) -- Don't get me wrong, I hate

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

as much as the next guy.

I am troubled by the widening gap between rich and poor in the U.S. I hate the fact that people who make computer programs that allow them to buy


(AAPL) - Get Report

shares for a penny less than the next guy can easily earn twenty times what a high school math teacher brings home.

But the debate about how much Goldman pays its executives is not a big social debate. It is a narrow debate about a company, and whether it is earning returns for its shareholders, and guess what? Goldman is doing a far better job than its competitors.

Pull up a stock chart and take a look at virtually any time period you like. Goldman has consistently outperformed competitors like

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report



(C) - Get Report


Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report


Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report


A big reason for that outperformance is that Goldman executives get a lot of their compensation in stock.

"We'd all love to be the lavatory attendant at Goldman Sachs, given the average compensation of the firm," says Brad Hintz, analyst at Bernstein Research, "but let's face it: they own their own company, so the motivation of the partners is not to overpay their employees."

Goldman's stock has not outperformed the competition by a small margin. Over the past five years through Tuesday's close, Goldman shares had returned 60.1% -- more than four times the performance of JPMorgan. Are Goldman executives paid four times their counterparts at JPMorgan? I doubt it.

So, tell me all bankers are overpaid. Tell me President Obama should triple the size of his

proposed tax on bank liabilities.

But stop picking on Goldman because -- and this is tough to say -- they don't deserve it.


Written by Dan Freed in New York