October 15th, 2009
11:20 AM GMT
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LONDON, England (CNN) - Just over a year ago, the heart of the financial system nearly stopped beating. The collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a massive collapse in confidence, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and an unprecendented response by governments and central banks.

Now given J.P. Morgan's best earnings in two years and the announcement of massive profits at Goldman Sachs, one has to ask: Crisis, what crisis?

Especially if you look at compensation levels. According to the Wall Street Journal, staff at major U.S. banks and securities firms will make as much as $140 billion this year - a record high - more than the previous peak of 2007.

Now there's nothing new about big amounts of money being earned on Wall Street. But given that we the taxpayer funded the bailout of Wall Street, and will be paying for it for generations, it does beg the question about sharing the pain with Main Street.

To be fair to J.P. Morgan Chase, it didn't get caught up in some of the reckless behavior that other big players on Wall Street did.

Goldman Sachs is another extremely well run bank, but has become the poster child for Wall Street's perceived greed, what one writer described as "a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."

Its expected bonus pool this year, some $23 billion, hardly seems like a chastened Wall Street. It's a fair target because it was bailed out by government, and that makes it fair game for criticism.

Business may be rebounding smartly for Wall Street but until Main Street's pain is over, Wall Street may want to think twice about paying hefty compensation.

What do you think?

soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Joseph

    I totally agree.
    The greedy and egotistical behavior of the key individuals in these organizations led to the crisis.
    The ongoing belief that "as long as I don't get caught I can do anything I want", doesn't really work anymore.
    Their behavior has had far reaching impacts on individuals who are not going to benefit from the bonuses that are going to be paid.
    I have also heard, "you can't keep the best people if you don't pay them the best". If these are the "best" people I would hate to see what would happen if the worst took over. Let them look for jobs somewhere else.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  2. Ricardo Rodrigues

    This is a clear-cut case of moral hazard; after the turmoil created by the demise of Lehman Brothers, big (American) banks know that the US government will never again let a big bank fail – so it's back to business and to hell with public opinion.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Colin Jack

    I think it's digusting that the banks are even considering this. Any profits that would normally be paid out as a bounus should be given back to the tax payers that bailed them out. I cannot believe that the governments are allowing this.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  4. J Maynard

    Frankly, its obscene. There now seems to be no political will to do anything about it other than the usual statements from politicians saying how bad it all is and how it shouldn't happen. No one seems to have the power or inclination to upset Wall Street and London by imposing new and hard hitting regulation on them.
    Goldman's et all, must all be laughing their heads off at the thought of what they have gotten away with.

    How has a PRIVATE Bank such as Goldmans been allowed to get to the point where it cannot be allowed to fail? How can one organisation have the power of Financial life and death of the worlds Markets in such a way that it's failiure mean catastrophe to people unconnected to it, but it's success can only be shared by those within it's walls?

    October 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Petr

    This is a pretty good joke. Don´t telt me that anyone ever believed that the money´s gonna get any different! Of course the administration pretends it wants to have a say. What else are they supposed to say? But bankers will always get their huge piece of cake. They always leave a bite for the politicians to chew on. To expect a change is naive.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Stephen

    I think that it is time to stop letting the people that reclessly ran out economy into the ground and got paid to do so, collect bonuses at all. They got the bonuses as they were putting us into the loop for paying off their F***-ups. This will continue to appen until we say no more. I figure they collect a heafty paycheck anyways as they drive around in their BMW's or are driven to work by their chaufer, eating at the nicest and most expensive of restaurants amd buying the Armani suits. All with bonuses that were collected as we were involuntarily made accountable to pay off their creation of debt.

    Thanks to all you F****** wealthhounds out there who knowingly made WE the People responsible for your debt.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  7. T Bolger

    No bonuses should be paid out in now publicly owned (or partially publicly owned) banks until the tax payers have been fully refunded. How is this even being considered?

    Yes bankers work hard, yes many of them have worked long hours this year etc etc. So have the rest of us. Just because they can earn huge amounts for their companies does not mean that they can forget the only reason any of them still have a job is the unfathomable amount of debt that will be carried by generations of tax payers, most of whom don't earn 5 or 6 figure bonuses and have to live off their salaries. Bankers should be doing the same – at least until the companies are back in the black. With profits this large it won't take too long!

    October 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  8. Fuh Que Alle

    People, the recession was caused by greedy BUYERS, not LENDERS. Regular 'Main Street' people like you lied about their incomes, projected earnings and prospects of paying off mortgages to banks, and the banks fell victim to those lies when the borrowers could not in fact pay off debts they never should have taken out. Get your head out of your rectums people, it's YOUR fault and no matter how hard you try, it will be your RESPONSIBILITY to get things back on track.

    October 15, 2009 at 1:18 pm |


    October 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  10. louise

    Islamic finance!!

    October 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  11. David Qualey

    The western governments have no balls at all. The USA is leading the pack and to wait for them to set a "good" standard for citizen trust or eliminating bonuses for "the best", is like waiting for the Titanic to resurface. The "Best" screwed the whole thing up and so now they're supposed to be necessary to rebuild the pile of s... they started? What's the next joke folks?

    October 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  12. Jack Swain

    They have a right to pay out bonuses, but not with bailout money. For every dime given out for bonuses an equal amount should be returned immediately to the taxpayers who funded them in the biggest con game in history of the planet. We should demand the money back from every bank and company that received bailout money if they are now in the black, or feel they can give out bonuses to their employees.

    October 15, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  13. MichaelSC

    They should share the pain. But they will not.

    Just like the health-insurance companies block the reform, they will block that pain. Oh yeah, they take the taxpayers money as well as the customers money and give nothing in return.
    They are just greedy and have enough money to buy the politicians of both parties. Thats the sad part.
    Capitalism for the middle-class only works with a little control by the government.

    October 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  14. jeff

    It's like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. This Christmas I'm fighting back, and getting these MerryRecession.com

    October 15, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  15. Charles

    It is sickening to see that less than a year ago, every bank in the country "we were told" on the verge of bankruptcy and total destruction. Where are the profits coming from? where did they find the money to dispense billions in bonuses. How many corporate IPO did they broker or advises in the quarter to make the billions they claim.

    I am left wondering about the integrity and validity of the accounting firms reports. Are they the culprits, accomplice in the crime. they need to be investigated too.

    At the turn of the century Russia too was a very rich country and out of it came the Bolchehvik revolution. Are we heading this way?

    October 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  16. T

    I highly recommend that most of you understand what you are talking about before making ignorant comments. That said, here we go:

    Colin Jack: Goldman did pay back the government, along with 5% interest, and additional money on the warrants the gov't held

    Everyone else: this is how the compensation structure works. The firm made a lot of money so the people who brought that money into the firm should be paid accordingly, regardless of what is going on with the rest of the economy. It's a pay-for-performance culture and clearly they have performed extremely well.

    The jealousy from the public is disgusting. What these employees will be paid has absolutely no effect on your well-being. I'm willing to bet that if you brought millions of dollars into your firm that you would want a nice "bonus" (which is really deferred comp) as well.

    October 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm |

    i am ubder the impresion that the bail-out money to banks was a loan. if the money was a loan, and was paid back, the banks can do as they please. let the stock holders complain

    October 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  18. Fred

    The first who should get a bonus is the governement who prevented the collapse!
    it would help minimizing the national debt!
    Rather than some traders who take risks with other people's money...
    Banks keep the bonuses and share the debt they created.
    there is something wrong in the rules.

    October 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Capsaicin

    Unethical, unpatriotic, even sociopathic, to hurt poor Americans for your own gain with nary a second thought. Where did these folks grow up; what did their parents teach them about life?

    I can understand that the purpose of business is to make a profit in whatever legal and moral way possible. 'It's the purpose of government and regulation to make capitalisms survivalism work for the betterment of all' they say.

    What is disingenuous is that the legal and moral limits are always pushed and skirted, even broken, and a bunch of that money is used to PR the public that 'regulation is bad' and guarantee that the government regulation is toothless.

    October 15, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  20. Patrick

    THIS is just plain wrong. How can the governments allow this highway robbery to happen? These banks were bailed out with our tax-dollars, and now they *the banks) feel entitled to take bonuses? NO! That bonus pool should go back to the government and to the people, because it rightly belongs to us!

    October 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  21. John

    The one thing we learn from History is that, We dont learn from history.

    The first world war needed a second world war, before organisations like the UN, NATO and others we're formed.
    There had to be a genocide in Germany, and Bosnia before the world truly paid attention to both wars.
    and we had to see the Artic visibly melt, before we took global warming seriously.

    Whats my point? not enough millions of people have lost their jobs, livelyhoods and some their very lives around the world in this global recession, for us to truly wake up, and deal with coporate greed.

    October 15, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  22. james

    The financial sector has always been "creator of individual mega-wealth" for it's financial officers, this is nothing new. However, given the past years collapse, it is appauling that these institutions could comprehand handing out bonuses at this time. I have no problem with rewarding sucessful officers who made their compaines money, but this is unfortunately the problem that was created by our wonderful electorial on the hill for NOT putting stipulations on the bailout money. Quite simply, any financial that recieved bailout money should have been restricted from handing out any profit bonuses until the taxpayers has been paid back. THEN and only then should wall street have been allowed to handing out billions of $ of bonus to any ofit's officers... just my $.02

    October 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  23. Vincent

    How many of these Banks that are giving out big bonuses laid people off this year? How many of them are denying raises and bonuses to their rank-and-file workers (especially IT workers!)- how many IT workers from these companies were stripped of their only source of income while their jobs were outsourced to foriegn nations. Does the cost savings incurred by all these hardships laid on the rank-and-file exceed the executive bonus pool? Should that money have been put to better use protecting people's jobs, and keeping money circulating within the AMERICAN economy rather than tossing it away to a foriegn economy? It is something to ponder. Never underestimate the power of naked greed.

    October 15, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  24. Banker

    Let's put away the torches, folks.
    - 95% of bankers had nothing to do with subprime anything
    - Bankers pay huge amounts of taxes as well... guess why NYC has a 'revenue' crisis?
    - Bankers lost huge amounts of money... they get paid in stock which ranges from worthless to 50% down
    - If people paid back what they borrowed, there wouldn't be a crisis

    October 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  25. Sevros

    Shut up and do as you are told! If we tell you that we need more money, you should give it to us immediately. We do not care, where you are going to live and what you are going to eat. Resistance is futile. We control all governments.

    October 15, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  26. Willa

    I am going to play devil's advocate. Goldman Sachs has paid back its TARP funds so it is allowed to pay bonuses. So let's take that point off the table. This so-called "best of the best" constitutes maybe 6-10% of the global workforce of your typical investment bank – so this percentage is being awarded the big money. The rest of the company's staff is receiving a small percentage of their overall salary as a bonus. Keep in mind not everyone makes millions working at an investment bank as a salary.

    Second if you want to start hanging banks out to dry on the issue of bonuses, take a look at medical and home insurance companies that hand out bonuses for DROPPING the policies for immoral reasons.

    October 15, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  27. Tom Buaer

    What about Islamic finance rules (not allowed to take provisions)? – This to be said by a person who has not much to do with Islam normally! To ask for such bonuses is totally set aside of ethical and responsible business. In earlier times these people would be hanged at lamppost by the French and others – as history proves. That politicians do not react – this also is very much worrying – they represent the people and shold listen to them and arrange action! This is why we vote them!

    October 15, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  28. andrew nicholas

    If you recall Goldman Sachs never asked for bail out money from the government. They and others like Morgan Stanley were require by the government to take the money so that the market did not see which banks really needed the money. Goldman sachs and Morgan Stanley received 10 billion each and have long since paid it back to the government. The government made handsome returns on these loans. Goldmans and morgan stanley should be free to get on with life.

    October 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm |
  29. dan

    We need to stop categorizing all 'bankers' into one basket. The majority of those 'bankers' receiving bonuses had nothing to do with the units within their banks that generated the significant losses.

    To punish these bankers by withholding their bonuses (a standard component of Wall Street pay packages) is akin to punishing those 'innocent' people on main street who also had nothing to do with the banks erroneous decsion making process.

    October 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  30. ghost geezer

    Well, of course. It's all charade.

    If it is not, then prove it.

    October 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  31. Humberto Castilla, Managua, Nicaragua

    Can the US Congress pass a law to make those greedy people pay some type of insurance so that if they are responsible for another crisis like the 2008 Wall Street crisis only they -and not the whole world- would have to pay?

    October 15, 2009 at 8:37 pm |
  32. Dennis

    And what's wrong with that. If they have made record profits, why should they not earn their incentives.

    Go ahead buys... You deserve it, if you have honestly worked for it.

    October 15, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  33. Peter Hall

    All of the money allocated to bonuses, at all of the banks, should be removed by government mandate, to set up a national fund for providing financing for small/medium sized companies in technology and manufacturing, ie. the companies that create the wealth that the banks squander, who are being starved of investment credit, by the banks, to get their businesses growing again after being brought to their knees by the very bankers that are again enjoying excessive compensation.

    October 15, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  34. Caltech

    It was to be expected. Too much money that can be made with speculation.

    The incredible part is that our new President, that was xpected to change the world, is unable to come up with anything that will prevent the rapacious bankers to continue filling their pockets without shame.

    Looks like he is not the Messiah atfer all. Just another caracter that is looking after his own interests . .

    At least, with his predecessor, we all knew that he was simply weak in the brain. Obama was supposed to be smart ! ! !

    October 15, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  35. Michael

    The current denizens of Wall Street are the New Robber Barons, stealing every bit of public money that they can get their hands on. Everyone in the business is on the take, and they actually think it is perfeclty okay. It is time for America to make it perfectly clear that it is not, and that they need to stop stealing and get back to moving money where it needs to go to sustain the economy, and that that does not mean buyig the biggest boat/house/whatever personal luxury they can.

    And to think, they don't actually produce *anything*: they ride on the backs of the workers who actually create product, looking down on those workers every step of the way, as if the New Robber Barons are the better ones.

    October 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm |
  36. Michael

    Dear "Fuh Que Alle" – So, someone making millions of dollars a year because of their great financial acumen was 'had' by a bunch of low-level cons that simply lied about their salaries and whatnot. And that is why multi-billion dollar enterprises were laid low. If that is the case, why would we want those same million-dollar-makers to continue running those companies, given that those companies' failures will drag us all down with them? Oh wait...now I get it..."Fuh Que Alle"...of course, you are simply one of them, and just want to keep on screwing us.

    October 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  37. goldmanbaker007

    heheheheheheh gleeeee! bonus time - hehehehhhe

    October 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  38. Bruce Wayne

    If they have profits then they should pay it all back with % as the people do to the banks. Only right to do so. Why not right?

    October 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  39. concerned father

    Our goverment is getting way too much power. Why don't you report on the fiscal irresponablity that our representatives in congress get away with instead of bonus that are earned by hard working americans. Why don't you report the expense that we pay every week to fly Nacny Pelosi to and from her home state......why don't you??

    Ken Lewis at BOA as worked for the same company for years and built this bank into the largest one in the country by working hard and now he is being told to give back his salary. Who has the right to be the pay master, this is scary folks. I wish Ken would have told the Czar no way!

    You liberals voted this administration in and in three more years you might realize just how many of you rights you let them take away from you while spending trillions of dollars with nothing to show for it but higher taxes and massive inflation.

    October 16, 2009 at 2:58 am |
  40. sonja

    Goldman would be dead if the government hadn't bailed them out. Sure they may have paid back the initial loan, but quite frankly the amount of liquidity that is being poured into the system is what's helping to generate these revenues that they are basing their bonuses on. Where's that liquidity coming from, the taxpayer.
    Maybe Goldman should be paying us bonuses!!

    October 16, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  41. Lim Boon Chuan

    Too much too soon is an understatement. They need to vomit out all that they have lost for the tax payers, only then do they have the right to a single dollar! It is obscene to see such pay hikes that is built upon the thrift of the majority of the population.

    October 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  42. Andreas, Stockholm

    This obsession with bank bonus payouts is a media spectacle because noone wants to tackle the real problem – that of the US Federal Reserve, rating agencies and regulators. The beginning of last year's crash came about when non-US investors realized they had acquires securities worth only a fraction of what they were rated for – in other words an enormous fraud. The only reason the Treasury backed up AIG with an almost unlimited backstop was that if the CDS obligations sold to mostly non-US banks would not be honored it would have cut off the US banking system entirely and most definitely it would have affected US federal bonds. Think about that for a moment and imagine what today would look like with that kinds of scenario instead. Bank bonuses are not the real problem here, the unscrupulous securities market is and needs to be seriously overhauled if we are to avoid a similar breakdown in the future. The three big US rating agencies need to be torn down and replaced with an unbiased and completely transparent clearinghouse system.

    October 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  43. Lim Boon Chuan

    I think the instant gratification bonus scheme of the entire banking industry should be curtailed. Bankers may be looking at developing the present and discounting the future as their incomes depend on what happen today and not tomorrow. There should be checks in place such that a certain portion of bonuses be withheld until a few years later to counter check upon bankers sacrificing the future profits for the present bonuses.

    October 17, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  44. Mark Holden

    Banks are run by bankers for the benefit of bankers.
    They are owned by shareholders; for the benefit of bankers it seems.

    October 18, 2009 at 7:46 am |
  45. Per Holmlund


    It looks like USA has become USC, United States of Corruption. We have the Madoffs just running away with the money. Yesterday we got information of the hedge fund with a direct line to corporate America. And then we have the Morgans and the Sachs with direct lines to the White House. The latter a group where the smart ones are moving like a yoyo between Wall Street and Washington.

    And with scandals it is as it is with a floating iceberg. You only see 20 percent of it. Most of the iceberg is hidden under the water. But this is the result when capitalism has been marginalized by corporate socialism. Corporate socialism, capitalism strangled by oligopoly and monopoly. Corporate socialism that shines strongest in finance and something that will shine stronger tomorrow than today with the development we just have seen.

    Oligopoly and Monopoly that always corrupts over time, in politics as well in economies, and where the I ideology shines. It is not how I made the money but that I have reached the top that counts. If I reached the top If I have the right and power to everything. And everything includes bonuses which, simply, are a result of the right, White, telephone book.

    October 18, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  46. Jonathon

    Hello Main street commoners,

    I am a director at Goldman sachs and I will be getting about 10 million in bonuses this year (almost close to the 2007 levels).

    First, Goldman was forced to take govt money. It did take the money but returned it as soon as the govt would take it back.

    Second, we make profits under the existing financial system (it might have its flaws and that is debatable) and we take home a slice of the profit we bring in. So it is pure meritocracy.

    Third, I am not an American and I believe in the capitalistic society. So before whining about being the poor US tax payer, realize that you have certainly reaped lots of benefits from the other parts of the world!!

    Now it is time to pay for your yesterdays life.

    October 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  47. SC Wood

    Well, if the banks run out of money again by paying out too large of bonuses to employees taking too large and risky bets then they can just ask the President to print and give them another TRILLION dollars and all will be hunky dory again.

    Why worry?

    October 19, 2009 at 1:24 am |
  48. Calvin

    Banks such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have no obligation to curb their yearly bonuses this year. It makes very little sense for ignorant individuals to criticize these bonuses. These firms don't owe you anything, they've already paid back everything owed and the accrued interest that was on these loans. They have no obligation to curb bonuses, and we have no right to tell them what they can and cannot pay their bankers.

    Citi and AIG, two firms that haven't paid back their TARP money, however, need to consider how they are spending taxpayer's money. The government, indeed, is a preferred shareholder in these firms and should have some sort of weight in the decision-making process. While preferred stockholders have had no voting rights in the traditional sense, I think Citi and AIG should be cognizant that they still have TARP money and should spend wisely.

    These banks have made some poor lending and investment decisions in the past decade, but it's important to remember that our banking system is critical in the maintenance of our capitalistic society. Without global investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citi, global commerce would come to a standstill and firms would not be able to grow their businesses, engage in strategic decision making, or restructure. I think that users need a fundamental understanding of global finance before such criticisms arise.

    October 19, 2009 at 7:11 am |
  49. gogo

    Yesterday I saw movie The final destination. It was about Obama and his administration were trying escape crisis.

    October 19, 2009 at 7:54 pm |
  50. Money-money-money, Money~


    "Hello Main street commoners"?
    "Now it is time to pay for your yesterdays life."?

    Just who do you think blows more money, Mr. 10-million-bonus jerkwad, you or me? I have always been careful with my money, and considered both the long-term and short-term values of a decision. While I agree with many of the previous comments that suggest that people should receive the bonuses they deserve, I would disagree on what people "deserve"?

    I don't particularly care if someone make obscene amount of money if their choices–which can affect my own money, life, and livelihood–are actually "the best". From my perspective, that includes responsibly considering the long-term and the short-term, and the financial sector's inner culture should be adjusted to reflect that.

    Oh, and regarding that smug sense of superiority you have going on? I think you should know you're not as necessary as you think. You seem to believe that because your salary is rare that you're rare, too. But if you died tomorrow, you'd be replaced just as quickly as the rank-and-file workers I suspect you look down on.


    Your Source Of Income.

    October 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  51. b gee

    I am NOT defending the greedy BUT.....Has anyone ever thought this: most of the super-rich CEOs now got to their position BECAUSE of good education. In short, many of them were the campus GEEKS and NERDS that endured many years of TORMENT, INSULTS, and BULLYING...from grade school, high school, college, etc.and DELAYED THEIR GRATIFICATION...

    While many of those struggling now, were BULLIES who we're "too cool for school"., worked odd jobs for INSTANT GRATIFICATION (ie nice car, alcohol, women, clothes, concert tickets, drugs, cigarettes,...). And now, their livelihoods DEPEND on the decisions of these NERDS they used to BULLY.

    Is it poetic justice? Is this nature's or God's way of rewarding hard work?

    October 25, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  52. jl

    Please. Do you or dont you want the best and brightest running the banks?

    Pay peanuts and you'll get monkeys.

    October 27, 2009 at 5:36 am |
  53. Keith

    It’s a trillion dollar ponzi scheme involving the Banks, the Gov and the Fed. Some are in it for power, some for money, and some just want to get rid of a lot of us (the common folk). Watch and pay close attention people.

    October 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  54. Tim Clarke

    No, I do not want the best and brightest running the banks, We have seen what it leads to. It never used to be like that and should not be now. The people who run banks should be sensible, prudent, thrifty, and careful with our money, in other words peple that you can bank on! This greedy, smug, we are the best, live for today culture in the banks is not what baning should be about. Banking is about risk and reward, minimising the former and then maximising the latter.

    October 30, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  55. peter browne

    It is unbelievable that bonus money is being paid to people whom would have been un employed had it not been for the taxpayer, whoi is also their ultimate customer.

    November 1, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  56. Anthony St. John

    How I Almost Single-handedly Topsy-turvied the
    European Banking System
    and Grew to be the Most Hated Individual at Bahnhofstrasse 45
    in Zürich, Switzerland...

    Jean-Paul Sartre, my “spiritual” father and one of my most appreciated philosophical mentors, once speculated that Life is absurd. The more I advance in age, the more I find myself chuckling at the ridiculousness of human nature and the members of this species which never fail to provide me with oodles to laugh at and even cry for. And my twenty-one years in the north of Northamerica, my one year in the south of Southeast Asia, my eight years in the south of Northamerica, my eight years in the north of Southamerica, and now my twenty-five years in the south of Europe, have altogether given me an astonishing perspective of my favourite object of learning.

    Remember the early months of 2001 when the DotComBubble was hissing its eventual demise, and thousands upon thousands of pensioners, investors, stockholders, and whomever were being apportioned a trauma that could somehow be contrasted with the heinous aerial attacks that were to come in September? Remember the panicking? Was there some sort of association between these two devastating occurrences? Had the DotComBubble been fed a bunch of funny money/laundered money/dirty money to such an enormous extent that stock exchanges all over the world had no choice but to halt the 1929-like insanity which was threatening the very survival of the Capitalistic System? Were the assaults in New York and Washington some kind of fluke vendetta and not the workings of a well-entrenched “terrorist organization” bent on conquering the world?

    Very shortly after the horrendous acts of violence perpetrated on 11 September 2001 on one of the most prestigious pillars of the Capitalistic System and the biggest bunker in the world, Bush I, ex-Skull & Boner, ex-Congressman, ex-ambassador to China, ex-CIA director, ex-ambassador to the United Nations, ex-President of the United States, appeared on one of right-wing Italian Silvio Berlusconi’s television news programs (telegiornale), and hugging the diehard demagogue, let us know that SB was Bush I’s friend, quod erat demonstrandum, a chum of the United States of America. SB gloated and bloated. Bush I, the first stupid one and father of the second stupid one, Bush II, strained his smiles. After that, off he went.

    The next day, the Corriere della Sera reported that the night before Bush I, on a private jet, had flown from Milano to—you guessed it!—Lugano, Switzerland, one of the most-visited pirates’ coves for secret banking in Europe and that pet place of moneyed, naughty Italian business people.

    Miraculously inspired, I put 2 + 2 together and came up with 4. I did not, as thousands upon thousands of untrustworthy Italian businessmen and businesswomen did, put 2 + 2 together to come up with 7 or 11! The United States’ government realized from the start that it had to trace the sources of this shattering paroxysm in the Capitalistic System, and Swiss bankers were “softened” to be “persuaded” to empty their bags with the goods (secret bank account numbers and figures)—and all of them! Not only would a huge investigation begin to smoke out the executors of the 9-11 tragedy, a more considerable attempt was to be made in order to stall a possible collapse of Milton Friedman’s most prized fantasy. Much was at stake, and we all know that no holds were barred. The United States’ reaction was so vulgar, one had to construe that something more dangerous was going on—even more perilous than the causes and effects of the heartbreaking deaths of three thousand people in The Big Apple. The post-9/11 vocalizations by Bush II were filled with venom and revenge, and partially revealed to the whole world the spiteful instincts of the once somewhat respected nation. Later, actions would speak louder than words.

    Italy, as usual, laid silent, almost asleep. No one picked up on the connection between the Bush I squeeze on SB and the minutely-printed blurb about the air travelling of Bush I to Schweiz. In fact, at the time I reminded myself that Italians read less newspapers than the citizens of any other country in Europe, and fifty percent of the homes in The Boot, the focolare domestico of Dante Alighieri, possesses not one book! How could Italian businessmen and businesswomen be hip to the extraordinary shakings up in process at the time? Someone had to tell them. Somebody had to reveal to them the sudden enlightenment that had befallen me from out of the blue. I volunteered.

    I try to be noble. It is not easy. I have performed many acts of nobility in my life, and I am as proud as punch about them. It would not be thorny for me to be dignified at the drop of a hat. I am used to being so. My idea was simply this: To inform the off guard Italian business moguls, sono furbi, of the threat to their patrimonies, and rather than become a “co-conspirator” to their acts of profound stupidity, I would impress them with the fact that in returning their moolah to the Republic of Italy they would enjoy sleepy nights, contribute to the efficacy of their nation’s economic reputation, and help to instil in their fellow countrymen the sense that—as JFK (Ted Sorensen!) would have said—they should ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country. Wishful thinking. (When I told this story to chief accountant Giuseppe Rovelli, on trial for his alleged participation in Italy’s infamous PARMALAT scandal, his eyes bulged and, before he had changed the subject, GR flashed a very wry smile my way!) One day I feel like Robin Hood! Another day I feel like Zorro! I have never had so much fun! My dear reader, don’t you envy me?

    As they say in the Suisse Alps, a “snowball effect” ensued and rather than following my advice, the characters who had indicated to me that they had secret accounts in Svizzera and those that I had suspected had, started transferring their goodies not to Italian depositories, but shifted them to other furtive bays located both in Europe and around the world. I was truly disappointed. The billions and billions of these thousands and thousands of unlawful hoarders were to remain ex patria and would never see the light of their just beginnings. What is worse, the connivers passed the word to their compatriots in the four corners of the globe—birds of a feather flock together!—and an enormous “transmission hemorrhage,” a “run” as they used to say, afflicted banks, mostly Swiss, throughout Europe and the world. (Have you ever seen the Alka-Seltzer complexion of Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank?) All of this…Enough! Enough!! Enough!!! Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!

    Will someone please nominate me for
    the “£$%&/^ Nobel Prize for Economics
    and get it over with!

    Authored by Anthony St. John in Calenzano, Italy
    The Ides of March

    * * *

    November 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  57. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    Great Todd,
    I just want to let you know that I have tremendous love and respect for you and the entire network worldwide and I wish to express my felicitations to you all Today on the anniversary of American Independence.GOD BLESS AMERICA.Cheers and stay blessed.
    It's me,
    Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    July 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  58. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    Methinks the bottom line is that business is picking up on Wall Street and the bail-out was successful.Like you said, fat paychecks are not unusual or strange on Wall Street and I say emphatically that they're squeaky clean.
    No one should be aggrieved or sulk about the earnings on Wall Street.It's time critics stopped complaining and they should get cracking.In due course Main Street too would feel the positive effects of the improvements on Wall Street.Besides taxpayers pay for other services too.It's nothing new.Cheers.

    July 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  59. roger debbaut

    Its a slap in the face of the taxpayers. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.Just disgusting.

    September 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

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