The populist rhetoric of John Edwards kills me. "The gap between rich and poor is widening at a frightening pace," he trumpets. "We must do more to ensure income equality." Never mind that he lives in a 25,000 square foot house, gets $90,000 to give a speech about poverty and is an associate at hedge fund Fortis Investments (advocates for the poor peg hedge funds as a major contributor to wealth disparity).
His op-ed piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal doesn't disappoint. After the obligatory nod to nationalized health care, he calls for mandatory savings accounts (not necessarily a bad idea, but I shudder whenever "mandatory" and "government" appear in the same sentence). But it's his plan to reign in CEO pay that troubles me most. Yes, a salary 400 times that of the lowest paid employee is outrageous, but it's what the market demands. Cap the salary with more regulations and other forms of compensation will emerge; more complicated, more questionable and often less transparent. He calls for more shareholder rights, but it is the shareholders he claims to protect that will ultimately suffer most. I find it ironic that he calls for greater retirement saving while at the same time doing all he can to ensure more regulation and lower returns within retirement accounts. His proposal reads like a textbook case for class action tort lawyers. Knowing Edwards, what else could we expect?