Under the headline — incredible, but there it is — “U.S. government seeks to rein in executive pay,” the AP reports that “Democrats and administration officials agreed that companies across the private sector need to adjust compensation practices to avoid damaging the economy.”
This is the government — the outfit that runs the IRS, the post office and the Environmental Protection Agency (which is about to commandeer your entire life, on the theory that every time you do anything requiring energy — including exhale to stay alive — you are “polluting” the planet). Apparently, this is not just the Obama adminstration dictating the size of bonuses at bailed out companies. This is the Obama administration deciding that folks like Tim Geithner, tax wizard, know best how to allocate executive pay across the entire private sector.
This used to be called central planning. It has been a disaster everywhere it’s been tried, and it is not a formula for a healthy economy; it is how you end up with people queuing for toilet paper. As it is, we have Obama and Ted Kennedy — almost certainly kept alive thanks to free-market America’s medical innovations — pushing for a self-stunting system in which the rest of us will end up forced to rely on state-rationed medical care. We have Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid celebrating the bleeding of trillions into public works, while anyone who works for a living faces the prospect of sky-high taxes, and we all sit waiting for inflation to hit.
And now we’re hearing that the government knows best how much to pay the folks who run businesses across America.
It gets more jaw-dropping by the day (and that’s before we turn to foreign policy — some thoughts on that in my Forbes.com column this week, “Living on Obama Beach“).
Until last fall, it had been 30 years since I’d read “Atlas Shrugged.” When I picked up a copy last year, it was not with the U.S. in mind, but as a sort of spare-time antidote to exploring the bilges of the UN — which also worships at the shrine of state command-and-control, and in great part on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime is relentlessly busy preaching and living that gospel in the developing world (For the UN’s beloved “Millennium Development Goals,” just substitute the old Soviet phrase, Five-year plans, and with the slight difference that the UN favors 10 or 15 or 25-year plans, you’ve got the idea).
These days, it’s the news about the U.S. itself that sends me looking for an antidote. Or at least a refuge. The lights aren’t out yet — except on Earth Day, whose acolytes have found for themselves the perfect symbol of spreading darkness — but they are, by official order, dimming at speed.