Watching CNBC this morning, I heard Larry Kudlow complain about Democrats who want to raise taxes on the most “successful earners and entrepreneurs.” I find the use of the word “earners” very revealing. It is the word that the mafia bosses in The Sopranos used to describe their most successful underlings.
John Thain was a successful earner. In early 2008, he spent $1.2 million to refurbish his office at Merrill Lynch headquarters while the company was slashing jobs and businesses. In September, he arranged the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America whose stock is down 80% since the deal was announced. The government has been forced to put up more than $40 billion to bail out B of A. Nevertheless, Thain thought he deserved a year end bonus of $10 million.
Dick Fuld was a successful earner. He made half a billion dollars during his years as chief of Lehman Brothers including $45 million in 2007. Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September sending markets into a tailspin.
I have no objection to tax policies that reward successful entrepreneurs because they make the economy go. However, a successful earner is not necessarily the same thing at all.