he is so sad!!! from daniel.gene's flickr
Mayor Mike accidentally said something really interesting on the phenomena of CEOs taking on $1 paydays during the economic crisis. The “You get what you pay for” sentiment rings true in ways he might not intend – it shows that the recession and the bailout were never just about CEO pay or corporate largesse- it’s also about democracy, and who controls the fate of our collective economic future.
Bloomberg points out that for these folks, cutting your salary is a desperate bid to stay in the driver’s seat after having your leadership totally discredited. It’s the last ditch against losing power, taking a pennance and hoping people move on. (even though you’ll keep your stock, and all that other stuff you bought with your life of excess) The real issue, then, is about who controls the companies that control our economy, who doles out the capital that makes the machine run. The inability to make any real demands on the people at the helm in the nation’s failing banks shows that our economy works on everything besides a meritocracy or democracy, and that it needs serious, systemic reevaluation.
I do what I want. from motherpie's flickr.
Clinton spent his last months giving out pardons to felons and friends, but in the last few months of the Bush Administration, executive branchers spent trillions and trillions of dollars setting up shady loan deals with the people that ruined the US economy. The real upshot from these deals will be hemming in the incoming administration financially with a near criminal excess of unaccounted-for and unauthorized loan programs.
At this point, the Bush folks see the writing on the wall and want to do their best to restrain the new government by running up deficits then demanding budget ballancing in the next Congress. The military plays the same game with the defense budget, bloating requests for new spending to require cuts and then pigeonhole Obama as someone weak on defense. With Bush functionally out of office, and all eyes on the incoming administration, no doubt these problems will look like an Obama problem, which will be the first step to a planned GOP resurgence in 2010.
Like Warren, only different. from doomster's flickr.
This is why we shouldn’t rely on the Billionaire on a White Horse to save the economy – be it Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Mike Bloomberg. The whole notion of mega-charity and high-dollar stunts by high-profile figures to instill confidence in the economy assumes that these folks are generally right (which probably isn’t true) and assumes that they’re willing to act in the interest of others. Personal wealth necessarily comes at the expense of someone else who pays cost-plus for some good or service so that an owner can make higher salary.
More germane to the point here, it’s a bad way to make decisions. Kerkorian’s investment in Ford was meant to shore up the company, but it more or less put the company’s future in the hands of one person. the reason open source software is so effective is because it puts a lot of eyes on a product and makes sure it works. Decisions made by Billionaire Fiat work in the opposite way – it only allows one (self-interested) person to make a decision for a lot of other people. In this case, one 91 year old dude is putting a stake through the heart of a company that employs hundreds of thousands of people, and that’s kinda dumb.
In trying times, at least we can know that rich people are funny. A total fucking meltdown and a power-grabbing Mayor have provided excellent opportunities for the return of the ‘Billionaire’ meme. (the meme began with Billionaires for Bush, and since taken on a life of its own)
Billionaires for the Bailout have made appearances in DC, backing the new age of corporate welfare in the name of leaving No Billionaire Behind. Just yesterday the Billioniares for the Bailout faced down the menace of Ralph Nader on Wall Street, standing firm in the face of the Radical Left’s attempt to undermine our support of the folks really in charge. The meme is overseas: the Billionaires made news all the way in India.
Back closer to home, the well-organized Billionaires brought out support for their friend and colleague Mayor Bloomberg on the issue of term-limits extensions, even if the repeal would still allow non-billionaire candidates such as Speaker Quinn or Anthony Wiener to run. As I’ve pointed out before, many New York City-focused movements are stiff, boring affairs, and I’m glad to see the Billionaires jump in to a high-profile battle like term limits- with Bloomberg’s media machine and billions to spend, folks opposing him will have to come up with something better than “the people have spoken” and “just say no” style appeals – I hope the Billionaires for Term Limits Except For Billionaires inject some energy and wit into the Bloomberg push-back.