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A Rogue CEO Speaks Out: Raise My Taxes and Take My Earnings

The CEO of Netflix, the wildly successful Internet company that rents DVDs via the mail, says President Obama is off the mark in trying to cap executive compensation. In an op-ed in The New York Times today, Reed Hastings writes that the government should take in taxes half of the huge paychecks that CEOs of publicly traded companies get. Everyone would benefit, Hastings argues, and the populist demagoguery against business titans would come to an end.

The difference between salaries like mine and those of average Americans creates a lot of tension, and I’d like to offer a suggestion. President Obama should celebrate our success, rather than trying to shame us or cap our pay. But he should also take half of our huge earnings in taxes, instead of the current one-third.

Then, the next time a chief executive earns an eye-popping amount of money, we can cheer that half of it is going to pay for our soldiers, schools and security. Higher taxes on huge pay days can finance opportunity for the next generation of Americans.

Hastings makes the point that other attempts to cap CEO compensation haven’t worked out. His idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. But I wouldn’t expect other CEOs to line up in support anytime soon. No matter how bad the economy may get, top executives — like most people — aren’t going to enthusiastically embrace paying more taxes. Just ask Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, or maybe former Health and Human Services Secretary-nominee Tom Daschle.

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