Alan Feuer and Karen Zraick write in the New York Times that Wall Street isn’t apologizing for outlandish bonuses.
â€œPeople come here because they want to work hard and get paid a lot for working hard,â€ one investment banker said Friday as he wended his way, lunch bag in hand, through the World Financial Center. â€œI think thereâ€™s a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.â€ …
… â€œMy bonus is â€˜shamefulâ€™ â€” but I worked hard to get it,â€ said John Konstantinidis, a wholesale insurance broker, lunching Friday at Harryâ€™s at Hanover Square.
The idea seems to be that because they work very, very hard, they deserve enormous amounts of money. The thing is, normally the economy doesn’t reward a person based on how hard he works. It rewards people for producing something that has value to other people. The fact is that America is full of people who work very, very hard and who are not paid well at all for it.
I can understand a financial industry executive receiving a bonus for bringing more money into the company than the other executives. But these guys seem to think they are entitled to bonuses for breathing. They argue that if they don’t make so much money, New York doesn’t collect as much in income taxes. However, as James Ledbetter points out in Slate, “Paying pedophiles billions of dollars in bonuses would also have ancillary economic benefitsâ€”that doesn’t make it a good idea.”
Dan Gross, also in Slate, says,
The rationalization is that the bonus is the salary. The paycheck they get every week, which might add up to $150,000, is nothing. Without the bonus, [they get] no private school tuition, no mortgage, no nothing. Not getting a bonus is like getting fired. It’s as if you’ve worked all year for nothing.
Well, some people do work all year for nothing, or at least a whole lot less than $150,000.
Another argument is that companies have to reward their people generously or they will move to other firms. And what firms will they move to, pray tell? Bear Stearns? Lehman Brothers? Oh, wait …
The idea seems to be that people who do the money handling should be insulated from the nation’s financial problems. I think the opposite is true — people who do the money handling should be the first ones to take a hit when money is mishandled. I argue that it is this very sense of living in their own universe that lured so many of these people into such bad decisions.