Obama,  Stateside

Obama caps executive pay; screws up, admits it

Following up on the report of billions of dollars in bonuses paid on Wall Street last year despite the financial collapse, President Obama has put a cap of $500,000 on the compensation of executives at companies receiving federal bailout money.

The $500,000 salary cap will be stricter for those companies getting “exceptional assistance” from the Treasury Department. “Exceptional assistance” companies wanting to pay executives more than $500,000 will have to do so by using stock that cannot be sold or liquidated until the government money is paid back.

More healthy companies that get government help will also be under the $500,000 cap, but can waive it more easily providing that they do so with full public disclosure.

Given the multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses of many top executives, that could still put a crimp in some lifestyles.

Studies by an advocacy group showed that, in 2007, CEOs earned an average of $10.5 million, about 344 times an average worker’s pay.

Things are tough all over.

Yesterday, in connection with his now-withdrawn appointment of Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services, Obama became probably the first president in American history to say publicly, “I screwed up.” Not the first president to screw up, of course. But the first president to admit it in those words.

New York magazine has a accounting of how long before other recent presidents admitted mistakes. It took George W. Bush nearly five years– and that was for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. I can think of lots of other things he could have apologized for previous to that.

Bryony Gordon of The Telegraph says “apologising is for wimps.” Could be. You don’t want the leader of the free world apologizing too often. But then you don’t want the leader of the free world screwing up too often either.