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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
"It's Hard to Live on Just a Half Million a Year"

Wall Street Bonus Madness

by STANLEY HELLER

You created an economy that is so unstable that the bankruptcy of a few big firms would mean worldwide catastrophe.

Your policies lost the world $10 trillion on stock markets in the last month alone.

You’ve started a worldwide recession/depression that will go on for years.

So for a punishment we’re giving you $20 billion in bonuses.

No, this is not a Saturday Night Live gag. It’s what will happen this year in the good old U S of A. It’s all spelled out nicely on Bloomberg.com. The article by Christine Harper and Serena Saitto starts off by explaining that Merrill Lynch will hand out $6.7 billion in bonuses even though it has lost money for five straight quarters and saw its stock fall in value by 70%. (The company also sold itself off to the Bank of America.) $13 billion is being set aside at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Even some employees at Lehman Brothers will be given big fat end of the year envelopes even though the company has gone bankrupt.

Merrill Lynch is actually raising bonuses this year by a couple of thousands. They’ve laid off 3,000 people so even though the pot is smaller there’s more for the survivors to feast on. The average bonus will be well over 100K. The better off Wall St. companies will be giving twice that amount.

You see this is what is expected on Wall Street. If you want to keep your "talent" you have to reward them. Otherwise they will go to …..hmmm. The hedge funds are shedding jobs by the thousands. The investment banks are now bank holding companies and laying off like mad. Foreign companies can’t use them. Ah…if they don’t get the bonuses the talent will undoubtedly run off to big careers managing homeless shelters.

The article quotes Bill Coleman at the Massachusetts software firm Salaries.com as saying that Wall St. has created such an "obscene" standard of compensation that the big shots really believe "it’s hard to live on just a half million dollars a year." This does not appear to be much of an exaggeration. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported securities-industry employees averaged $400,000 a year in salary alone last year.

But how can the banks pay out so much money? Oh, I forgot, the US treasury is sending $700 billion into the banks to prop them up and hundreds of billions more to keep them "liquid". (as if bankers lived in deserts and were in constant danger of dehydration.)

This actually doesn’t have to happen. These flat world whiz kids have literally wrecked the world economy. We’re just at the beginning of the collapse. It’s funny how they are afraid to use the word "recession". The word "recession" was invented so they wouldn’t have to use the word "depression". Depression itself was in its day a non-threatening alternative for the older term for business bust, a "panic". Heck, why not just call it a "reverse upwards boom"?

The idea of basing world business on trillion feet high mountains of sliced and swapped debt is horse manure. We need completely new thinking, ideas for government owned banks to lend out money to worker-community corporations that actually produce things. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there with the technical and financial education to create such a system. They’ll be happy to do the work and you won’t have to pay them half a million apiece.

In the meantime, here’s a proposal. Some artist needs to come up with an angry vulgar graphic that can be emailed by the thousands to the Wall St. companies and to Congress along with a short sweet message in 50 size font:

"Not a cent of Wall Street bonuses this year. Not on my dime. Let those con artists feast on white bread and margarine. Use the billions to keep people in their homes."

STANLEY HELLER has started a website with the grand goal over reaching the average person by talking about economics in plain everyday language. It’s www.EconomicUprising.8k.com Contribute ideas at Stanley.Heller@yahoo.com