He Who Has The Gold Makes The Rules

It’s hard to deny that the party holding the cash generally holds it with the upper hand. Not always fair, true. But in the case of limits on executive pay for the heads of companies receiving “extraordinary assistance” from the government—it is.

Call it: He who has the gold controls the string on your golden parachute.  

You see, folks, a conundrum faces us as we enter into a period of increased governmental involvement in our financial markets and specifically those numerous ailing financial institutions out there: As much as we humans would prefer that other humans, from our mothers to our public officials, stop nagging and moralizing and just leave us the hell alone and let our own judgment guide us, we prove over and over again we can’t be trusted.

Really, we can’t. We do stupid stuff all the time. We do drugs; we get back together with exes knowing nothing has changed; we buy things we can’t afford. We are far too often ruled by desire and fear, selfishness and greed.

It’s part of who we are. And in our personal lives, after we reach adulthood, we should have the discretion to make our own decisions and our own mistakes.
The problem arises when our actions affect others, especially on a large scale.

When we’re not just killing a few of our own brain cells or running up our own credit cards, or even breaking someone’s heart (hey, these things happen), but when we land in a position that awards us the power to affect many.

The same human emotions still rule us, only now, we have numerous people who will quite possibly find themselves screwed over because of our folly. And this is when someone else needs to step in and save us (and others) from ourselves. 

So can we trust the government to do that? Of course we can’t. It’s made up of humans too, and I don’t need to recite for you their extraordinary list of blunders. Apparently some of our public officials cannot even be trusted to pay their taxes.

But it’s the only system we’ve got. And while we can debate when government intervention in a free market qualifies as a good thing and when it goes too far, in cases where tax payers are footing the bill, strings must be attached. And salary caps of $500,000 for top executives at firms receiving significant government aid—caps President Obama has instituted—seem perfectly reasonable.

It would be nice if the human beings at the top of the financial food chain could be trusted to do the right thing, seeing as their companies are suffering as they never have before. But you may have heard about a certain $1,400 trash can that proves otherwise.

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