The populist side of me says, “Hell yeah! Make ’em pay for the deed they’ve done to us!”, I can’t run a company into the round and expect to be paid for it. The other side of me does sympathize a little, I mean these folks have had the rug pulled out from under them, albeit in retaliation for what they’ve done, but still. While I’m for fair compensation for the work one does, sometimes it gets a little out of control and our priorities get severely out of whack. I found this quote a interesting view that somewhat encompasses how I feel.
Wall Street people are not moral idiots (most of them, anyway)—it’s not as if they’ve never pondered the fairness of their enormous salaries. “One of my relatives is a doctor, we’re both well-educated, hardworking people. And he certainly didn’t make the amount of money I made,” a former Bear Stearns senior managing director tells me. “I would be the first person to tell you his value to society, to humanity, is far greater than anything that went on in the Bear Stearns building.”
That said, he continues, “We’re in a hypercapitalistic society. No one complains when Julia Roberts pulls down $25 million per movie or A-Rod has a $300 million guarantee. We have ex-presidents who cash in on their presidencies. Our whole moral compass has shifted about what’s acceptable or not acceptable. Honestly, you can pick on Wall Street all you want, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s fair to say you ran your companies into the ground, your risk management is flawed—that is perfectly legitimate. You can lay criticism on GM or others. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Wall Street is paid too much.”
But the problem with this is that people do complain. I think Roberts (and many, many other actors) are far and beyond over paid – see Mel Gibson’s $1 billion divorce debacle, and A-Rod is not much better. The amount of compensation people are paid should not only be guaged by how hard they work, but by how they impact humanity. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters to name a few – folks who actually contribute to society should be making that level of pay, not someone who trades electronic money across the world.
I understand the necessity of free flow of capital, but, these guys managed to find a way to assign a value to something that was essentially valueless, nothing more than paper and electrons. Feel sorry because they can’t summer in the Hamptons? Nope. Feel sorry they have to get rid of the private jet and Bentley? Nope. When they come on down to the level of the other 99% of the country lives, walk a mile in our shoes, I might feel a little bit sorry for their meteoric fall, but not much.