Beware the $1 CEO. Revere the $1 CEO.
CEO’s, entrepreneurs, the super-rich are our new heroes. They are Zeus, Apollo, Jesus, King…they outrank sportsmen and women in trustworthiness polls, even though the institutions they run are the same that are ranked consistently untrustworthy. They are our new icons. The self-made man, the great American myth is back with a vengeance.
The $1 CEO’s are particularly crude about garnering our favor, John Mackey famously remarked that he made enough money and wanted to work for the joy of it. An interesting remark coming from one of the most ardent libertarian businessmen, or at least one of the few who will publicly address and defend their pure market capitalistic beliefs. The Koch brothers, Adelson and the other notables under this big green tent espouse no such pussyfooting, so are exempt in this case.
Personally I do not believe that these people deserve our admiration, respect or even pity, especially the ones who publicly tout their $1 salary. Mackey started his company from investments (gifts) from friends and family and started it as a small cooperative and grew (as most Übermensch businessmen would tell, organically) into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who started the company from his HARVARD dorm room (a) lucky enough to go to college b) smart and lucky and wealthy enough to go to Harvard c) went to fucking Harvard) as a “hot or not” style hookup site. Or the founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Stanford students, Page’s pedigree includes a father who was a leading computer scientist and Brin’s father and mother are also scientists, all are tops in their fields.
All these men have taken the $1 CEO route. Though Mackey has been most vocal about the reasons, all of them have allowed the more important reality of their decision be buried in a sea of crocodile tears generated by the financial press and sympathetic politicos. They’ve become revered as generous and selfless when exactly the opposite is true.
As Robert W. Wood writes in Forbes, the reason these guys do what they do has more to do with good old-fashioned tax dodging than any altruistic motive. After all, altruism is bad, greed is good. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/04/05/tax-smart-billionaires-who-work-for-1/
So instead of paying a fair portion to the taxman like the rest of us, they get off taking alternate means of compensation in the form of shares and other non-cash payments that are taxed at a substantially lower rate. All the while allowing the PR machine to crank out puff piece after puff piece about how generous and selfless these guys are. That line of bullshit also only adds to the veneer of untouchability and John Galt heroism that the establishment narrative reinforces in us plebes.
And what you say? But these guys work hard, are self-made and do good work. Well I say that their “work” is in no way proportionate to the exorbitant scale of their pay, however it comes. None of these people were “self-made” they had nurturing environments massive financial assistance from family members, damn good educations or all of the above. They may be extraordinarily smart people but they are all extraordinarily smart and at least in some way, extraordinarily privileged.
In a way, its kind of like pulling back the cape and discovering that Superman has been rescuing humans is because he’s been pimped out by the guys from the “To Serve Man” episode of the Twilight Zone.