The NYTimes ran a piece on Monday about Wall Street’s annual bonuses which was not a good thing to read the week before Christmas. [Here] I suppose it would have been fine if one were a Master of the Universe, but I’m not and have no plans to become one.
It’s not that the news is bleak for the Wall Street folks--far from it-- but given the persistently high unemployment rates across the country, the moaning and groaning from lower Manhattan seems very out of place. In fact, to my aging ears, it sounds downright un-American.
But then again, we are living in a time when the senior Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, couldn’t answer a question from the press about how the White House stood on the Zadroga Act, the bill to fund medical treatment for first responders. [Here] I’m certain that Obama is for the bill but he sure isn’t beating the drums and blowing the horns in support of it.
What the Times reported was that there appears to be a new group on Wall Street. As the Times put it: [Here]
Bonus season is fast approaching on Wall Street, but this year the talk does not center just on multimillion-dollar paydays. It’s about a new club that no one wants to join: the Zeros.
Drawn from a broad swath of back-office employees and middle-level traders, bankers and brokers, the Zeros, as they have come to be called, are facing a once-unthinkable prospect: an annual bonus of ... nothing.
Before you extend one second of sympathy for the Zeros, the article pointed out that immediately after 2008 when the real estate balloon burst, many of the large firms and banks raised the base salaries of these mid-range employees. At Goldman Sachs the base salaries rose from $300,000 to $500,000 and at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse from $200,000 to $400,000. Not bad, eh?
Contrast this picture with the national unemployment rate of almost 10% and consider that many of those unemployed have been looking for work for months and months. Recall also how the GOP has screamed and yelled about extending unemployment benefits for a few more months. The arguments against continuing unemployment payments are so heartless and--yes, I’ll say it--unChristian-- that it almost hurts to repeat them.
Here are some examples of heartless bone-stupidity: Newt Gingrich has blamed the nation’s problems on the “leftist news media, Hollywood tenured academics [???], overpaid federal workers and unemployed people.” [Here] (I am not making this up. Can you imagine blaming unemployed folks for the country’s problems!?!) Sen. Jim DeMint (R, SC) told a television audience that “We can't just keep paying people to stay at home.“ Judd Gregg (R,NH) said that these benefits mean that people are “encouraged not to look for work.” [Here]
The Times article also points out that 2010 has been a boom year for the big houses. The Street is headed to outearn the $20 plus billion that was estimated by New York City’s government predictions. [Here]
One final word from the Times about Wall Street and bonuses. [Here]
“This year, Wall Street’s five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses.”