Monday, June 30, 2008

Showing greed the door

I have this absurd fantasy of being elected to Congress to replace our underwhelming representative, Democrat David Wu.

There I am in my office and the lobbyists are lined up to make their get-acquainted pitches.

I’d follow a mental script that I would read to every one of them.

“Nice to meet you. How much does your CEO make? And, by the way, how much do you make?"

Or, in the case of industrial groups or trade unions, I’d ask, “What is the average compensation for your chief executive or union president?

“Don’t know? Come back when you do. Oh, and when you do return, bring the compensation of the lowest paid worker in your company, trade group or union.”

“By the way, you can save yourself some time setting up a new appointment. Run the two numbers through a calculator. Divide the CEO compensation (and your own compensation) number by the lowest pay and if it comes to more than 10, you needn’t call because we will know that your industry/company/trade group/union's leadership is essentially motivated by greed.

"I’m sure you agree that our government has more important business than promoting greed.”

(Example of greed: the lowest paid worker makes $30,000 and the CEO makes $3 million, which is common, unfortunately. The ratio is—ready?—one to 100. Under my "times ten" rule, if the CEO wants $3 million in compensation, the lowest paid worker get $300,000. Now that's a minimum wage law! Here's another example. Under the "times ten rule" if the lowest paid worker gets $50,000, the CEO gets $500,000 — tops. That seems to me to be beyond fair compensation.)

Back to my D.C. office chat. “One more thing," I'd say, "don’t tell me that competition for these stuffed shirts (I'd probably use the term 'executive talent') forces you to pay CEOs mega-bucks. If they are so smart, why has the economy tanked? One reason is grotesque income inequity.”

I would organize a caucus of like-minded Congressional members who would join me in putting lobbyists through the same drill. Call us the "Ten Times or Less" caucus.

By the way, in my own Congressional office I’d make sure my staff salaries fell well within these parameters. Members of Congress are paid $169,300. I’d use a one-to-three ratio. The lowest pay would be roughly $57,000.

David (and Earl and Peter and Greg), are you listening?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A laudable goal, for sure, but would your office have the budget for that?

In addition to Congressional staffers, there are sanitary workers who clean each office, as well as IT support staff who keeps the computers running. With a one-to-three ratio applied to the lowest paid worker in your office, wouldn't you only have enough money to hire one person (if any) to work on policy?

And a congressman without any policy staffers wouldn't be much good for his district...

3:42 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

Excellent questions. Are you saying that sanitary workers are "worth" one third what a member of Congress is? How do we measure worth? What pay would you accept to be a sanitary worker?

The IT staffer could earn up to my salary, since, as the member of congress, I'd be the "CEO" in my office.

The size of the staff would depend on the size of the staff budget, which is a different question.

Lurking behind this topic is another question: How much is enough? What is adequate pay in today's world? What is our true "value" and are there other ways to measure it, and reward it, than with money?

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to write you in as my candidate when I vote in November.

6:16 PM  

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