With the White House slashing the pay of the seven bank executives last week, the nabobs are nattering, none more convincingly than my favorite Chicago columnist, the Sun-Times‘ Neil Steinberg. In his Oct. 24 column, he scoffed at observers who predict a “brain drain” from firms whose execs don’t have a sufficient upside.
Were I a financier, say Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, whose 2008 pay of $38 million is being cut to a paltry $19 million, I’d have already turned in my security badge, grabbed my coat and stormed out of the building and over to the nearest park, to sit glumly on a bench, watching the children play for hours on end because heck, why work? …
That people still cling to this fantasy—still believe corporations are run by financial wizards paid in accordance to the bounty reaped by their secret wisdom—is a testament to human self-deception and guile.
Where do you see the greatest business genius? In high-tech start-ups—scruffy guys in college dorm rooms, paying themselves with Clif bars and Red Bull, forging the next billion dollar industry between classes. How come they can do it for a dream, but a banker goes from earning eight figures to earning only seven and he’s fleeing to St. Bart’s to sulk? I don’t believe it.
Personally, I mostly agree with Steinberg. But I’d love to read—and I’d love even more to publish in Vital Speeches—a speech in which someone convincingly argued the opposite. (Or, addressing the subject directly from any point of view.)