My meager stock portfolio - like the portfolios of so many - is worth on paper a fraction of what it claimed to be worth a couple of years ago. Yet as banks fail and the financial sector raids the American taxpayers, first in the portfolio and then, gun and ski-mask in hand, in the form of government subsidies we laughingly call a "bailout," those who have run these economic institutions into the ground have been rewarded with billions in bonuses, the sixth largest such haul in history.
Bonuses, part of the great euphemistic system that grants "compensation" to the great sages of the marketplace with the rest of us earn our paltry salaries, serve a two-fold purpose: to reward performance, and to retain the services of those who have performed well. But who on Wall Street merits a bonus in this economic climate? White captures the scandal of it well in this understated line:
...Wall Street disbursed billions despite staggering loses and a shrinking job market.
In other words, to say that these bonuses - which amount to the sixth largest in history! - are without justification may be the greatest understatement I will utter this young year. They can't be a reward for good performance, as there has been no good performance to reward. In fact, many of the companies offering these bonuses have been run into the ground by those they are now "compensating." And, these bonuses are certainly not offered to retain the service of valuable employees. In this job market, where are they going to go?
White notes that Merrill Lynch - a once-proud institution who has now appeared twice in Washington, hat in hand, begging for a "bailout" - just paid out somewhere between $4 and $5 billion in bonuses. Let me get this straight. They did so poorly that they now need my tax dollars to secure their very survival, yet they can afford to pay out billions in bonuses to the people who have put them in critical condition!
I heard an awful lot, during the most recent presidential campaign, about "class warfare." Let me stipulate that this is class warfare. The use of my tax dollars to subsidize billions in corporate bonuses so that the rich don't have to give up their inalienable right to obscene wealth, is class warfare. It is robbing to poor to pay the rich, and should be infinitely more scandalous than president Obama's plan to raise the taxes on the highest income bracket to pre-Bush levels.