x average) while living off of 80% of the revenue coming from government contracts? I think to really save the government a good bit of money, Obama should spread this ceiling over a wider swath of the economy by extending this ceiling to all companies that do business with the government.

I am against the government bailing out the economy. I think if you really want the economy to pump again, you have to seriously re-design compensation. If the government put a multiplier cap on ALL executive compensation, then there would be a hell of a lot more payroll money to spread towards the bottom of the pile, as well as around. Think, you pay one man the salary of 757 men? What if you cut that in half, you could employ another 300 depending on their skill sets.

Even if driving down the ceiling of executive compensation doesn't immediately spread to employing others. The incresed savings on compensation at least puts money into these banks, which in turn they can lend from.

So I'm all for putting a ceiling on executive compensation. This 'tricke down Obamanomics' would take a serious bite out of the windfall money these executives get. I'm just scared that this has no teeth as no company 'in their right mind' would take anymore bailout money.
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