Salary Czar Will Make Sure Everybody Gets Their Fair Share

As Jesse Walker noted this morning, Kenneth Feinberg is likely to become the "Special Master for Compensation" to enforce executive-pay guidelines on companies receiving federal bailout money. The Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon describes the thicket of fairness guidelines and restrictions on compensation Feinberg will be negotiating.

If you want to get an idea of how Feinberg might approach his task, you may want to check out his 2006 book What Is Life Worth?, which details how he ran the 9/11 compensation effort. I should warn you that I speed-read that book a few years back (I'm interested in the topic) and now can't remember a damn thing about it. Amazon reader Kate Tippett-bowles "Beachbum" says, "I was perplexed as to why he felt the need to continually bombard the reader with his credentials. I felt quite bogged down with his repeated self-aggrandizing and was rather turned off."

A search the Google Books version reveals some interesting stuff, including that Feinberg's "blue-collar background and Jewish heritage" inclined him "to defend the underdog." But he insists he wasn't out to be a class warrior:

One or two of the press accounts of my work referred to my "Robin Hood" approach. I don't think the description fits. The legendary bandit was famous for "taking from the rich to give to the poor." But I didn't do that at all. The 9/11 fund had no overall appropriation to be parceled out, so the amount given to one person couldn't possibly affect the amount someone else would receive. I didn't take anything away from the rich; all I did was make certain that rich and poor alike received their fair share according to the statute.

That positive-sum environment was new to Feinberg, who had previously done Agent Orange compensation:

[I]n no previous case had I been required to calculate awards based on the principle of economic loss. And in all of my other cases, a finite amount of money ($180 million in the Agent Orange case) had been made available for me to distribute to eligible claimants based upon a fixed formula: X amount for a case of cancer, X amount for emphysema, X amount for a broken arm or leg. The 9/11 statue was entirely different. There was no fixed, appropriated amount for me to distribute; I would tally the total check as I went along. And there were no fixed rules for allocation.

Feinberg believes the 9/11 fund should not be used as a precedent for future compensation programs, but it will be interesting to see how he goes about doing executive comp.

If I'm sanguine about the prospect of introducing yet another czar into our late-Romanov political economy, it's because this is a fleas-on-the-dog situation. The original sin was giving out the TARP money. Unlike the government's efforts to violate contractual obligations to GM bond holders, AIG executives and the UAW, here it's just a paymaster deciding what he pays. If Feinberg screws it up and drives the talent out of these banks, all the better. I say fooey to the argument that Dick Kovacevich and the other bank bosses were strong-armed into accepting TARP funds. History is full of people who resisted more forceful blandishments than Henry Paulson's and suffered worse punishments than being denied a new solid-gold hat every quarter.

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  • Alan Vanneman||

    Obama is solving the unemployment problem one Czar at a time. Even if you don't get to be a Czar, you can sure as hell get a job making Faberge Easter eggs for them to give to each other.

  • ||

    Can I be the administration's Rasputin? Or, barring that, its Patriarch?

  • JB||

    I say they get paid with prison rape. That should discourage companies taking money from the government.

  • ||

    Who sets Feinberg's salary?

  • ||

    I see no need to rephrase my earlier rant.

    Start with GM and Chrysler. Please start with their engineering, accounting, executive, legal, advertising and purchasing departments. None of these people should be renumerated for more than the median wage of female minority hourly workers.

    Please, oh pretty please with a cherry on top, start creating the socialist paradise based on what is "fair" with the auto companies you just fucking bought. Since the money that you've already invested in these viable firms flushed down the shitter isn't coming back anyway, let's do the fucking experiment. I really mean this, if the CEO or anyone else at Government Motors makes more than a GS-15, fire them and allow current government employees to apply for the job.

  • Some Guy||

    I agree with JB. I also stand by my belief that the application process for bailout money should involve the CEO's seppuku on the White House lawn, (all applications denied, of course.)

  • ||

    Who sets Feinberg's salary?

    He's strict commission.

  • ev||

    Bleeding Gums Murphy-That's when I started my $1,500 a day habit.

    Murphy- I'd like another Faberge Egg, please.

    Attendant: Sir, I think you've had enough.

    Murphy- I'LL TELL YOU WHEN I'VE HAD ENOUGH!

  • T||

    I've aid it before and I'll say it again: it's not fair I have to work and be productive while useless sacks of protoplasm like Bobby Byrd get paid $170K just to bloviate and name concrete after themselves. I want my fair share! Failing that, just give me money back, you bitches.

  • ||

    As stated in another thread -- Is anyone anywhere suing the government over all of this shit? Bush was sued 24/7.

  • ||

    Who sets Feinberg's salary?

    The Czar Czar, of course.

  • ||

    The 9/11 fund had no overall appropriation to be parceled out, so the amount given to one person couldn't possibly affect the amount someone else would receive. I didn't take anything away from the rich; all I did was make certain that rich and poor alike received their fair share according to the statute.

    "Cake for everyone, Garcon!"

    Off with their Congressional fucking heads; all 535 of them. And then we can start on the Executive Branch, after they stack those other heads neatly on the Mall.

  • T||

    The Czar Czar, of course.

    Surely we can find someone with the last name of Binks for this job.

  • onparkstreet||

    "Special Master for Compensation"?

    At this rate, we really will have a minister of silly walks....Good grief.

  • Janet||

    We need a pay czar to make sure once and for all that women get the same wages as men for the same jobs. As it is now, the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men.

  • ||

    the amount given to one person couldn't possibly affect the amount someone else would receive

    But- how can this be?

    *scratches head*



    Oh, right; they pluck the money out of thin air, as they go.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Tulpa
    That wouldn't be Czar Czar Binks by any chance would it?

  • ||

    "President Obama may have "no interest" in running General Motors, as he averred Monday. But even if that's true, we are already discovering that he shares Washington with 535 Members of Congress, many of whom have other ideas.

    The latest self-appointed car czar is Massachusetts's own Barney Frank, who intervened this week to save a GM distribution center in Norton, Mass. The warehouse, which employs some 90 people, was slated for closure by the end of the year under GM's restructuring plan. But Mr. Frank put in a call to GM CEO Fritz Henderson and secured a new lease on life for the facility."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124416281882387463.html

  • ||

    As it is now, the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men."

    I'm fine with that.

  • I, Kahn O\'Clast||

    What about Czar Czar Gabor? No reason a woman couldn't handle the job.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Yo Janet
    Don't you understand? Men are inherently worth more than women. The fact that you don't understand this obvious circumstance is a clear reason why you shouldn't get more money. woho

  • ||

    the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men

    I wonder if anyone has broken down this data by breast size?

  • T||

    I wonder if anyone has broken down this data by breast size?

    The research arm of my new church will be checking into this issue after we get up and running.

  • ed||

    Feinberg's "blue-collar background and Jewish heritage" inclined him "to defend the underdog."

    I would hope that a wise Jewish man with the richness of his experiences...oh, never mind.

  • ||

    "Don't you understand? Men are inherently worth more than women."

    My take is a little different from yours. I believe that men should make more than women because unlike women, men can't have babies and then sell them to yuppy couples. We men need to be compensated for that financial disparity.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Can't sell the milk either...

  • Janet\'s husband||

    We need a pay czar to make sure once and for all that women get the same wages as men for the same jobs. As it is now, the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men.

    Janet, are you on the computer again? I thought I told you to stay off of it. I see we're going to have to have another "talk" about the consequences of your disobedient behavior.

    Besides, isn't there some vacuuming and laundry you should be doing? I don't want to come home to a messy house after a hard day at the office. And it's 4:00 already. You really should be getting my dinner started. I don't want to wait for it when I get home.

    And for god's sake, stop your whiny bitching about women's pay. You should be happy they get paid 73% of a man's pay since they only do about 50% of a man's work when we're forced to let them out of the house.

    Ever notice how this country started going downhill after we let women vote? And don't even get me started about the traffic problems caused by letting women drive.

    Oh, and I'll be home about 6:00 so do you think you could bother yourself to put on some makeup and look presentable? You've really let yourself go lately. I think I might have to reduce your diet a bit. And if you need an increase in your allowance to get a gym membership, I think that might be a better use of your time than posting your hysterical rants on the internet. Leave the political debates to the men, dear

  • Hammered Head||

    We need a pay czar to make sure once and for all that women get the same wages as men for the same jobs. As it is now, the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men.

    That may be true, but it takes very creative definitions of "same job" to arrive at this. An example would be a secretary using MS Access has the same job as the DBA.

  • Hammered Head||

    What about Czar Czar Gabor? No reason a woman couldn't handle the job.

    Perfect idea. We would save 27% on her salary.

  • TickleStick||

    "Can't sell the milk either..."

    Just our lowly seed.

  • TickleStick||

    "And don't even get me started about the traffic problems caused by letting women drive."

    You know the Saudis might have a legitimate point.

  • ||

    That wouldn't be Czar Czar Binks by any chance would it?

    "Kenny, meesa dink you be pay too much..."

  • ||

    Speaking of which, anybody else wish we had the "Phantom Edit" version of the Obama administration?

  • ||

    *cough* socialism *cough* *cough*

    Oh, wait! I better stop fake coughing here before the Healthcare Czar drags me away. I don't want to die waiting in the waiting room of socialized healthcare.

    We have all these Czars and we are getting more and more every day. Each Czar seems to have more power over something that was once considered not the government's concern. Next thing you know, we'll have a Speech Czar, a Thought Czar, a History Czar and so on. Then maybe we could consolidate it into a one big board of Czars. Let's call it a Politburo.

    Life is seeming more and more like an Orwell book. I can't wait to see what Napoleon, err, Obama does next!

  • ||

    $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men

    An article in Reason debunked this supposed fact years ago. Once you correct for experience and the type of job, the difference basically disappears.

    J sub D, your solution re GM and Chrysler is way off base. Those salaries aren't why the companies went bankrupt. If anything, they skimped in those areas and it came back to bite them. My Dad worked in the industry for decades, and noted back in the '70s that GM was getting rid of experienced people in the purchasing department and hiring young replacements who were cheaper, but who didn't know what the heck they were doing. Soon two or three people were doing work previously handled by one, only not as well. And who wants a car designed by neophyte engineers?

  • ||

    Can I be the administration's Rasputin? Or, barring that, its Patriarch?

    What we really need is a Sverdlov, or a Yurovsky.

  • ||

    J sub D, your solution re GM and Chrysler is way off base. Those salaries aren't why the companies went bankrupt. If anything, they skimped in those areas and it came back to bite them. My Dad worked in the industry for decades, and noted back in the '70s that GM was getting rid of experienced people in the purchasing department and hiring young replacements who were cheaper, but who didn't know what the heck they were doing. Soon two or three people were doing work previously handled by one, only not as well. And who wants a car designed by neophyte engineers?

    What's wrong with GS-15 pay?
    We can get plenty of good people at GS-15 pay.

    Didn't get the sarcasm, huh?

  • ||

    Screwed up the tags. Figure it out. ;-)

  • Joel||

    Who sets Feinberg's salary?

    That would be the Salary Czar Salary Czar.

    He has his offices in the Bureau of Bureaus.

  • robc||

    Once you correct for experience and the type of job, the difference basically disappears.

    In physics, women may well more than men (equal exp/job, etc).

  • ed||

    Everybody Gets Their Fair Share

    When libertarianism was still relevant (or at least possible) some of us would have pounced on Tim's betrayal of the male pronoun. I mention it here only as a nod to white-guy nostalgia.
    Carry on, collaborators.

  • perilisk||

    "We need a pay czar to make sure once and for all that women get the same wages as men for the same jobs. As it is now, the same jobs pay only $0.73 to the $ for women vs. men." [citation needed]

    Seriously, if that was consistently true, it would be easy enough to prove a pattern of discrimination. Where's the wave of lawsuits by women with the same experience, working the same job, as all their male coworkers, but getting 3/4 of the pay?

    I'm no liberal, though. Personally, I think if society as a whole (or failing that, its democratic institutions) thinks we should overlook the disabilities of a certain class of individuals, then society as a whole should shoulder the burden, not those unfortunates who have to directly deal with those so disabled. It's very easy to say that people should be treated equally when the downside of that is someone else's problem.

  • ||

    All I can say is that my wife was the most highly paid engineer where we used to work. Because she was the best engineer where we used to work (yes, that included me). However, now that she has been out of engineering for five years since we started a family, her pay would probably reflect that gap. At least for a little while. So, um, quit whining, do your job, the rewards will come - male or female.

  • ||

    Just told my husband about this. His reply, "yeah, we gotta move."

  • Kelso\'s Nuts||

    The writer of the piece asks a very good question: what the fuck is it with all of these "Czars"? Since when did "Czar" become the official term for a high sub-Cabinet post?

    Here in La Republica de Panama which everyone knows from the FRIENDLY FASCIST (PREENING NARCISSIST?) is an "evil tax haven" full of "greedy, rich, tax-evading bad people" we have such things as banking rules, corporate finance rules, bank privacy, commercial bank debt coverage requirements, the evil flat tax, and VAT, the budge in surplus,and low inflation, and the cabinets are called "Ministerios". Their directors are called "Ministros". Sub-cabinet posts have a series of names but NEVER "Zar." That's the same in Andino Spanish as "Dictador"!

    A mi me cae super malisimo to'la vaina del president Obama y su falta de ni la pinga de ensenanza sobre los negocios, las finanzas, ni tampoco el ex-cambio. Es hijoputa de mierda. Conmigo, pue' Jajajaja!

  • joe\'s ghost||

    That's the same in Andino Spanish as "Dictador"!

    Funny, it means the same thing in English.

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