The financial crisis has raised public awareness that corporations deemed "too big to fail" have to be broken into manageable units. And there is widespread anger about colossal CEO salaries. Clearly, big is no longer beautiful. What remains to be seen is how far this understanding will extend. Whether this is a teachable moment where Americans will embrace major social changes.
As investigators study the failures of the nation's largest banks, as well as AIG, Chrysler, and General Motors, it's become apparent there was a fatal combination of greed, guile, hubris, and blind faith. Greed because corporation executives were locked into a deadly competition to see who had the biggest salary. Guile because business leaders manipulated laws to facilitate their pursuit of wealth and power. Hubris because personal aggrandizement supplanted the best interests of stockholders and the public. And blind faith because CEOs believed that if all else failed, the Federal government would bail them out.
Now the Feds are "winding down" AIG and General Motors with Citigroup and Bank of America likely to follow. Meanwhile, Americans have become aware that over the last sixteen years, the wages of corporation executives grew by 393 percent while the wages of working Americans were flat. In 2008, the average CEO's salary was more than 300 times that of the average worker.
American culture is at a tipping point. While there will be blowback against corporate excess and a narrowing of the gap between America's haves and have nots, it's unclear that the
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