Matt Taibbi says everything I’ve been thinking regarding Wall Street compensation (but better):
Here’s the real problem with people like Jake DeSantis. Throughout this whole period, they never were able to connect the dots — to grasp the fact that when they skimmed a million here or a million there off the great rivers of capital that flowed through their offices, that that money came from somewhere, from someone. To them, it wasn’t someone else’s money, it was just money, and why shouldn’t they have it?
…For a guy like this, his worth as a human being is wrapped up in buying a bag of beans for $10 and selling it for $11. He states this like it’s a law of nature: he was a good equities-and-commodities trader, therefore he should make a lot of money.
Only a person with a habitually overinflated sense of self-worth could think he deserves a $700,000 retention bonus, even if it has to be paid by taxpayers, when in reality no one “deserves” that much money. It may be that some people do get paid that much, but most people who make that much money have enough sense to realize their cushy lifestyles are an accident of fate, of birth, of class, not something that is “supported” by some unwritten natural law of compensation.
Hey Jake, it’s not like you were curing cancer. You were a fucking commodities trader. Thanks to a completely insane, horribly skewed set of societal values that puts a premium on greed and severely undervalues selflessness, communal spirit and intellectualism — values that make millionaires out of people like you and leave teachers and nurses, the people who raise your kids and clean your parents’ bedpans, comparatively penniless — you made a lot of money.
Good for you. Consider yourself lucky. But your company went belly-up and broke, almost certainly thanks in part to you, and now you don’t get your bonus.
As I’ve said before, we need banks and Wall Street. But we don’t need these guys, and we don’t need to pay them so much. We should be rewarding people whose efforts result in some improvement in the human condition, as Taibbi notes, “Jake, it’s not like you were curing cancer. You were a fucking commodities trader.”
Kids, at least some of them anyway, dream of doing good things, helping other people. I realize along the way that we have to make compromises, that avenues become closed off, and so on. But a kid who wants to grow up and cure disease will probably turn out alright. But do you know what we call a kid who wants to push piles of toxic financial shit around? An incipient sociopath.
Except right now, the kid who wants to cure disease will be played for a sucker.