'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Giveaway (Part 2) 

Are US financial institutions eliminating bonuses for managers in light of their refusal to deploy bailout funds for lending? A refusal based upon the notion that they must first repair balance sheets that are hemorrhaging billions of dollars? Think again:

Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.

Of course, the problem is that the rest of us just don't understand how this industry operates:

None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."

Many critics of investment banks have questioned why firms continue to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One source said: "That's a fair question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."

We should understand, however, that there is a perverse logic at work here. By this reasoning, high level managers that were able to successfully able to persuade the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Congress to shower them with nearly a trillion dollars, and possibly more, should be generously compensated for their achievement. As for the rest of us, I reiterate what I said before the bailout was passed: Bring on the Red Guards.

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