The Capitalist Who Caved In
To the Editor:
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch disclosed Monday that he will give up a portion of his retirement compensation, which prompted public outcry after its disclosure in court papers related to his divorce.
Just what exactly does Mr. Welch gain by renouncing his compensation package? Not a thing. His 20 years of leadership changed GE from a $13 billion maker of light bulbs and washing machines into a $480 billion industrial leader. The value of his presence at GE is undisputed. Only someone ignorant of what a chief executive does could claim with a straight face that Mr. Welch didn't earn every cent he was paid, and yet that is precisely kind of person to whom Mr. Welch caved in.
If Mr. Welch really cared about his public perception, he would have had enough pride to defend his compensation. CEOs have been under fire for years for their pay. If Mr. Welch simply would have answered his critics by saying, "I earned it and who cares about anyone who thinks otherwise," he would have done more to demolish the anti-wealth-creating mentality than a thousand essays by others.
It says a lot about a man when he can't justify his pay. It means he thinks his compensation is some kind of a game instead of the fair trade of one value for another. It says even more when one of our great capitalists can't defend capitalism.
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