This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama's pay czar is at it again. He just set a $500,000 salary cap for mid-level executives at bailed out companies. The new rules apply to the 25th through 100th top earners at the firms.
But should the government have anything to do with it? We report, you decide. Steve Moore is here, a senior economics writer for "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page. Well, $500,000 looks pretty good to 98 percent of American people.
STEVE MOORE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": It's not a whole lot of money.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's a lot of money.
MOORE: The people at very top of their profession. But here's an amazing thing. I've been reading this report. Do you know what they call the pay czar?
VAN SUSTEREN: Rich guy? I don't know.
MOORE: The Special Master for Executive Compensations. "Special Master"? That's like somebody out of star wars.
VAN SUSTEREN: Don't get me started on how Washington names things. Please.
MOORE: I do not like these huge excessive salaries that are paid to Wall Street executives. When you talk about tens of millions of dollars, especially for companies that failed and lost money for shareholders, that's an abuse.
VAN SUSTEREN: The men who fail upward? And it's not always men.
MOORE: And women.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think there aren't the many women -- I think the men are smarter at trying...
MOORE: The $500,000 actually for an executive is not all that much money.
VAN SUSTEREN: You don't have to do the job.
MOORE: They can shop around. They can go anywhere.
VAN SUSTEREN: Go.
MOORE: But this only applies to seven companies. And we have to decide whether we want these companies to become profitable again.
VAN SUSTEREN: There's a lack of brain trust?
MOORE: People go where they're highest paid, and I have a problem with setting these executive salaries too low. Why is the government even getting involved in this?
VAN SUSTEREN: We bailed them out and it's our money.
MOORE: That's true.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm not saying -- if you took no government money, no taxpayer money so we have no business getting involved.
MOORE: But that's the next step here. There's no question that's what Congress wants to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: You're going down the road. I'm talking about what we have here. We have companies that took our money, and $500,000 is a lot of money. We're not forcing these people to keep these jobs at all. And I do not believe there's such a shortage of people who can hold these jobs.
MOORE: Except here's the problem. We're talking about bringing new people to these companies.
VAN SUSTEREN: That might be a good idea.
MOORE: But you aren't going to get the top talent. The New York Yankees win the World Series? Because they have the highest paid players.
VAN SUSTEREN: Look where the top talent as you call it has gotten us.
MOORE: All right. Touche.
VAN SUSTEREN: I might rather have the people who aren't the so-called top talent. Let's get some practical people. I just -- look...
MOORE: Think about, though, this in the context -- you're talking about bringing in to companies where you have literally thousands of employees, thousands of people whose lives depend on these companies, and these are people billion dollar decisions. Why not let them be paid -- especially with respect to compensation, if the companies perform.
I'm with you if the companies don't perform. But we're talking about going forward.
VAN SUSTEREN: They didn't before. They wouldn't need our money if they performed.
MOORE: Of course. Those people should be -- give back what they got. What I'm talking about is the companies going forward, the new pupil coming in and running these companies, and $500,000 is not enough.
VAN SUSTEREN: There are people who take these jobs who have a lot of money for who do it because they are fascinated and they are challenged by it. We have people who take these jobs for a dollar a year, really smart people, and we all sorts of executives do that, and I applaud them for doing that.
But when you have a company that has teetered on bankruptcy so bad and it's cost so many people jobs around this country who worked at the company or they've lost their savings, I don't see them as an incredible brain trust that we need to keep them by paying them a lot of money. And $500,000 is a lot of money, and they are the ones who got us here to begin with.
MOORE: That's true. But who are the people who should be regulating pay? They should be the shareholders of the company and the boards of directors.
And what worries me is we're moving toward a model now where members of Congress and people in the White House are going to be telling companies how much they can pay people. And you know that's the slippery slope, Greta. You know it is.
VAN SUSTEREN: It may be the slippery slope but these people don't have to take our money and don't have to worry about any of that. Don't take our money.
MOORE: You and I would be in total agreement if we could build a firewall so this only applies to those companies that take government bailout money.
But I promise you this is what Congress and the Obama administration want to do next. Anybody that makes over $500,000 they will put an excessive tax on.
VAN SUSTEREN: We should pay them $500,000 to go because of where they got us. Give them $500,000 to get out of here.
MOORE: Well, these are important companies to America's future. And these are the major banks that make -- do we want the companies to succeed or fail?
VAN SUSTEREN: I can't believe you are defending these people.
MOORE: I'm defending the American way, that you get paid for performance.
VAN SUSTEREN: And they have been paid handsomely for poor performance, for failure. We have to stop paying for failure.
MOORE: I agree.
VAN SUSTEREN: We agree on that. That's it? We got there?
MOORE: That's what the special master for executive compensation has told us.
VAN SUSTEREN: So we're paying for failure?
MOORE: That we've been paying for failure and we have to have these salary caps.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think $500,000 is a lot of money.
MOORE: That's what Kobe Bryant makes for every game he plays.
VAN SUSTEREN: He's not failing. That's where you miss it.
All right, Steve, thank you.
MOORE: Thank you, Greta.
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