Post Pulitzer Winner: Ignore CEOs, Treat Them 'Like Social and Political Pariahs'

     It’s all the rage with Democratic presidential candidates – vilifying the haves to win over the have-nots.

     However, the class warfare card is also in play for recent Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Pearlstein, a Washington Post columnist. Pearlstein participated in an online chat on the Post’s Web site April 8. Although he did not advocate direct government action, he told reader it’s time ostracize CEOs “making obscene salaries.”

      “No, not time for government intervention, actually,” Pearlstein wrote. “But it surely is time for people to treat CEOs who behave in this way like social and political paraiahs [sic], which is probably the only way we are going to change corporate behavior.”

Part of Pearlstein’s plan for the media is to ignore CEOs altogether. That’s a peculiar position for a journalist who has won a Pulitzer Prize – one of the highest honors bestowed on journalists. Pearlstein was named a recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. According to the Pulitzer Web site, Pearlstein was awarded the prize “for his insightful columns that explore the nation's complex economic ills with masterful clarity.” However, the Business & Media Institute has documented Pearlstein’s anti-business tone in his writing.

      “I've somewhat given up on most public policy solutions to the executive compensation problem,” Pearlstein wrote. “As I said before, social disapprobation is probably the strongest tool. In the press, I think we should most [sic] just ignore them. They have already lost their legitimacy in terms of public policy debates – from a political standpoint, nobody cares what CEOs think about anything any more.”

     “And the press, for the most part, doesn’t lionize them much any more,” Pearlstein continued. “They seem to have adopted the attitude that they are unfairly tarred because of compensation and have given up trying to convince us that they are right and we are wrong. So there's something of a stalemate, which I think won't change until a new generation comes along that has different values. My own attitude is basically to ignore them.”

     Despite the result of excluding the business side from stories about CEOs’ companies, Pearlstein said the press should completely neglect executives’ input on public policy issues, including issues where their opinion would be pertinent – as such as trade treaties.

      “But if they call up and say they want to talk about how important it is for there to be a new trade treaty, we should just ignore them, since in my opinion they have no more credibility on the issue than the porters at the airport. Less, in fact,” Pearlstein said.

     In February, Pearlstein wrote he was hoping for a collapse of some investment banks in the name of his radical idea of social justice:

“So I hope you'll forgive me, dear readers, when I say that the best thing that could happen to our economy is for a dozen high-profile hedge funds to collapse; for investment banking to enter a long, deep freeze; for a major bank to fail; and for the price of a typical Park Avenue duplex to fall by 30 percent. For only then might we finally stop genuflecting before the altar of unregulated financial markets and insist that Wall Street serve the interest of Main Street, rather than the other way around.”

     With that, Pearlstein said he was having difficulty silencing the voice inside of his head “repeating that old ‘60s expression, ‘Burn, baby, burn.’”