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« Debbie Rochon | Main | Down and Dirty Linkage »

December 18, 2008

Bonuses

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Why should the bosses at places like Merrill Lynch get any end-of-year bonuses at all when they've done such terrible jobs? Fun fact: In 2006, Goldman Sachs paid more than $20 million apiece in bonuses to more than 50 people. Is it reasonable for us to expect the Goldman Sachs crowd to get us out of the troubles that they rewarded themselves so richly for getting us into?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 18, 2008




Comments

Don't get me started. Why do the suits do anything? And, yes, the state of US medicine is such that even docs think things like 'the suits'. The culture of American business is dysfunctional - where oh where are the socially conservative cultural critics of business culture?

Posted by: MD on December 18, 2008 4:06 PM



Seems most pathological in the USA too. Other countries' business and finance bigwigs must be as greedy and ruthless as America's. But they don't get compensated at anything like the level of American CEOs, and they don't seem to get rewarded for incompetence either.

If someone can get performance bonuses, which strikes me as capitalisty to the max, why should they not get performance penalties too? Isn't that the capitalist way? Risk taking? Possibility of failure?

And why so pathological in the US? As I said, it doesn't seem to be an absolutely necessary aspect of having big business and high finance. What gives? Why America?

Posted by: PatrickH on December 19, 2008 8:41 AM



Why should the bosses at places like Merrill Lynch get any end-of-year bonuses at all when they've done such terrible jobs?

Because they can. What're you gonna do about it, peon?

Posted by: Moira Breen on December 19, 2008 9:59 AM



Some apt commentary from America's best social/political observers:

Link

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2008 10:14 AM



The Onion satire is great! The wealthier we get, the more there is to steal. Human nature is what it is.

Can't wait for the Obama/social justice crowd to start stealing. Their dour sanctimony will provide for years of hilarity. Keep reading Steve Sailer for a preview of things to come! Chicago style ward heeler politics in D.C. The press doesn't want to have to bring down Obama for corruption and self-dealing, so he really has a free ride. They managed to ignore his bizarre associations with Rev. Williams, Ayers, Rezko, Blago, etc., and they will work like hell to ignore his ripoffs.

Don't know whether it's any worse than what's going on now.

At least the conservatives are ashamed of their stealing. The liberals will claim that they are doing it for "the poor," or "the disadvantaged," or (my favorite) "the marginalized."

Since I've worked for corporate law firms, and for CEOs of major corporations, I can tell you that there is a simple reason for the stealing: lawyers and CEOs sit on interlocking boards. The result: they set their own compensation and terms of employment. What would you do if you could set your own salary and bonuses?

I'd be very generous with myself.

Am I just an old fart (yes), or does the U.S. seem to be becoming a "Fuck You!" society? It seems as if grabbing everything you can for yourself is the only value remaining, now that religion and tradition have been trashed.

Women refuse to bear children, and abort the ones that are conceived by mistake, refuse to do the housework or cooking, and claim the right to a man's wallet without any reciprocal obligation if they do produce a child. Men refuse to marry in response, rip off a piece of ass whenever possible and live like teenager boys in their Mommy's basement until they are 35. Is it any wonder that gays claim equality in this scenario?

In fact, the most convincing argument I've heard for gay marriage is this from my gay friends: "You heteros are behaving just as badly as us homos. So, why not give us the same rights?"

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 19, 2008 11:04 AM



"The wealthier we get, the more there is to steal" -- that's a line to be cherished.

Yet more genius from The Onion:

Link

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2008 11:11 AM



"At least the conservatives are ashamed of their stealing. "

Care to name any names? I can't think of any.

Posted by: JV on December 19, 2008 11:29 AM



They managed to ignore his bizarre associations with Rev. Williams, Ayers, Rezko, Blago, etc., and they will work like hell to ignore his ripoffs.

You're kidding, right? These have been hashed, rehashed and hashed again to death. The problem is that despite the fact that you conservatives are hell bent on finding SOME diabolical thread of connection between himself and these people that there just isn't one. Since there isn't one, that's proof to your twisted minds of some conspiracy to conceal what you can't find. Could you PLEASE start taking your schizo medication, please?

Posted by: Upstate Guy on December 19, 2008 11:57 AM



Obama is as dirty as you can get.

The press did not hash and rehash these associations. They were vetted on the web, but not in the major newspapers or on TV. The Times, and its pals completely whitewashed Obama.

Obama's game is the quota bonanza. The quota game is simple: pretend to be passing things out through the quota system and you can steal all you want. All you need is one figurehead to justify your scams and you're home free.

Obama is an odd character in one way. He doesn't seem to want the money. That's his wife's territory. She's a "diversity" shakedown artist by trade. Obama just wants the power.

The quota racket will be a gold mine for Obama's crew. They will steal prolifically and wildly in the name of "social justice." Pretend to install a diversity candidate in every project, and then pass out the swag to your friends.

There is no conspiracy theory. Wright, Ayers, Rezko and Blago, among others, are Obama's crew. Upstate Guy, the notion that Obama's 30 year professional association with these people tells us nothing about him is sheer BS. You are a fool to be peddling that nonsense.

To repeat, Obama comes into office as dirty as any president in history. He's a member of the Chicago mob. A frontman who doesn't get his own hands to be dirty... at least that's the way it seems now. We'll see later on if that's really true.

Neither Mayer Daley was ever convicted either. Obama is a direct creation of the Daley machine. Are you trying to tell me Daley wasn't corrupt, just because he wasn't indicted?

I'm not saying Obama is any worse than Bush. Exactly the same, but unrepetenant about the thievery.

Upstate Guy, you are deliberately deluding yourself because you agree with Obama's politics. Obama is the clean hands guy at the top of a Chicago machine designed to steal everything that cannot be nailed down. The fact that he is in some ways isolated from the thievery of the machine doesn't exonerate him.

Let the stealing begin in earnest!

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 19, 2008 12:42 PM



Incidently, Upstate Guy, this is the reason why conservatism makes more sense when one gets older.

My argument is that humans are innately corrupt and self-dealing and, therefore, cynical distrust of every politician and every political movement is our only defense.

The liberal argument is that the wrong people are in control, and that a sort of super species of humans exist and that they aren't eminently corruptible and self-interested.

Conservative politicians are dangerous, to be sure. Liberal politicians are doubly dangerous, because they are selling the BS that you can trust them. Obama is just that sort of snake oil salesman.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 19, 2008 12:54 PM



The thing is that public sector stealing is MUCH less lucrative than private sector stealing. You need to leave government and become a lobbyist or a contractor of some sort to make any kind of upper-class salary in the U.S., and even then you will make far less than the Wall Street guys or CEOs. There are a ton of protections against public employee graft or embezzlement, and public salaries are very low compared to the private sector.

Look at Blagojevich. He's trying to trade a U.S. Senate seat for a $250,000 job with a union. A first year I-banker out of an MBA program makes more than $250,000!

Anyway, people get away with this shit because we let them. We should be cracking down everywhere. In government too; the fact that pols are dependent on private lobbyists to raise $ for campaigns leads to a ton of corruption. It mostly benefits the lobbyists, but still.

Posted by: MQ on December 19, 2008 1:15 PM



"The liberal argument is that the wrong people are in control, and that a sort of super species of humans exist and that they aren't eminently corruptible and self-interested."

That's not the liberal argument at all, at least not from any liberals I know or read. Nor is it "big gov't" or "tax and spend" or any other catch phrase. We differ from conservatives in the avenues we wish our taxes to be spent and our government to spend its time on. That's about it. I'd say us liberals are more critical of our own leaders that conservatives are of theirs, for better or worse.

Posted by: JV on December 19, 2008 1:18 PM



C'mon, bonuses are earned only after the (relatively few) recipients have made a lot of other people a lot of money. Nobody and I mean nobody was complaining when they were flipping their houses, doubling down with home equity loans and cashing in dramatically appreciated stocks and bonds.
I certainly don't want the lowest paid heart surgeon...or investment advisor

Posted by: aitch on December 19, 2008 1:19 PM



Any chance that, when the conversation shifts into partisan-politics mode, people could refer to Dems and Repubs rather than liberals and conservatives?

This may just be me, but there's little that "liberal" among many of the Dems I know (effin' thought police, in fact), and zero that's "conservative" about many Republicans, especially those empire-building, drunken-sailor-spending, big-government radicals who run the party these days.

I mean, I just get so damn confused when people brawl about "liberals" and "conservatives" when in fact they're fighting about Dems and Repubs ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2008 2:14 PM



JV: "I'd say us liberals are more critical of our own leaders that conservatives are of theirs, for better or worse."

That's hard to prove isn't it? Most conservatives would say the same about their side, don't you think?

But ST's point holds, as long as you have the right conception of "conservative", which values decentralization and tradition. Neither of those things depends heavily on the personality & character of the individual. In fact the point is to limit the power of the individual politician to steer things in the worng direction. Or to steer things at all, for the more libertarian types.

Liberalism requires top down intervention to pull/push society in the desired direction, since there's always entrenched resistance to reform. And so it depends on having the right leader in power.

But of course there are few real conservatives in government today.


Posted by: Todd Fletcher on December 19, 2008 4:36 PM



MB: I mean, I just get so damn confused when people brawl about "liberals" and "conservatives" when in fact they're fighting about Dems and Repubs ...

Hear, hear. There is nothing more unprofitable than an exchange that has devolved into tedious partisan tu quoque. As if it mattered which festering traitor's corpse stank worse. Anyone at this late hour who's still a Party animal wants a good swift kick in the head.

Posted by: Moira Breen on December 19, 2008 5:21 PM



Read Mr. Sammler's Planet this summer. Anyone else getting a society-falling-down everywhere (no party politics here, it's all bad) 70s vibe from the current era?

Capitalism works best when there is a certain social, er, milieu? Is that the right word? Anyway, we do let them get away with it, but the one good thing about bad times is people start paying attention. I hope. If someone is not doing a good job, pay attention. The problem with partisan politics is that each 'side' protects its own. I am as guilty of this as the next person....although I am learning to get over it.

Posted by: MD on December 19, 2008 6:18 PM



"But of course there are few real conservatives in government today."

Todd, if we're talking about ideals, I see your point. But can you point to any conservative American politician ever who has pushed for less government? And by less government, I don't mean simply cutting social services, because in my experience, "small government" is just a clever catch-phrase that means less spending on social services, more spending on the military.

Posted by: JV on December 19, 2008 8:35 PM



No politician knows who I am, has no personal connection to me, and therefore doesn't care whether I live or die. Therefore, I've ceased to be concerned about anything they say or do.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on December 19, 2008 8:48 PM



Along with MD, I'm getting a very '70s kind of feeling from the current scene. Time to bone up on that very '70s term, "stagflation":

Link

JV -- Sure. Thomas Jefferson. John Randolph. Clement Vallandigham. Robert Taft. The Conservative Coalition (made up of Dems and Repubs) that opposed the New Deal. Howard Buffett (Warren's dad). Barry Goldwater. Ron Paul. And I'm not even a history buff.

Bill Kauffman somewhere makes a great point: That the story of government and politicians has largely been told by people who are fans of government, power, and politicians. In their eyes, anyone who seeks to increase the role of centralization and size is a good guy -- potentially a "great" politicians. (Hence Lincoln and FDR are big heroes of this crowd.) Where anyone who opposes centralization and growth in govt is ... well, a loser, contemptible, hardly worthy of notice. The result being that we're barely aware at all of the tradition of anti-statist politicians. Some of Kauffman's own writings seem motivated by a desire to right that balance.

If you're curious, this is a good look at Kauffman's p-o-v:

Link

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2008 10:24 PM



Gao Xiqing, who supervises much of China's dollar holdings, thinks that American finance-industry pay is 'way out of line.

Link

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 20, 2008 12:17 AM



Karl Popper once said that while the central question of traditional political philosophy was "Who should rule?", the great modern liberal (Enlightenment liberal) insight was that the real question is: "How can we prevent those in power from doing much damage?"

Hence limited monarchy, constitutional government, rule of law, and so on. Now, of course, that's all kaplooey, government is everywhere, and once again, the question is: "Who should rule?" Conservatives (oops, Repubs) say "Our guy!" and liberals (oops, Dems) say, "No, our guy!"

It's all about who gets the whip hand. Problem: as Allan Sillitoe pointed out in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, as soon as you take the whip out of the hand of your tormentor and pick it up yourself, you go dead from the heels up.

Politics today is about grabbing for that whip. Dems and Repubs, well, they're both dead from the heels up. It doesn't seem to occur to anybody to revive the old (true) liberal question, suitably updated for our exhausted, frenzied time: "Not, how do we get the whip into the hands of the right people? But, how do we get rid of the whip?"

Posted by: PatrickH on December 20, 2008 12:26 PM



Can MB or any others here who regularly espouse "small government" explain how small is small and how big is big in an era when the scale and scope of private sector companies ... say Google ... are huge and global? Is the ideal to cease being citizens functioning as a self governing nation and embrace being individual consumers within a borderless global system?

Posted by: Chris White on December 20, 2008 5:34 PM



Is the ideal to cease being citizens functioning as a self governing nation and embrace being individual consumers within a borderless global system?

Chris White, I usually disagree with you, but I must say I often wonder about that myself.

Posted by: alias clio on December 20, 2008 9:41 PM



In re-reading the thread Michael Blowhard's comment about the use of liberal/conservative vs. Dem/GOP deserves further discussion. As one who has never belonged to a political party I'm not sure how eliminating "liberal" or "conservative" in favor of using Democrat or Republican helps clarify most political discussions. If it is a simple matter of partisan party politics then yes, calling a Dem a Dem not a "liberal" makes sense. However, in most discussions the pertinent issues are really about underlying political philosophies, not party affiliation. As Michael points out many of today's Dems are far from classically "liberal" and many in the GOP are anything but "conservative." Doesn't this lead to a need to discuss issues in terms beyond party affiliation? In fact, Michael's subsequent comment with the link to a profile on Bill Kauffman underscores how limited any political discussion is if it limits itself to Dem vs. GOP rhetoric.

Again, FWIW I find the polar liberal/conservative balance beam view of politics so hopelessly simplified and distorted as to be fundamentally meaningless. There are political ideas and attitudes associated with Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Theists ... a long, long list of political philosophies may inform a particular POV. If we only, or primarily, discuss politics in terms of battles between Democrats and Republicans, don't we cede victory at the outset to the status quo in which the two entrenched parties serve the interests of the elite?

Posted by: Chris White on December 21, 2008 10:26 AM



Incidently, Upstate Guy, this is the reason why conservatism makes more sense when one gets older.

Huh, that's interesting as I spent most my early life as a staunch conservative republican and as I've grown, become more educated and learned more about the world I see that the facts are "liberals" have done more good and at a lower costs than those who claim to be conservative ever had. Have they been perfect? Absolutely not, but in the end we do always come out a little more ahead both socially AND fiscally when the government's been more blue than red.

That's why I don't ascribe to a single philosophy anymore....I consider myself socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Given the choices I have, though, I prefer to lean towards helping blow up the roadblocks that stand in the way of the largest number of people, even if it means I have to pay a little more in taxes.

I guess that's where your concept of "older means more conservative" comes from. Typically, as folks get older, they get more and more scared of the world around them. They also typically have larger incomes and are more likely to believe they've "earned" it and shouldn't have to share. So, they vote for Republicans who will spend large amounts of money to protect them from unseen fears and make sure the money comes from the poor instead of their own pockets.

Posted by: Upstate Guy on December 22, 2008 10:35 AM






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