By Walter E. Williams
In his recent Town Hall column, Walter E. Williams, a Distinguished Scholar of the Heritage Foundation, wondered: "Are CEO's overpaid?" It's really only a rhetorical device intended to serve as a title. Don't expect any hard evidence or rigorous analysis. Or logic, for that matter. And can you guess what Williams' conclusion is going to be?
In the wake of the Enron and WorldCom corporate scandals, the purveyors of envy have found another opportunity to preach about what they consider the evils of high CEO salaries, retirements and bonuses.As not only a purveyor of envy but a devoted connoisseur as well, I do not dispute this statement. And here's why:
After all, according to them, evil must be afoot when a corporate executive earns more in a week than the average worker earns in an entire year.See, that's why. And "week" is too large a unit of measure. Try minute, hour, or day.
Dishonest Enron and WorldCom CEOs are rare among corporate executives.Indeed they are. The rarity is that they actually got caught.
Is a CEO worth millions of dollars to a corporation? … Here are a couple of questions to you: If you were the owner of GE, and a CEO could turn your $14 billion corporation into a $500 billion one, how much would you be willing to pay that man in salary and bonuses?
Seriously? Well, I never went to business school. Plus, I'm a mushy liberal. So if I personally owned the $14 billion GE corporation, I'd be satisfied enough, especially with the free lifetime supply of 45-watt indoor flood lightbulbs, plus the occasional appliance lightbulb for the refrigerator.
Then, you might ask yourself: If a corporate board of directors could buy a $300 computer that could do what a CEO could do, would it pay CEOs millions of dollars?Yes, of course it would still pay a CEO millions of dollars, because a $300 computer is not part of the network. Not the LAN, geeks. I mean the-guys-like-us-look-out-for-the-guys-like-us network -- the fiscally inbred corporatoids of the world.
By the same token, if an NFL owner could hire a computer to make the decisions that star quarterbacks make, why would he pay some of these guys yearly compensation packages worth more than $10 million?Well, there are several reasons. Computers can't throw. And even on a wheelie-cart, they can't scramble. And they're not suitable for funny, heart-warming Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials featuring their moms. However, as I found out, computers -- like quarterbacks -- can suffer concussions.
If you ask me, I know of only one class of workers who are overpaid and underworked -- college professors.Wow, where did that come from? That clunky closing line gives the impression Williams was randomly assigned "college professors" for the obligatory swipe-at-somebody column sign-off. Maybe Town Hall uses highly specialized auto-generating software for just this purpose. Pretty likely the selected group to swipe that clicked up next was "trial lawyers."
And so we have a guy who gets to call himself a Distinguished Scholar of the Heritage Foundation and who gets paid good money to write silly, nonsensical columns about how CEOs are not overpaid. And we're not supposed to stop to think: Hey, now there's a class of workers who truly are overpaid and underworked: think-tankers, whether they're distinguished or not.