Negotiating 101

Ezra Klein writes about the inanity of Democratic focus on curbing executive compensation, adding with particular dismay that Obama seems to have adopted this sentiment in his stump speech.

The Democrats are making a big deal over limits on executive compensation. Such limits are nice, but in the context of this crisis, utterly meaningless. If Democrats extract concessions such that CEOs can be paid a lot of money rather than an obscene sum of money, but are unable to add provisions protecting homeowners, they will have lost, and lost badly.

I think there are two different things happening here. In Congress, harping on this issue is like when C.C. Sabathia pretends he would rather play on the West Coast, but really it will prove to be a cunning move to bilk the Yankees for as much as possible. I hope this is the strategy employed by Congressional Democrats: make the issue seem more important than it is, then offer it as a “concession” to get a useful version of the bill to pass. Democrats get a fairly progressive bill and Republicans still get to look like assholes: everybody wins.

As for Obama out on the stump, perorations on executive pay are a fairly accessible message to people suffering economic hardship, and since he’s already talking about helping homeowners, it helps diffuse one of McCain’s key “reformer” bona fides, namely bloviating about fairly inconsequential, but nevertheless easily vilified topics like earmarks.

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