“Something is seriously wrong when the American people are left to bear the consequences of reckless corporate conduct, while the offenders themselves are packed off with another $40 million or $50 million for the road. If I am elected president, I intend to see that wrongdoing of this kind is called to account by federal prosecutors. And under my reforms, all aspects of a CEO’s pay, including any severance arrangements, must be approved by shareholders.”
It would be easy to assume that the above statement by a presidential contender, which epitomizes base class-warfare rhetoric of the type used by former candidate John Edwards, was made by the presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Especially given Obama’s recent criticism of the Bush administration’s tax breaks for wealthy corporate officers and the Democratic Party’s nausea-inducing bromides against big business.
But that assumption would be wrong.
The dubious statement above comes from the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was speaking last week in Washington to the National Federation of Independent Business.
McCain also bashed “extravagant” corporate compensation.
We’re not sure how a lifelong government employee such as McCain knows the “right” amount of compensation in the private sector, but we do know what he’s trying to do: distance himself from the Bush administration, which is perceived by many voters as too cozy with big business.
We wish the GOP nominee would make some valuable distinctions. For instance, a little corporate bashing is OK if McCain made it clear that he was against corporate interests that use government to achieve special privileges or to secure lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts. The Bush administration certainly is vulnerable on that front. Companies that, say, rely on the federal government for ethanol subsidies deserve brickbats.
But that’s not what the GOP senator did.
Furthermore, McCain is calling for the feds to get involved in corporate salary and benefit decisions, even to the point of pledging to prosecute corporate leaders who get juicy severance packages.
The McCain plan signals not just an enormous intrusion on the free market, but displays a willingness to use heavy-handed police tactics to punish “greed.”
Is McCain emulating former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was known for these thuggish abuses of prosecutorial power?
McCain also blamed corporations for current problems in the housing and credit markets. Certainly, bad corporate decisions played a role, but the federal government’s credit practices and regulatory procedures were the real drivers of the subprime crisis and the resulting wave of falling home prices and foreclosures.
And if the government wouldn’t bail out companies and consumers who make bad decisions, these problems would be self-correcting.
Ironically, McCain also told the small-business owners that the “federal government shouldn’t make your work any harder” and “I don’t want to send any more of your earnings to the government.”
But it’s hard to take a candidate seriously when he alternately calls for less government and more government.
It leads to the conclusion that McCain is simply pandering, and that no one has any clue what he really believes about the economy and free markets.