Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two Opposing Views Re $18.5 B in Wall Street Bonuses

Duelling op-ed pieces, presented in classic "he said-she said" style

Just to get the ball rolling on a slow Emerald City news day, we'll link several interesting national news and editorial items we stumbled upon this morning whilst googling.

The media have been all abuzz for the past few days over President Obama's tongue-lashing of Wall Street firms who dished out $18.5 Billion in "performance bonuses" to top executives in 2008, even while their companies were going on the public dole. "Shameful" is what Obama called it:
President Barack Obama issued a withering critique Thursday of Wall Street corporate behavior, calling it "the height of irresponsibility" for Wall Street employees to be paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year while their financial sector was crumbling.
"It is shameful," Obama said from the Oval Office. "And part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."
In the wake of Obama's statement, the webosphere is now of course awash with expressions of "me too" editorial outrage. We believe the most direct and concise of these was published this morning by the Los Angeles Times. Here's the lede, which pretty well sums up the anger and angst which is being expressed by home town dailies across the nation:
We are not the first to register our disgust at Wall Street's decision to hand out $18.4 billion in employee bonuses in 2008, a year in which the financial industry's irresponsible decisions and crippling corporate losses helped precipitate a devastating economic downturn. On Thursday, President Obama called the bonuses "shameful" and "the height of irresponsibility."
Nor are we alone in noting that this boneheaded, tone-deaf move came just after the nation's top investment banks and financial services companies asked for -- and received -- hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to protect them from the consequences of their own actions. The money was granted (with the support of this page) because we all were assured that these firms were too big and important to fail.
That's what's so galling about this. The bailout money was meant to keep the companies afloat -- not to line the pockets of employees who are already very well compensated.
Just as is usually the case where important issues are roundly discussed with passionate intensity however, there are strong counterpoint arguments too. For instance, here's a Greg Palast piece which we dug up this morning, which explains, in quite vivid terms, exactly why these highly-compensated top-tier executives are worth ever dime they can squeeze out of their beleaguered shareholders. (Just a word of warning to our more staid and socially-conservative readers, by the way... Palast's language is a trifle "salty", as the edited headline would suggest):
Why An A**hole Is Always In Charge
And there you have it folks: Duelling op-ed pieces, presented in classic "he said-she said" style.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.


googlegirl said...

Obama’s calculated anger over Wall Street bonuses

danny said...

Loved the Greg Palast article. Long overdue.

ozboy said...

Agree Danny, the Palast article was great! However, I don't think it was contrary to the LA Times article, but rather a cynical humor piece.

For a real look at a contrary opinion to that of our new Prez, check out what Rudi Juliani had to say about it. I don't have a link to it but it was in the papers the last few days. In it Rudi basically defends these bonuses as good for New York and the economy. Something about the old Republican trickle down theory.

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