[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/29/obama.fair.pay/art.obama.afp.gi.jpg caption="Obama officials reveal pay and spending limits."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
There are certain scenes that you can only imagine, but you know they actually happened. This week, I am certain one of the lions of Wall Street stopped in the midst of trading, put his hand on his wallet, grimaced and gasped, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of dollars in bonuses cried out in terror…”
Or something like that.
President Obama’s call for a half-million dollar income cap for senior executives at companies receiving bailout money has undeniably disturbed Big Money America partly because that crowd knows this is something a lot of Americans can get excited about. The equation for supporters is simple: We the taxpayers are keeping your sorry keisters afloat; you have no business pumping up your piggy banks until you pay us back.
Members of Congress are hearing that refrain repeatedly in the ocean of messages inundating the Capitol. Between the stimulus package, Tom Daschle’s taxes and this wage cap notion, they are being overwhelmed by constituents phoning, e-mailing and writing. And a precious few are saying, “Whatever you do, make sure you keep rewarding the Fat Cats!”
There is actually a philosophical argument for the concept of a maximum wage, although you don’t hear it often. Just like we decided that a minimum wage was necessary because having people work for a dollar a day was detrimental to society; a maximum wage, in theory, would prevent a handful of people from effectively cornering the market on money, and possibly tanking the whole economy in their quest for quick profits, and…uh…well…
Still, aside from the distant screams of “Socialism!” that would drown out any debate on such a concept, there are practical problems in making a maximum wage work, even in the limited form that Mr. Obama wants. First, who are we talking about? If we say “senior executives,” you can bet your left leg, that every company out there will instantly proclaim that they’ve never had such people, and never will. If we say “The CEO, the CFO, and anyone else with a C by his name,” you can bet the other leg, these companies will start handing out new, untouchable titles faster than you can flip a quarter.
It’s not like the President is asking them to get cardboard signs and cups to work the morning rush. A half million a year, for most of Americans, would be like winning the lottery.
But these folks are not most Americans. Their personal economy is just fine, and they want to keep it that way. So political analysts know if President Obama wants this “change,” he’ll have to fight for it, down to the last dollar.
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