Books for the News

Bankers need tough love, emphasis on the tough

jacket imageBenjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs started writing Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality before we entered the recession that has made the wealth gap all the more visible. But their findings, of course, have manifold implications for today’s economic problems and how to solve them.
In a lively discussion over the weekend at the Firedoglake Book Salon, Page had the chance to address some of the connections between today’s headlines and his and Jacobs’s sometimes prescient research.
About the issue of executive compensation, for example, Page noted that they “asked several good questions before it become a hot issue.… It turns out that most Americans wildly underestimate the size of CEO salaries ($500,000 median guess vs. $14 million actual for S&P 500 companies). But even so, they want CEOs paid LESS and factory workers and clerks paid more.”
When Salon host David Wakins noted that, in light of recent news stories, “people might estimate CEO salaries higher now,” Page attempted to put things in perspective:

Yes, more, but I’m afraid they still have little clue, for example, about the five or so hedge fund managers who made more than $1 BILLION each in ’07. That is far beyond the average person’s imagination. In many cases where members of the public are unaware or confused—including this one—I suspect that they are being deliberately misled. Or at least that the mainstream media don’t help much. Shouldn’t $1 billion incomes be subjects of a big story?

What are some possible solutions for the chasm between income brackets? One point of agreement among some of the discussants was that, as Page put it, “the bankers need some tough love, with an emphasis on the tough part.”