For President Pelosi and her cohorts, having swatted A.I.G. with that 90 percent bonus tax, it's on to oversight of executive pay. At least according to the New York Times, which quotes "officials" as saying the White House is weighing a proposal to make companies "tie executive compensation more closely to corporate performance and to take other steps to ensure that competition was aligned with the financial interest of the company."
The longer the economic whatever-it-is goes on, the deeper the government's appreciation of its own spectacular wisdom. Why let the marketplace sets wages when Washington knows in such detail who is entitled to what?
To hammer home this obvious point, our leaders in Congress convene a kangaroo court, hale before said court the $1-a-year guy now running A.I.G., and beat him over the head (figuratively, so far), using the word "outrage" a few thousand times, amid appropriate facial gestures tried out, no doubt, that morning in the mirror. When Congress gets in inquisitorial mood, it lets the whole wide world know. We sure came to know last week.
Where does this leave us? Wondering, for one thing, about symmetry. There's something uneven here. If we're about to launch a regime of compensation oversight, what about letting the government itself in on the fun? Two can -- and certainly should -- play at this game.
We're going to tie corporate executive pay to performance? There's not the slightest reason to exempt government pay from similar oversight -- unless we regard government as so miraculous a contrivance it gets to make the rules for the rest of us. I don't think so.
Here's one plan: President Pelosi, in her moonlighting job as House speaker, earns $217,400. It would seem not unreasonable to make at least half that compensation provisional. We pay her $108,700, then, with the remainder measured out as incentive pay per earmark deleted from each House Appropriations bill. I propose, additionally, an A.I.G-style bonus for each increase of 100,000 barrels a day in crude oil reserves from drilling in offshore California.
Here's another plan: the nominal occupant of the White House, one Barack Obama, is scheduled to earn $400,000 a year. While allowing that amount in light of his duties, such as appearing with Jay Leno, we could grant him $50,000 salary increments for every $500 billion chopped from the federal deficit he deplored so long as George W. Bush was president.
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