Sunday, February 8, 2009

Life on the Street

It's been a rough past few months for Wall Street: first the massive layoffs, then the almost total meltdown of the financial industry and now this. The average Joe is enraged at the huge year-end bonuses given to Wall Street executives: some $18.4 billion, according to available figures. The president himself called these figures 'shameful.' Ouch.

To appease the sans-culottes and put the capitalists in their place, the President has decreed a $500,000 per year pay cap for executives at firms receiving bailout money from the Feds. But the Wall Street fat cats still get to keep last year's bonuses. I mean, the government can't make them give it back. After all, the Feds only hold the keys to Wall Street's future--it's not like they're in charge or anything.

But really, let's put this in perspective. $18.4 billion is not that much money. We've been spending more than that in Iraq every two months. And those "luxuries" that have Joe six-pack so ticked off? Like that $50 million jet Citigroup wanted to buy? It's obvious that these guys just can't win. First they're castigated for sitting on all that bailout money. But the instant they try to put some money to use and save a few jobs in the struggling corporate jet industry, they're accused of self-indulgence and abusing government trust.

The President has said that from now on companies must disclose "all the perks and luxuries bestowed upon senior executives, and provide an explanation to taxpayers and to shareholders as to why these expenses are justified".

However, some businesses that provide perks are already pretty good at helping company execs cover their tracks. Former madam Kristin Davis said that when clients such as investment bankers at Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers paid for sex with corporate credit cards, the charges tended to show up on the company books as computer consulting and construction work.

I imagine Davis isn't the only madam who's this clever. And it's a good thing, too. Because openly spending money on sex is just the sort of "perk" those killjoys in Washington would frown on.

I don't get it: the sex industry is one of the few fields that's still hiring. I thought spending money to create jobs was the whole idea behind this still-nonexistent stimulus package.

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