James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

For the populists who really, really want to make Wall Street pay by slashing their pay, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner certainly isn’t giving them what they want.

Yes, the top executives of the remaining TARP firms seem destined to be salary serfs to the “pay czar”, Kenneth Feinberg.

Of course, it’s hard for even the most die-hard free marketeer to feel sorry for financial firms that mismanaged their businesses terribly, took government bailout money and now find themselves under Uncle Sam’s thumb.

But as for everyone else? Well, here’s how Geithner put it: “We are not setting forth precise prescriptions for how companies should set compensation which can often be counterproductive. Instead, we will continue to work to develop standards that reward innovation and prudent risk-taking, without creating misaligned incentives.”