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Should Keith Olbermann take a 93 percent pay cut? From $7 million a year down to the new limit of $500,000? That sure seems like a reasonable interpretation of the new rules limiting senior executive compensation for firms receiving federal bailouts. And the conglomerate the Olbermann is a part of, General Electric, seems, indeed, to be destined to get more bailouts.
And thus Olbermann--and all the other multi-million-dollar talent at GE media properties, including Brian Williams, Matt Lauer, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeff Zucker--would seem to be covered by the new edict.
Reacting to justified public outrage, President Obama yesterday announced yesterday that his Treasury Department will impose a $500,000 per annum salary cap for executives--variously defined, in the Treasury document, as "senior" and "top"--of firms receiving bailout money. Now the rules are not retroactive, so all the pirates--oops executives--who got federal money in the past can keep their absurd share of it. And looking prospectively, The Cable Gamer has no doubt that there will be loopholes galore that lobbyists will wheel and deal over.
But still, the rules are clear enough--no compensation over $500,000 for "top" or "senior" executives. So let's focus on Olbermann for a second. Whether his pay would seem to hang on the definition of "senior," or "top" executive compensation. So, is Olbermann a "senior executive" at GE? The opinionated MSNBC host sure seems like a top exec to me--after all, he makes a reported $7 million a year.
And in any case, the principle is a good one--if you ask the feds to cover your losses, then the feds should be able to limit your own personal profit in such coverage. And so TCG, and all other Americans who are not in line to receive a "liquidity injection," or have not bee invited to unload "toxic assets" on the taxpayers, will be rooting for the Obamans to make these rules stick. Stick for everyone, including pro-Obama media stars.
MSNBC, the new citadel of Obamaphilic liberal-leftism, is, of course, a subsidiary of GE. And GE has had a terrible year; the stock price has fallen by two-thirds. So even allowing for the bloat of executive salaries, it's going to be hard for too many big shots at GE to pay themselves too much more than $7 million--which puts Olbermann in the "top" ranks, huh? And yet GE would be in a lot more trouble if it hadn't gotten a $139 billion loan guarantee from the FDIC last year.
Looking ahead, all indicators are that GE will need, or at least want, another tranche of federal bailout money. That looming reality--a rendezvous with subsidy--might explain why Jeff Immelt has been so vocal in denouncing the salary caps, because he sees them in his own future, and the future of all top dogs at GE/GE Capital/NBC/CNBC/MSNBC.
It's possible, of course, that the Obama administration won't seek to enforce its own rules against media stars. Maybe there will be a special exemption for TV talent.
But what kind of signal would that send? If the most pro-Obama major media portal, MSNBC, were exempt from the rules capping salaries while the parent company reaped further bailouts?
That would really look bad.
Cross-posted from The Cable Game