Our new Special Master for Compensation

The Wall Street Journal reports White House Set to Appoint a Pay Czar:

The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department, these people said.

Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw payouts to 9/11 victims, will keep tabs on executive pay at companies in bailout.

Mr. Feinberg’s appointment could be announced as early as next week, when the administration is expected to release executive-compensation guidelines for firms receiving aid from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Those companies, which include banks, insurers and auto makers, are subject to a host of compensation restrictions imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations and by Congress. . . .

The government is also pursuing a separate revamping of financial-sector rules that could change industry compensation practices more broadly. For instance, the Federal Reserve is considering rules that would curb banks’ ability to pay employees in a way that would threaten the “safety and soundness” of the bank. . . .

Mr. Feinberg will report to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but he is expected to have wide discretion on how the rules should be interpreted. Firms likely won’t be able to appeal decisions that Mr. Feinberg makes to Mr. Geithner, according to people familiar with the matter.

What interests me–in addition to more top-down control of the economy and of individual companies by the federal government and more repudiation of free market economics–is the language: “Pay Czar” speaks for itself, but having Czars for this thing or that thing–with the connotation of Russia’s absolute rulers–has been around a while. But “Special MASTER”? Does anyone recall another government or bureaucratic official that we have to call MASTER? The very language, by which we think, is getting totalitarian.

As for the central issue, our Master will focus on companies that have taken bailout money, but notice that the administration is contemplating putting limits on salaries in other businesses too–banks as part of new financial regulations the government is working on, but under the new statist economic policies, why shouldn’t the government tell every industry how it can pay its employees?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    I am familure with a special master in the courts. In Wisconsin, a judge can appoint a special master to handle certain aspects of a case – usually discovery disputes. I have never heard the title used in any other setting.

  • Joe

    I am familure with a special master in the courts. In Wisconsin, a judge can appoint a special master to handle certain aspects of a case – usually discovery disputes. I have never heard the title used in any other setting.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    As for you last question, the Obama administration has made it very clear that they wish to change how our country functions on every level. With that being said your question simply becomes rhetorical. The real question is how fast the changes are going to implemented.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    As for you last question, the Obama administration has made it very clear that they wish to change how our country functions on every level. With that being said your question simply becomes rhetorical. The real question is how fast the changes are going to implemented.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    The word paymaster was still being used back when I served in the Army. A paymaster was an officer, usually a first lieutenant tasked with paying soldiers or servicemen as they were call back in the day.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    The word paymaster was still being used back when I served in the Army. A paymaster was an officer, usually a first lieutenant tasked with paying soldiers or servicemen as they were call back in the day.

  • Peter Leavitt

    …but under the new statist economic policies, why shouldn’t the government tell every industry how it can pay its employees?

    But,of course; Obama with his fairy tale mindset would get off being able to tell every industry how it can pay its employees. He does have a bit of a problem with constitutional authority, though what’s the Constitution to our uber community organizer who has already stiffed the Chrysler and GM secured bond-holders.

    What’s needed now that the Muslim world has been spoken to, is a speech bt St. Obama to the business world on the pious virtue of government pay guidance.

  • Peter Leavitt

    …but under the new statist economic policies, why shouldn’t the government tell every industry how it can pay its employees?

    But,of course; Obama with his fairy tale mindset would get off being able to tell every industry how it can pay its employees. He does have a bit of a problem with constitutional authority, though what’s the Constitution to our uber community organizer who has already stiffed the Chrysler and GM secured bond-holders.

    What’s needed now that the Muslim world has been spoken to, is a speech bt St. Obama to the business world on the pious virtue of government pay guidance.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Agreeing with Joe. The HHS vs. Cedillo autism-vaccine case was heard by three federal “Special Masters” who were essentially judges.

    So is this Pay Czar then someone with judicial powers?

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Agreeing with Joe. The HHS vs. Cedillo autism-vaccine case was heard by three federal “Special Masters” who were essentially judges.

    So is this Pay Czar then someone with judicial powers?

  • Sadie

    I find it disturbing that all of these czars are accountable to no one except the president. They are not elected officials and they are not accountable to congress. Obama is extending his power in all kinds of areas and there are no checks on his power grabs.

    I also find it disturbing that fascism always seems to offer a ‘Third Way’ in economics. It thinks it’s way is better than capitalism (unrestrained individualism) or communism (total state governance). Yet it’s goals seem to be to control business and labor.

    I think using language to designate some heads as ‘special master’ is a smoke screen. The distortion of language and definitions appears to be a way to help disguise their power grabs. I find the distortions of language/definitions the most disturbing. People don’t seem to realize what he is doing.

  • Sadie

    I find it disturbing that all of these czars are accountable to no one except the president. They are not elected officials and they are not accountable to congress. Obama is extending his power in all kinds of areas and there are no checks on his power grabs.

    I also find it disturbing that fascism always seems to offer a ‘Third Way’ in economics. It thinks it’s way is better than capitalism (unrestrained individualism) or communism (total state governance). Yet it’s goals seem to be to control business and labor.

    I think using language to designate some heads as ‘special master’ is a smoke screen. The distortion of language and definitions appears to be a way to help disguise their power grabs. I find the distortions of language/definitions the most disturbing. People don’t seem to realize what he is doing.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    OK, so “Special Master” is a court term. Thanks, Joe and Dan, for that information. If the Executive branch is taking upon itself Judicial functions, that is also extremely worrying!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    OK, so “Special Master” is a court term. Thanks, Joe and Dan, for that information. If the Executive branch is taking upon itself Judicial functions, that is also extremely worrying!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    President Obama and his administration are not the only ones to blame here. They’re just trying to make the best of an impossible situation, right? I’m sure they mean well trying to fix the screwy TARP that Bush and congress pushed through. Folks are taking advantage of TARP and must be held to account. Its a fools errand, yes, but we all (republicans and democrats) made this bed together. Do you think folks might consider voting for a party outside of the republicrat mainstream, now? No way! – that would be the most unamerican of all according to some commentators on this blog. Let’s keep this dysfunction going at all costs and vote republican in ’10!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    President Obama and his administration are not the only ones to blame here. They’re just trying to make the best of an impossible situation, right? I’m sure they mean well trying to fix the screwy TARP that Bush and congress pushed through. Folks are taking advantage of TARP and must be held to account. Its a fools errand, yes, but we all (republicans and democrats) made this bed together. Do you think folks might consider voting for a party outside of the republicrat mainstream, now? No way! – that would be the most unamerican of all according to some commentators on this blog. Let’s keep this dysfunction going at all costs and vote republican in ’10!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Vieth,
    I don’t think it is a court term but a Masonic plot. Well, that’s what Robert Langdon told me. But they thought it would be too obvious if they used their more usual Grand Master terminology.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Vieth,
    I don’t think it is a court term but a Masonic plot. Well, that’s what Robert Langdon told me. But they thought it would be too obvious if they used their more usual Grand Master terminology.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    They hit on special after reviewing late night television comments the president made.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    They hit on special after reviewing late night television comments the president made.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Here, let me Google that for you. The top result, from Wikipedia, notes that “A special master, in law, is an authority appointed by a judge to make sure that judicial orders are actually followed.” It also notes that, when Feinberg “oversaw payouts to 9/11 victims”, as the WSJ notes, he had the title of “special master” then, too.

    But honestly, you think that using this term constitutes “the Executive branch taking upon itself Judicial functions”? Really? And not, say, appropriating the term because Feinberg will be an authority appointed to make sure that guidelines are followed (as, indeed, the first quoted WSJ paragraph indicates)?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Here, let me Google that for you. The top result, from Wikipedia, notes that “A special master, in law, is an authority appointed by a judge to make sure that judicial orders are actually followed.” It also notes that, when Feinberg “oversaw payouts to 9/11 victims”, as the WSJ notes, he had the title of “special master” then, too.

    But honestly, you think that using this term constitutes “the Executive branch taking upon itself Judicial functions”? Really? And not, say, appropriating the term because Feinberg will be an authority appointed to make sure that guidelines are followed (as, indeed, the first quoted WSJ paragraph indicates)?

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Maybe that’s why Brian Williams amde sure to bow down to ‘his master’

    The lap dog media makes me want to vomit.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Maybe that’s why Brian Williams amde sure to bow down to ‘his master’

    The lap dog media makes me want to vomit.

  • Carl Vehse

    The MSM buttboys have long bowed to leftist kakistocracies, but usually when facing the other direction.

  • Carl Vehse

    The MSM buttboys have long bowed to leftist kakistocracies, but usually when facing the other direction.

  • Ryan

    I don’t like the term czar. How about we go British and have ministers (“servants”). Or would that be too confusing for Americans with regards to clergy?

  • Ryan

    I don’t like the term czar. How about we go British and have ministers (“servants”). Or would that be too confusing for Americans with regards to clergy?

  • DonS

    Bring it on, I say! Make things as byzantine and complicated as possible for these suckers who took federal bailout money. Make sure it is very clear that taking federal funds is a very, very bad thing, so that no one will be tempted to ask for a bailout ever again. It’s like a venus fly trap, or a pitcher plant. Lure the insect in with the sweet smell of “free money”, then ………

  • DonS

    Bring it on, I say! Make things as byzantine and complicated as possible for these suckers who took federal bailout money. Make sure it is very clear that taking federal funds is a very, very bad thing, so that no one will be tempted to ask for a bailout ever again. It’s like a venus fly trap, or a pitcher plant. Lure the insect in with the sweet smell of “free money”, then ………

  • DonS

    And now, for their next trick……smell that? “Free” health care! For everyone! OOOOOhhhh!!!

  • DonS

    And now, for their next trick……smell that? “Free” health care! For everyone! OOOOOhhhh!!!

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Well, insofar as the compensation of executives of companies that take federal funds are concerned: In the interest of the tax pyaer, limiting their compensation is good. Of course, maybe they should have gone bankrupt. But under the conditions, limiting pay in that manner is not inherently wrong.

    Limiting pay accross the board, ie getting involved in companies that do not take federal funds, is a different debate. These two debates should not be confused.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Well, insofar as the compensation of executives of companies that take federal funds are concerned: In the interest of the tax pyaer, limiting their compensation is good. Of course, maybe they should have gone bankrupt. But under the conditions, limiting pay in that manner is not inherently wrong.

    Limiting pay accross the board, ie getting involved in companies that do not take federal funds, is a different debate. These two debates should not be confused.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Limiting pay or setting compensation in the defunct Soviet Union was a good thing…right?

    Wrong. The state ran all and incentive for productivity was nil.

    The same thing will happen when our government decides who should make what.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Limiting pay or setting compensation in the defunct Soviet Union was a good thing…right?

    Wrong. The state ran all and incentive for productivity was nil.

    The same thing will happen when our government decides who should make what.

  • Bass

    Steve, your comment about the US military was right on. The Government, in communistic fashion, limits the pay of every soldier and sailor, which has caused their productivity to plumment. What’s more, the Government offers our military socialistic medicine that they don’t even have to pay for. Free health care! Ha! What’s next? And don’t get me started about their uniform allowance. Even their clothing is subsidised, just as Marx said it would be in his Manifesto. It’s appalling, and like I do everytime something doesn’t go my way, I blame Obama. Life really is just as simple as that.

  • Bass

    Steve, your comment about the US military was right on. The Government, in communistic fashion, limits the pay of every soldier and sailor, which has caused their productivity to plumment. What’s more, the Government offers our military socialistic medicine that they don’t even have to pay for. Free health care! Ha! What’s next? And don’t get me started about their uniform allowance. Even their clothing is subsidised, just as Marx said it would be in his Manifesto. It’s appalling, and like I do everytime something doesn’t go my way, I blame Obama. Life really is just as simple as that.

  • Carl Vehse

    Re: Steve’s link @12

    Even Jon Stewart ripped the NBC sycophant in his June 4th Jon Stewart’s video
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=229009&title=The-Real-World-D.C.”>The Real World D.C. segment.

  • Carl Vehse

    Re: Steve’s link @12

    Even Jon Stewart ripped the NBC sycophant in his June 4th Jon Stewart’s video
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=229009&title=The-Real-World-D.C.”>The Real World D.C. segment.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Glad to see that once in awhile the leftists in the media cannot ignore their own bias.

    It happens too few and too far between.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Glad to see that once in awhile the leftists in the media cannot ignore their own bias.

    It happens too few and too far between.

  • Bob

    Honestly…

    What is everyone so scaredy-cat about here?

    Since when is our government trying to ‘decide who makes what’?

    Socialism? The government now controls about TWO TENTHS OF ONE PERCENT of the economy. Period. Check out this chart.

    http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/conor_clarke/2009/06/what_socialism_looks_like.php

    Wow. Head for Canada, I guess. Oops. They have socialized health care, etc., etc. Maybe somewhere else, eh?

    You’ve been listening too much to Retarded Rush and other fear-mongerers.

    I like what Chris Matthews says: “Rush is running a support group for scared people. I wish he’d do more bucking up and less fear mongering. Fear, fear, fear –
    same old stuff.”

    I guess you reactionaries are just waiting for the Black Helicopters, eh?

    Use your smarts instead of your paranoia and fears. You’re rapidly becoming irrelevant.

  • Bob

    Honestly…

    What is everyone so scaredy-cat about here?

    Since when is our government trying to ‘decide who makes what’?

    Socialism? The government now controls about TWO TENTHS OF ONE PERCENT of the economy. Period. Check out this chart.

    http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/conor_clarke/2009/06/what_socialism_looks_like.php

    Wow. Head for Canada, I guess. Oops. They have socialized health care, etc., etc. Maybe somewhere else, eh?

    You’ve been listening too much to Retarded Rush and other fear-mongerers.

    I like what Chris Matthews says: “Rush is running a support group for scared people. I wish he’d do more bucking up and less fear mongering. Fear, fear, fear –
    same old stuff.”

    I guess you reactionaries are just waiting for the Black Helicopters, eh?

    Use your smarts instead of your paranoia and fears. You’re rapidly becoming irrelevant.


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