I know at least some people know the second part of that chant, and Claire McCaskill seems to be one of them. She has introduced a bill in the Senate to cap CEO pay. I don’t think its odds of passage are that great, but the idea sure is. CEO pay has gotten absolutely absurd, rising 500 percent between 1980 and 2000 according to this testimony by Houman B. Shadab in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (.pdf warning).
McCaskill got to say what I think a lot of us have wanted to say for a long time, “They don’t get it. These people are idiots. You can’t use taxpayer money to pay out $18-billion in bonuses… What planet are these people on?” The first time I read that I thought she said, “What are these people on?” which I maintain would’ve been a better question. Jake Blumgart over at Pushback makes the point that these executives aren’t so much at fault as the system is. He’s on the right track, but then the question is how do we change the system? Throwing people in jail or cutting their salaries to $400,000 (as McCaskill suggests) ain’t gonna get the job done. To make any kind of real change, like limiting CEO salaries in general, Democrats are going to have to develop a seriously thick skin to accusations of being socialists.
It’s time we took populism as a strategy seriously, and the normally-moderate McCaskill seems to be doing just that. We shouldn’t be afraid to whip up some (or a lot) of that populist ferver that’s lurking in the hearts of disenfranchised Americans all over the country. In the mean time, if we’re not making major structural changes to our economic and social systems, can we make sure hedge fund managers are taxed like normal people? Is that too much to ask?
Oh, the answer was “People’s Revolution!” Just in case you hadn’t heard.