Let’s Make Sense!

“Let’s Make Sense!” is the name of a game I’ve just invented. I’m still working on the rules, but the basic idea is to sniff out bits of public discourse that don’t make sense. By this I don’t mean bits I disagree with, or even bits that are not factual (although there are plenty of those, and they are not ruled out). I mean things that are just plain disconnected from standard human cognitive processes.

Tim F. at Balloon Juice found a great example. There’s a provision in the stimulus bill that would cap the pay of financial institution executives.

The provision, inserted by Senate Democrats over the objections of the Obama administration, is aimed at companies that have received financial bailout funds. It would prohibit cash bonuses and almost all other incentive compensation for the five most senior officers and the 20 highest-paid executives at large companies that receive money under the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

That makes sense, yes? But here’s an objection coming from an adviser to President Obama:

“These rules will not work,” James F. Reda, an independent compensation consultant, said on Friday. “Any smart executive will (a) pay back TARP money ASAP or (b) get another job.”

As Tim F. says, what’s not to like about either (a) or (b)? If the institution can survive without TARP money, then let it do so. Taxpayers don’t need to be propping up companies that don’t need propping up. On the other hand, if the company is sliding into bankruptcy, why is it such an all-fired tragedy if the CEO quits?

Mr. Reda: Let’s make sense! And Obama Administration, let’s make even more sense and stop listening to Mr. Reda.

9 thoughts on “Let’s Make Sense!

  1. Well, one tid-bit that that leaves me scratching my head is, or was, the question of why Citi and Wells Fargo would get into an acquisition scuffle for Wachovia Bank…knowing that Wachovia has 350 billion dollars in bad assets. I suspect that what appears to me as not making very much sense from my understanding of economics,is in corporate reality 350 billion of pure gravy. kinda like one of those repuglican win-win situations.

  2. “get another job.”

    Where? Does Wal-Mart really need more greeters?

    I agree, put restrictions on them. If they don’t like it, so what?

    I have heard talk radio go on for decades about school teachers living high off the hog (a whopping $50K after 15 years on the same job!) and how their pay should be directly tied to their class’ test scores. Well if the GOP wants to nickle-n-dime a poor school teacher that’s making barely over poverty wages, then by all means, let’s enforce that rule on the top earners!

    No bonus for any bank or wall street type if their company does not earn money. And certainly not if they are taking welfare from the Fed!

  3. It strikes me that everyone who has objected to a cap on bonuses and high pay for Wall Street, is someone who benefits, directly or indirectly, from bonuses and high pay on Wall Street. Including Mr. Read (who’s going to hire this guy when he says that salaries and bonuses need to be capped?). I don’t care whether he’s advising Bamako or not; he has a conflict of interest.

    One thing I’ve learned in my career is that everyone, with very few exceptions, is expendable. If you have a banker who’s whining about losing his $1M bonus and won’t work for $500K plus long-term stock options, I’m absolutely certain you can find another who will. I believe a lot of talent is available from Lehman Brothers… I’m sure a lot of those guys could be had for a half million a year.

    Let’s make sense! Great idea, but I fear they’re too far gone.

  4. maha,
    ‘Let’s make sense?’
    Why not call it ‘Illogical Logic, illogically put..’
    No, you’re right, your’s is simpler…

  5. I keep going back to Reagan and the air traffic controllers. Reagan basically said they’d just go out and get new ones. They did and the sky did not fall. I didn’t agree that it was the right thing to do but it proved that others will work the jobs others would not have.

    Finaancial industry advocates have not made sense with their explanations that finance and its management are such rocket science that it takes superhumans to pull it off. They haven’t proven that the execs were superhumans either.

    They aren’t making sense on a dozen levels all at once.

    Making sense is a great approach. They’ve been getting away with not making sense for so long that they can’t pretend to understand why anyone would even question them.

    It is that same unflappable audacity that Ari Fleischer used to have. Some reporters on the white house beat said that he would tell them things that weren’t true with such a straight face and such conviction that they doubted themselves.

    If making sense starts to catch on these types are going to become extinct. No one, except maybe the conservative press, will give them the time of day. If the press has to start making sense then they are really going to be in trouble.

  6. My current anti-favorite is the SCHIP bill that Bush vetoed, with the reason that it allowed too many uncovered children to qualify and that families were cancelling their child’s normal health care to qualify them.

    Seems counterproductive to the conservative agenda that government health care is bad if so many parents prefer the government cover their children.

  7. Oh, don’t make me defend the bankers, please… 🙁

    Hmmm… no, as much as I want to offer you the fair counterpoint here I just can’t bring myself to do it. There must be no shortage of up-and-coming financial services people who could take the reins here, and those currently installed have failed miserably in their jobs. We sack incompetents, don’t we?

    Well, as long as they’re not President, we do. >:)

    Take care!

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