The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, March 28, 2014, News

Not too many years ago, any news story about bonus money would've been about some 20-year-old baseball player – an up-and-coming superstar getting $100,000 or so on top of his salary as an extra incentive to join the Yankees, Giants, or whatever team. Sportswriters dubbed them: "bonus babies."

How quaint. These days, stories about bonus money don't elicit cheers, for they feature some of society's least admirable people: Wall Street bankers. Far from superstars, they can be subpar performers or even what amounts to syndicate bosses overseeing everything from fraud to money laundering. Yet, in the first part of each year, we witness this cluster of greedmeisters quaffing Champagne, laughing uproariously, and shouting, "It's bonus time, baby!"

This year, even though the Wall Street bosses have presided over a 30% drop in their banks' profits, they've extracted a 15% raise in overall bonus money, totaling a ridiculous $27 billion. That averages out to $165,000 in extra pay to each Wall Street banker. But averages deceive, for thousands of lower-level bankers are given a dab, while those up in the executive suites make off with the bulk of the heist.

Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, for example, didn't just grab a 15% increase in bonus pay, but nearly three times that. His total haul was nearly $18 million. Then there's Jamie Dimon, boss of JPMorgan Chase. He had a really terrible year in 2013, forcing his shareholders to shell out some $22 billion in penalties for a long rap sheet of illegalities. Still, Dimon took a 74% hike in bonus money this year – a cool $18.5 million.

In a time when the 90% majority of Ameri­cans see their income falling you'd think Wall Street might show a bit of modesty.

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