For the record, I think Julia and A-Rod are way overpaid too, but their careers aren't based on playing dangerous games with other people's life savings.
That said, he continues, “We’re in a hypercapitalistic society. No one complains when Julia Roberts pulls down $25 million per movie or A-Rod has a $300 million guarantee… you can pick on Wall Street all you want, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s fair to say you ran your companies into the ground, your risk management is flawed—that is perfectly legitimate. You can lay criticism on GM or others. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Wall Street is paid too much.”
That's one of the portfolio mismanagers quoted in Gabriel Sherman's New York article, The Wail of the 1 %, a story filled with quotes from clueless Wall Street types who, in trying to justify their gross self-overcompensation, sound as though they're auditioning to play caricatures of themselves in a Coen Brothers movie.
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?”
Let's ignore the almost certainly intended offense to Middle America and to men and women who drive delivery trucks for a living. No one is suggesting that this guy should be making as much as a delivery truck driver. We're suggesting that maybe he and his partners in crime and incompetence shouldn't be making anything at all. Delivery truck drivers who can't make their rounds on time, drop off restaurant supplies at mattress stores, rack up dozens of parking tickets, back their trucks up into police cars, and then reward themselves at the end of the day for a job well done by pilfering the silverware lose their jobs. Doing the equivalent with the nation's financial system ought to have the same result.
But here we have a guy who sounds as though he thinks he deserves a raise for screwing up.
Apparently we owe him a debt of gratitude to the tune of several million dollars just for his having done us the favor of having shown up to work to do his screwing up.
He thinks of his bonuses as an ongoing graduation present from his parents.
I'm sorry to say I'm something of a bigot when it comes to corporate business types, Wall Street types, and big banking types.
I don't like 'em and I don't trust 'em. About a month ago I called them parasites and wrote this:
And this is what's fueling the anger at the AIG bonuses. Cooler heads around the interwebs and in the editorial pages and on talk shows have pointed out that the bonus money is a drop in the bucket compared to what the Government has given to the banksters since last fall. The cooler heads counsel to look at the big picture, focus our anger on the larger swindle or understand that we have to put up with certain distasteful practices if we're going to get this mess cleaned up. You can't clean out a stable without getting shit on your shoes.
But the bonuses are the big picture summed up. They are the whole mess in a nutshell.
It's that sense of entitlement that caused it. They felt entitled to play with other people's money and get rich from it even if they lost that money. Consequently, they didn't care what they did with it. They treated it as if it was their own and its only purpose was to be theirs. And the bonuses make clear that they still feel this way.
Their sense of entitlement is divorced from any work ethic, divorced from any sense of responsibility or shame. They clearly don't think they had to earn their millions. They think it's owed to them no matter what they do. They deserve to make millions, deserve to take other people's money, just because they want it.
Their sense of entitlement is monstrous and the monsters are insatiable.
The bonuses are a warning that this is never going to stop. The parasites are going to eat the host. Nothing is changing. Nothing is getting fixed. The money is pouring in and they're just pocketing it. And we're apparently expected to keep it pouring in until they say stop, which they never will, or it all runs out.
Pure bigotry on my part. But here we have a guy who's determined to prove I'm right to be a bigot.
Felix Salmon points out another one:
One financier essentially tells Sherman that the going rate for any job which involves being woken up in the middle of the night should be roughly $2 million a year — which is not the kind of attitude guaranteed to make you friends among, say, the farming community.
Oh, I don't know. Maybe if the financier was actually thinking about other people who get woken up in the middle of the night to go do their jobs and was making the case that they should make a couple of mil a year too, then I think there might be some sympathetic farmers...and cops, and fire fighters, and emergency room nurses and doctors, plumbers and other repairmen, building supers, substitute teachers, priests, ministers, rabbis, and imans, parents of small children, hospice workers, soldiers, sailors, Marines, and National Guardsmen and women, telephone and electrical company linemen, and Presidents of the United States.
There are a lot of people who get woken up in the middle of the night to go do their jobs and many of them have to go outside in the worst weather to do them and risk their lives in the bargain, which might be just a little bit more stressful than having to roll out of your silk-sheeted bed in your Manhattan condo to open up your MacBook and check to see what's causing all that turmoil in the Asian markets and figure out how to make another million for you and your bosses out of it.
As Matt Tiabbi says, who asked them to make the sacrifice?
And, as Tiabbi, Salmon, and others have pointed out, the reason these people get paid so much isn't that they make the money, it's that they're the first in line when the taps open up and the money pours in. They've gotten in the habit of pocketing as much as they can as fast as they can because no one who might have complained was looking and because they couldn't pocket all of it and enough kept getting by them that the people who's money it actually was thought things must be going ok.
They operated on the "One for you, two for me, one for you, three for me" principle.