144 Billion Dollars

Rich Galen

From New York City

  • The headline in yesterday's Wall Street journal was, to use a word popularized by Vizzini (the villain who kidnapped Buttercup in The Princess Bride), "Inconceivable."
  • The actual words were:
    Wall Street Pay: A Record $144 Billion
  • $144 billion is many, many dollars. As I mentioned just one week ago part of the problem with the TARP was that for most of us it appears a significant amount was used as:
    "a bailout for people who were in danger of losing their summer house in the Hamptons as opposed to the guy with the hardware store on Main Street who was left dangling."

We have put up with a great deal of your self-promotion over these 12-and-a-half years on the grounds that it was oddly endearing because you have been so bloody obvious about it.
But that quote was you quoting yourself as having been quoted by the Associated Press so, now you are quoting yourself, quoting yourself, quoting yourself?
As some movie character named Vizzini might have said: IN-con-SEEV-able!
The 35,000 people who will not be renewing their subscriptions starting on Friday.

  • My point, before you got so huffy, was going to be that I thought I was making that up when I said that to Tom Raum, but now I find I was not only correct but, if anything, I understated the case.
  • Just how much is $144 billion? Let's put it in terms of a minimum wage earner.
  • If every Wall Street slick-haired, French-cuffed, monogramed-shirted, alligator-shoed, silk-suspendered, hedge-fund-trading gangster were to give up his or her salary for a year that would provide funds for 9.6 million minimum wage workers at $15,000 per year.
  • I know that the minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) doesn't include tax, title and dealer prep; nor does it include Obama care, but you get my drift.
  • We can't expect everyone to give up everything, so let's say the fair-minded folks on Wall Street gave up just one month's salary for the good of the nation. That would still provide about 800,000 jobs - enough to bring the unemployment rate down from its current (if phony) 9.6 percent to about 8.8 percent.
  • Before you hit the SEND key, I am not a Socialist. I think everyone should be able to earn whatever the market will bear.
  • But, these are the financial thugs that we had to bail out two years ago because they were so intensely focused on making money for themselves, that they nearly put us all out of business.
  • Think about how the popular press would have jumped on this number if George W. were still President:
  • I thought Obama had some guy as the Pay Czar to watch over this stuff. Was he on his break when this $144 billion got handed out? How about that financial genius at Treasury, Secretary Timothy Geithner. Haven't heard from him in a while.
  • Oh, wait! He spent most of his professional life in and among the other Wall Street masterminds, so he probably thinks $144 billion is minimum wage.
  • If I were running for public office, I would talk about this in every speech, every interview, and every chat with the kids before they went to bed to drive home the point that this is happening on Barack Obama's watch, not George W.'s, not Herbert Hoover's, not anyone's but Obama's.
  • And, by the way, according to the Journal piece we are not talking about every Tom, Dick & Harriet Wall Street firm:
    "About three dozen of the top publicly held securities and investment-services firms-which include banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money-management firms and securities exchanges-are set to pay $144 billion in compensation and benefits this year."
  • One of those firms is Citigroup of which you and I still own 12 percent, but don't sit by the phone waiting to be invited to the company Christmas party.
  • You can't afford it.

Rich Galen, columnist
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