The AFL-CIO, one of America’s most powerful labor groups, is trying to make it harder for Wall Streeters to jump directly into government jobs. This is one of those “ideological litmus test” things we hear so much about!
The AFL-CIO’s proposal, specifically, is to ban a practice that allows “bank executives heading for top government jobs to be paid their unvested stock and equity awards when they leave, rather than forfeit them as they normally would at resignation,” Dealbook reports. The effect of this practice is to make the prospect of taking a government position much more attractive for Wall Streeters, because they are not forced to take a large financial hit for doing so.
There are two ways of looking at this, based primarily on your own internal beliefs about the way the world works.
ONE WAY: Government work is public service. We should encourage our best and brightest to take government positions, because it benefits us all. Wall Street has some of the top talent in America. Therefore, rules that make it easier for Wall Street bankers to take public service jobs are good, because it allows the government to attract top talent for public service positions that it would not otherwise get.
THE OTHER WAY: An important role of the government is to act as a check on the power of institutions like Wall Street, through tough regulation. Wall Street has a strong financial interest in undermining the power of government regulation. The primary reason Wall Street banks want to encourage their own to take high government positions is because those bankers will naturally be more amenable to laws that help Wall Street banks. Therefore we should discourage practices that make it easier for Wall Street bankers to take government positions, because they are, in essence, agents of Wall Street who will work against the public interest.
If one person holds the first view and another holds the second view they can talk at each other for hours and hours and never come any closer to agreement because their fundamental assumptions about reality are different, and we just have to accept that, even though the first view is wrong.