You have to love Wall Street. There is no place else in the known universe that comes close to it for sheer unmitigated brass, for an outsized and surreal sense of entitlement and for shrugging its shoulders when things go catastrophically wrong–as they do with the predictable regularity of bubbles bursting.
So much has happened in the couple of weeks since news surfaced about Wall Street firms, commercial banks and others now on the public payroll granting their executives nice fat bonuses for the year 2008 that you may have forgotten the sputtering outrage this news engendered in everyone from the politicos on Capitol Hill to the newly unemployed assembly line worker to the back office employee still (barely) holding on to her job.
In a single stroke that crystallized unbridled greed, these bonuses made the continuing bank bailout saga and the economic stimulus endeavor that much more difficult to pull off.
And what was Wall Street’s justification for this exercise in self-indulgence at the public’s expense? In a word, these firms said, if we don’t pay bonuses the talent will go elsewhere.
Now, to my mind, this is like one of those tests where you show a 5-year-old a drawing with certain things not as they should be and then ask: What’s wrong with this picture?
Most of the time the 5-year-old will be able to tell you what’s wrong. Not so for the Wall Streeters, who don’t think that anything is wrong with the picture they’ve drawn.
Just because we’ve lost billions if not trillions of dollars, doesn’t mean that we haven’t put in the same long hours we did when we were making billions of dollars. It’s only fair that we should be bonused for the long hours, not the results.