Curbing greed: would you take a salary cap?

When you hear stories of small business owners and entrepreneurs, there's always that common thread of giving back to the business. Doing whatever it takes to make the products and services better. Starting out, most business owners can barely afford to pay themselves, if they do at all, and often have to rely on people, who believe in the business, to work for very little or for free.

It seems then, if a C.E.O. is earning an exorbitant salary, that money is being kept out of the business, its products, services, and people. A C.E.O.'s salary can be an indicator of that person's values--the more they make, the more they've been bitten by the greed bug. Run. This person will gamble the house down. Greed is a sickness, it should now be treated as such. Without even giving the most obvious case in point (Bernie Madoff) all of Wall Street needs to be seen for what rules it: greed. What got us into the economic crisis?: unchecked greed.

This isn't news, the news is President Obama's $500,000 salary cap on executives of banks that took tax payer money. Makes sense. We're now investors. You're on our payroll. In order to keep the greed bug epidemic from happening again, we need a vaccine--we need to extend salary caps on all major banks and investment firms--public or private--even after the crisis has ended. You guys will still make enough to attract a talented workforce, it's just you won't be trying to replace each other in the Guinness Book of World Records as highest-paid C.E.O. (That's what it seemed like you were trying to do for awhile).

So if a C.E.O. is making more than ten-times that of the company's salary average (calculated excluding the C.E.O.'s) then this person has "greed rabies." It will infect the company culture, spread to other companies, and pretty soon we have another subprime loan crisis on our hands. Batten down the hatches.

Would you take a salary cap? If it meant your co-workers could keep their jobs in these rocky times, your company could get stronger to weather the storm, then the answer should be yes. This is a reality for many people right now.

For people whose job is to play with money, it should be a reality all the time. Extended salary caps tell executives on Wall Street, you're here to do a job like everyone else, not to cash out. It's about performance, not just making money. Any small business owner and entrepreneur knows that, or else their businesses would never get off the ground.
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