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More Shameless Greed

The issue I blogged about 2 days ago seems to be gathering a bit of momentum here. Now its not just unions who are commenting on the immorality of executives getting huge salaries – even farmers are indicating some disquiet, and incredibly the head of the New Zealand Institute of Management described them as obscene.

Yes, obscene is a good word and so is disgusting, greedy, immoral, corrupt, and many others. Even if these people did do a good job its debatable whether they really deserve what they are paid. The fact that most of them actually get fairly ordinary results, even based on the single minded way most businesses measure success, makes it even worse.

The argument that we need to pay high salaries to get the best people in a global market doesn’t really work. That’s just an excuse for this obscenity. If a person takes a job because of the pay rate that seems to be encouraging someone who is greedy rather than someone who is dedicated, forward thinking, brilliant, or any of the other positive attributes the spin doctors dream up for these clowns.

I often belittle a person by calling them a clown although there’s nothing funny I can see about the actions of the top echelon of “corporate criminals”. And I think there is some justification in using the word criminal (although its in quotes) because, even though they don’t break any laws, the sort of behaviour big business indulges in would probably not be tolerated in many other areas. Strictly speaking its usually legal but it might be more appropriate to call these people moral criminals because they break the basic laws of common decency and normal social behaviour.

I’m totally confident we could get someone at least as good as Paul Reynolds to run Telecom and pay him (or her, although women CEOs are clearly no better than men) a fraction of the extravagant sum currently being paid.

After all, a CEO really only needs to act on the advice of people who know what they are talking about. I know it can sometimes be useful to have a person at the top with an overall vision but I wouldn’t think someone who requires a vast salary to do the job really has the right attitude to do that.

And its not just Reynolds I despise. The CEOs of Fonterra, Air New Zealand, and anyone else being paid over one million dollars a year is equally guilty. When you consider that the prime minister of this country (who has far greater responsibility and pressure than any CEO) gets paid a tenth what Reynolds does it really gives some perspective.

Many people like to criticise the government and public sector for extravagance and waste but I think that’s probably trivial compared with the amount that goes on in the private sector. And I totally disagree with the old excuse that “its their money they can do what they want with it” applies. Its not their money. Its money they have extracted from you and me in payment for products and services we need. I don’t really see that as being any different from a government tax. At least with the government we get the chance to dispose of them at elections. The fat cat CEOs just continue on rolling in their piles of cash and having a good laugh at how many people have been sucked in to treating them like heros.

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