Kevin D. Williamson writes about “the 1%” – or a critical difference among them:
The city manager of my hometown — the sprawling and urbane metropolis of Lubbock, Texas — makes $235,000 a year, which seems to me much more significant than what the boss makes at IBM or Goldman Sachs. For one thing, there are only 500 Fortune 500 CEOs, but there are a hell of a lot of small-fry city managers, six-figure high-school principals and million-dollar superintendents, $300,000-a-year Philadelphia police detectives, etc. Running parks and recreation in Pawnee, Ind., doesn’t seem like all that high-paying a gig for the fictional Leslie Knope and her gang — but in the real world, it’s a pretty good jump on a 1 percenter’s income.
Another important difference between Fortune 500 1 percenters and government 1 percenters is that you don’t have to pay CEOs unless you really want to. I have worked for closely held and publicly traded companies, and I have seen some pretty awful executives in action. (In a desk drawer somewhere, I still have my Journal Register Company stock-option paperwork, which I drag out from time to time when I want to make myself feel bad.) Unlike Senator Jim DeMint and that other flaming right-winger, Bernie Sanders, Senator Clinton voted for the Wall Street bailout; but the occasional Clinton-approved handout aside, you don’t have to worry much about whether any given CEO is worth his salt. That decision, for better or for worse, is made by boards of directors on behalf of the shareholders who own the company. Some boards do a pretty good job, some don’t. But if you are a shareholder who believes that Apple is misspending your money, then you can rally other shareholders against the management or you can just sell your Apple shares.
On the other hand, if you thought that Bell, Calif. — population 35,000 — was overpaying its city manager (at $800,000 a year!) you couldn’t sell your Bell shares or short the hell out of Bell. You had to keep paying, or the sheriff and burly men with guns would eventually come and seize your property. Say what you like about Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t have the power to withhold money from your paycheck or order you to pay up at gunpoint.
If Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, and the nation’s drug-store chains want to dump wheelbarrows full of 100-dollar bills at Mrs. Clinton’s feet for the privilege of listening to Herself talk about Herself, that’s between them and the suckers who own their shares. (Government-funded institutions such as colleges, and organizations that have financial relationships with government agencies, are another question.) But if we really want to take a look at whose elephantine paychecks are weighing heavily on the finances of those “everyday” Americans that Mrs. Clinton likes to talk about, it isn’t Lloyd Blankfein’s fat stacks. It’s your local city manager’s, your high-school principal’s, your police detective’s when he’s earning more in questionable overtime than he is in salary. It’s your local union-goon lobbyist getting a lifetime pension for one day’s work as a substitute teacher.
Why? Because, unlike with Fortune 500 CEOs, you actually pay these guys.