Situational awareness: This time last year, I noted that Netflix was paying its content chief Ted Sarandos a base salary of $18 million. I asked if anybody had ever been paid a higher base salary, and all I really got was sports stars. But here comes Denise Coates to utterly obliterate that record.
In this week's newsletter: Can a technocrat ever again be heroic? What exactly does the Mormon church intend to do with its $100 billion? And where are the most credit-constrained areas of the United States?
Felix Rohatyn (l) and Paul Volcker. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Wally McNamee/Getty Contributor and Ted Thai/Getty Contributor
Two giants of the postwar economic landscape died last week. The actions of Paul Volcker (1927–2019) and Felix Rohatyn (1928–2019) had profound effects on millions of Americans, and bestowed stellar reputations on both men.
Why it matters: There are, and will be, many other successful and powerful technocrats, many of them just as capable as these two paragons of austerity. But none of them are likely to receive the kind of popular acclaim that Volcker and Rohatyn enjoyed.
The big picture: In good times, economic institutions tend run themselves reasonably effectively. But in times of crisis, the leadership of key individuals often becomes paramount.
Neither man was broadly popular at the time, but history treated them both very kindly.
Subsequent technocrats were just as important, but didn't receive the same kind of broad public acclaim.
Flashback: Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers famously appeared on the cover of Time in 1999 as "the committee to save the world." That cover has not aged well.
The bottom line: Volcker and Rohatyn lived in an era of smoke-filled rooms, and cultivated a certain degree of mystery and opacity. Today's civil servants spend much more time in the public spotlight, being second-guessed every minute on Twitter and on cable news. That makes it much harder for leaders to accumulate the broad respect that's a crucial component of effective leadership.
This is a map of credit inequality. The dark areas show counties where a large proportion of the population has no access to credit, while the lighter areas are considered "credit-assured" or "credit-likely."
Why it matters: Communities with good access to credit can grow faster and prove more resilient to shocks than their less creditworthy counterparts.
The report creates a credit insecurity index, which is a proxy for the percentage of the population with no access to credit.
Race plays an enormous factor in this map.
Go deeper: Axios' Danielle Alberti has put together an interactive map, where you can mouse over individual counties to see their scores.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
One place sunlight doesn't shine is a company named Ensign Peak Advisors in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What they're saying: "The Church chooses not to publish the details of its finances," it has said. A non-denial statement in response to the latest news coverage characterizes Ensign as being "a prudent reserve for the future" that exists "for no other reason than to support the Church’s divinely appointed mission."
Be smart: The IRS requires all tax-exempt organizations to act charitably in a way that is “commensurate in scope with its financial resources,” but religious institutions have generally been allowed broad latitude to run their finances as they see fit. It's not clear that even the IRS, however, was aware of the size of the Ensign portfolio.
What to watch: Ensign would seem to have given even less money to charity than Google co-founder Larry Page's $3 billion Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation. (Page, who is worth about $65 billion, named his charitable foundation after his late father.)
My thought bubble: The transactions look very much as though they were entered into just to allow the foundation to retain its nonprofit status.
The bottom line: Money naturally flows into tax-exempt vehicles. Without a government agency keeping a close eye on those vehicles to ensure no shenanigans, it's almost certain that the IRS is missing out on taxes from hundreds of billions of dollars of assets.
Go deeper: Erik D'Amato writes about the backlash against so-called philantocracy — rule by unaccountable nonprofits — for Inside Philanthropy.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
More workers will be eligible for overtime pay when a federal law kicks in on Jan. 1.
Why it matters: The law will give a raise to some 1.3 million employees when they work more than 40 hours a week. That's short of the 4 million who would have gotten overtime pay had a more aggressive Obama-era law gone into effect.
What's new: Employees who make less than $684 per week (or $35,568 per year) are now mandated to get paid for overtime, with the exception of managers and professionals like lawyers or accountants. That maximum is up from $455 per week (or $23,660 per year), which was the threshold set in 2004.
The Palazzo della Civiltà, also known as the Square Colosseum, is an icon of fascist architecture. It now serves as the corporate headquarters of Fendi.