Weve all rolled our eyes at the ridiculous level of CEO compensation in this country.
According to the Associated Press, CEO pay has jumped 725 percent since 1978. Compensation for your average employee has only gone up about 10 percent during that same time period.
But this is America, right? A place where we are free to make as much money as we possibly can, human decency and our blood pressure be damned.
Its un-American to even mention a recent university study that found companies that pay CEOs in the highest 10 percent earn negative abnormal returns over the next few years. In fact, the actual number is negative 8 percent. Yikes.
So we will skip all that and instead opine against bonuses paid to public enterprises that have had a brutal run of things in the last year. Two, in particular, should especially frustrate Oregon readers.
Lets start with Veterans Affairs, whose director was forced to resign after a long string of bad news: falsified paperwork and a backlog that led to the unnecessary deaths of patients.
Yet more than $2.7 million in bonuses were awarded last year to VA administrators. In fact, $380,000 in bonuses were awarded to 292 directors and top executives at 38 VA hospitals where investigators are now looking into claims of falsified appointment records or where there have been excessive delays in patient care.
Those administrators were at the helm of a thoroughly mismanaged organization, yet they were richly rewarded with taxpayers dollars in the form of cash bonuses.
We understand there are good people in bad organizations, and many of them that are tremendously valuable to the future success of the VA. But we can also see that people who were wholly undeserving received large chunks of change.
Which makes us wonder how much politics went into a supposedly merit-based decision.
On a lesser scale, we can also point to Cover Oregon.
There is no need to beat that dead horse, and we all understand things could not have gone worse with our state health insurance portal.
But last month, Cover Oregon offered retention bonuses to employees willing to go down with the ship at the crippled organization.
According to the Associated Press, 27 staff members have left since April to take other jobs.
And we cant blame them, really. The future of their organization remains heavily in doubt and we can imagine its not a very fun cocktail party after you admit to working for the biggest tech debacle in Oregon history.
New executive director Clyde Hamstreet is trying to patch the organization together at a time where important work still needs to be done.
Many of the employees who voluntarily left Cover Oregon had key skills that are not easy to replace both in IT and in health care laws and regulations, wrote Hamstreet. We cannot afford to keep losing valuable employees if we are to complete the work load for the remainder of 2014 and the IT transition project.
The bonuses could total as much as $650,000, divided up to technical and policy staff who stay through March 15. For most, the bonus is an extra two weeks pay. Others can qualify for larger bonuses of up to three months.
From an outsider perspective, its hard to say if these are people who had a hand in killing the golden goose or if they have been slaving away, fighting the good fight while the walls crumbled around them.
But we do know this: plenty of people deserved to be fired for their work at Cover Oregon, not get raises.
And that gets to the meat of the argument about merit-based bonuses at taxpayer-funded organizations.
We owe it to our nation to be able to attract and keep bright and hardworking employees. Money goes a long way in that regard.
But we also owe it to taxpayers to not be handing out dollars to people who are undeserving either just another name on the payroll or a person who is a part of an inept if not corrupt bureaucracy.