Wall Street Bonuses — Are You Angry Yet?

Are you angry at the size of Wall Street bonuses at a time when so many other sectors of the economy are sagging, and so many people are suffering such economic distress? Well, maybe you’re not angry enough.

Perusing the financial pages and government statistics, here’s a few comparisons about what THEY are getting this holiday season and what WE are enduring:

The $16.7 billion in 2009 bonuses reported for a single firm, Goldman Sachs, are roughly equal to all the budget deficits that had to be made up by New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Illinois and Massachusetts in fiscal 2009. In other words, tens of millions of Americans lost state jobs, state services for the sick and needy, and a slew of state-funded recreational activities, while 30,000 employees of a single company that got direct federal funding through TARP and indirect funding through the A.I.G. bailout (along with other ways) get an average bonus of more than $550,000 apiece. And keep in mind — please do keep in mind — that these are bonuses are over and above regular salaries that are well above the national average.

Angry yet?

Now let’s add up the bonuses (above regular salaries) of the three biggest bonus givers on The Street — GS, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — all direct and/or indirect recipients of federal bailout money. Their bonuses reportedly will total more than $30 billion this year, and when divided among the 119,000 employees of these firms, equal five times the median income of families in this country. If you live in California, whose 2010 budget shortfall is shaping to be about $23 billion, a sum equal to these three companies’ bonuses could not only save one of the world’s great educational systems from massive cutbacks and huge tuition increases, it could prevent thousands of other drastic cutbacks in state spending that will have to be made — and still leave $7 billion left to over to share among the 119,000 employees of just three Wall Street firms.

Ah, but maybe you’re not angry yet.

How about this. Currently, according to news reports, just 23 top investment banks, hedge funds and other Wall Street firms will get $140 billion in bonuses this year, a sum almost exactly equal to the estimated $142 billion in budget shortfalls for all 50 states in fiscal 2010. Or to put this another way, approximately 300,000 lucky rascals who fiddle with other people’s money on Wall Street are getting bonuses roughly equal to what 300 million Americans will lose for countless needed state services, or pay in the form of higher state taxes to cover state shortfalls. And these bonuses, please remember, are above regular salaries at these 23 Wall Street firms.

Here’s some other numbers to consider. The interest on the federal debt this year is projected to be $200 billion. Three-quarters of that sum is being received in bonuses by lucky Wall Streeters at just 23 private firms — over and above their regular salaries. Sums equal to these same bonuses could also pay for almost half of what the government will pay for Medicare this year ($290 billion ). Put another way, a sum equal to almost 50 percent of the cost of providing health and healing care to 39.9 million of our least fortunate citizens is going this year to some 300,000 Wall Streeters in bonuses — over and above their regular salaries and perks.

The head of GS recently noted that he and his people are doing “God’s work.” Maybe. Or maybe some other non-divine agency is propping up and promoting this outrageous misallocation of wealth at a time of national austerity.

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8 Comments

  1. Did you mention that the financial community is pure parasite? They create no wealth, they build no cars, they plant no corn, they clean no toilets, they develop no drugs… they just play with our economy and our money and keep as much of it as the government they control allows them.

  2. Somehow I don't think this scenario is quite what the founding fathers had in mind. In fact they warned against all sorts of threats to the democracy they so painstakingly crafted, and I can't imagine they would approve of this state of affairs. Not news by any means, just more fodder for the aforementioned “anger”. Tea party anyone?

  3. Am I angry at the bonuses? No. I like free enterprise.

    Am I mad about government bailouts? Yes, for the same reason.

  4. Leonidas, that “wealth envy” phrase was parroted by others long before I ever saw you use it, and it's just as bogus now as it ever was. Free enterprise is fine and dandy, but this is as far beyond free enterprise as the jungle is from the city.

  5. There is nothing free enterprise about our current financial system. They made a ton of money and when the bottom fell out, taxpayers bailed them out. “Free enterprise” cannot be used to defend these bonuses. Had we really had free enterprise, the entire system would be bankrupt and those billionaires out on their asses.

  6. If you look closely, we're all, for the most part, agreeing here. If I might add, bankruptcy would have been just as good for the bank, as it is for real businesses.

  7. The anger comes from the one-sidedness. The “too big to fail” line can only go so far. If they're “too big” then they should split them up, which is exactly what the head of the FDIC has said repeatedly, yet, nothing changes.

  8. Yeah and that crazy woman, (they never seem to give her name), on CNN was actually put off that people would dare to take away these people's bonuses or cutback their big pay.

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