22 October 2009

Pay Cuts for Rich People on the Government Dole?

The Obama Administration's "U.S. Special Master on Compensation" Kenneth Feinberg has decided to slash the pay and benefits of top executives at seven Wall Street companies that have received government bailout funds (here). The justification for that extension of federal power is that if those companies are going to take federal funds, it only stands to reason that the federal government should have some say in how they spend it; besides, we are not exactly talking about "charity cases," as Rep. Barney Frank pointedly put it.

That got me to thinking. Are there other wealthy top executives working for institutions that have received federal money, and who thus should perhaps also be targets of U.S. Special Master on Compensation Kenneth Feinberg's critical eye? Why, yes: American universities.

The top research universities in America receive hundreds of millions of federal, taxpayer-funded dollars every year in the form of research grants. That is a lot of money, and a lot of it goes to very wealthy universities who pay their top administration officials a whole lot of money. Many university presidents, for example, are paid more than $1 million per year (see here or here, for example), and the salary does not include the enormous perquisites--often including housing, expenses, cars, private planes, and so on--that come with the job. Are those administration officials worth it? Are American taxpayers getting their money's worth? Perhaps, but should Mr. Feinberg look into it just to be sure?

But hold on a second! There are even bigger fish to fry: coaches. They routinely make many millions of dollars per year, often more than anyone else at the university. And all the universities take millions in federal research grants, even so-called "private" universities (see here and here, for example).

(Now, don't respond that the coaches are paid out of booster or otherwise voluntarily-contributed or generated funds, not out of the federal monies: exactly the same can be said, and is said, for the Wall Street executives, whose salaries are paid out of the profit they generate, not from the federal funds.)

University presidents and Division-I coaches are not "charity cases" either, and many of the universities for which they work have endowments in the hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars (see here)--so they're not exactly hurting for money. Thus if the populist argument for federal oversight and restriction of pay for top executives at federally-supported institutions holds in one case, why not in these as well?

1 comment:

David said...

Universities are liberal breeding grounds. Democrats never looks to interfere with education because most students vote against the GOP.