July 26 2013
President Obama in his Galesburg speech once again revealed that he thinks is the root of our economic woes. High unemployment? Don’t be silly. Stagnant wages? Nope again.
What bugs POTUS is that there are actually some people who are making what he regards as too much money, despite all the regulations his administration has imposed on wealth creation (presumably his own salary of $400,000 comes in well under what he regards as ill gotten lucre).
Ponder that: What needs to be corrected, in the view of the president, is that some people are doing well in this wretched economy. He may think that, if the exorbitant earnings of the 1 percent could be wrested from them and redistributed, things would be rosy. (Caveat: it is okay for Obama donors to be filthy rich.)
But people who don’t live in the faculty lounge know that this would do no good whatsoever. The filthy lucre of the 1 percent wouldn't go far in rescuing the economy.
The president is just stoking envy. Some days he stokes envy, other days he stokes the fires of racism, and on other days he golfs or goes to Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work, if you can get it.
But what about the pay of the 1 percent? Is it really unfair? U.K. journalist Fraser Nelson suggests that, while the fat paychecks of the 1 percent are unfair, they are entirely rational. In other words, they may (gasp) merit the pay.
Nelson writes: .
It’s all down to scale. In a recent paper, Harvard’s Greg Mankiw put it well (pdf): companies have grown so large that the difference between being run badly or run well is measured in billions. A chief executive capable of making that difference is paid in millions. The size of these companies drives up salaries, because people can now leverage their talents on a global scale. Same goes for the world’s best architects, lawyers, computer programmers and engineers. If JK Rowling can sell books from Jakarta to Jedborough, then can we begrudge her riches? And new pen names? If a singer makes tens of millions because tens of millions around the world want to buy her records, is that an outrage? The FTSE100 is now largely a global index, with executives applying their talents over borders. The same rules apply to these far-less-glamorous people…
Nelson also points out that the U. K.’s economic problems are not caused by the rich:
The rich may be deeply annoying, but it’s hard to argue that they actually harm society. Not a penny of the UK government deficit was caused by bank bailouts, for example. It’s also hard to argue that the pension funds (who control votes on pay) are being conned by greedy chief execs – especially if top pay rises when the companies go private. JK Rowling and Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts are producing things the whole world wants to buy, so they deserve the rewards. Nowadays, those rewards come bigger than ever. They are not stealing the money, any more than the directors of Nationwide (who oversaw such jump in profits) were stealing their salary. The fact of it is that these people get paid the stupefying sums because they’re worth it. At least according to the cold metrics used by people who set their salaries.
If the rich weren't paid these exorbitant salaries, their companies might not fare well. Unemployment might conceivably rise as a result of punishing the rich—but then sometimes I think the president isn’t really interested in anything as mundane as unemployment. He's grander than that.
The president’s fixation on the rich wasn’t the only erroneous notion in the Galesburg speech. Diana Fuchtgott-Roth has a good piece on the top ten errors in the speech.