rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The quiet limits of greed

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Thinking about Canada's economic crisis, I frequently find myself wondering: "What would Obama do?"

Today, I got his answer to the problem of self-absorbed CEOs who stick one hand out for bailouts (and tax cuts) and use the other to line their pockets with compensation packages that seemingly have no limit.

We know it as a distinctly American problem, but the same trends exist here in Canada.

President Barack Obama's answer: The White House will set a maximum wage for CEOs whose companies are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

"This is America," Obama said. "We don't disparage wealth. But what gets people upset, and rightfully so, is executives being awarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, many of whom are having a tough time themselves."

More than $18 billion in bonuses were paid out to U.S. CEOs in 2008 - yes the very year greed and shortsighted decision-making helped fuel a global market meltdown.

Now that American taxpayers are on the hook for trillion dollar deficits that their grandchildren will still be paying down many years from now, the myth of the Super CEO deserving of grandiose self-reward has come crashing down on Wall Street and may soon make its way to Canada's own Bay Street.

"For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn't just bad taste; it's bad strategy, and I will not tolerate it as president," Obama said.

For those whose tendency is to bring out the violins for the embattled CEO, their compensation is capped at healthy $500,000 U.S. To borrow a line from Evita, don't cry for me, Argentina.

Companies receiving U.S. federal aid will also have to publicly disclose all of their perks and luxuries - which is ruffling a few well-preened feathers.

Wells Fargo & Co. received a $25 billion bailout from taxpayers yet had still planned on a lavish Vegas junket for its top employees until the public got wind of it.

"Let's get this straight: These guys are going to Vegas to roll the dice on the taxpayer dime?" said Republican Shelley Moore Capito. "They're tone-deaf. It's outrageous."

This represents a sea change in how we view CEO corporate excess. We are witnessing the beginning of a new era.

As U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner put it:

"There is a deep sense across this country that those who are not responsible for this crisis are bearing a greater burden than those who were."

It's only a matter of time before we start making the same connections in Canada.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.