As the Dow Jones Industrial Average celebrates its triumphant return to 10,000 and Wall Street’s infamous, massive bonuses return, The Los Angeles Times was left wondering Thursday morning: “Where’s the outrage?”
As if to answer their question, filmmaker Michael Moore made an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, explaining to interviewer Matt Lauer that such numbers are echoing from America’s financial sector because bankers are being rewarded for “burning down our economy.”
“Michael, let me make sure people understand this,” began Lauer. “A Wall Street Journal report says that Wall Street firms are going to pay out about $140 billion in bonuses this year. A year before the economic meltdown, 2007, they paid out about $130 billion. So, it’s gone up. How’s this news going to go over with people like in your home state, Michigan, that just found out unemployment is at 15.3 percent in that state?”
“Eventually, people aren’t going to take it,” Moore deadpanned. “I don’t know how many gated communities these people — who are taking this $140 billion in bonuses — I don’t know how many castles with moats around them they can build, but I’ll tell ya something. There’s an anger that’s building out there.
“I mean, Matt, these people, they burned down our economy. They completely crashed it. And now, they’re getting rewarded for it. Look, if I burned down your house today, and then tomorrow you sent me a check, thanking me … I mean, it’s absolutely insane that we allow this to happen. But, not surprising, because that’s our capitalist system. They can get away with it, ’cause it’s legal, they can make whatever they want to make, they can take whatever they want to take.”
The Journal‘s report (subscriber content) studied securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end.
Total compensation and benefits at publicly traded firms that the Journal analyzed were on track to increase 20 percent from last year’s 117 billion dollars, and to top 2007’s 130 billion dollar payout.
This year, employees at the companies will earn an estimated 143,400 dollars on average, up almost 2,000 dollars from 2007 levels, it said.
Financial firms have been boosted by a stronger stock market, thawing credit market, a resurgence in deal making and the continuing effects of various government aid programs, even though the economy remains sluggish and unemployment is near double digit levels.
The rebound also reflected growing confidence by some Wall Street firms that they can again pay top dollar for top talent, especially once they have repaid the taxpayer-funded capital infusions they received at the height of the crisis, the Journal said.
“Okay, let’s see,” said Moore. “Let’s pay the best people — these people, who helped to wreck and ruin our economy — let’s pay them for what they did. This is absolutely crazy logic. There are 14,000 people every day that lose their health insurance. As you said in your report, there’s 15 million people out of work. There’s a home that’s foreclosed in this country every seven and a half seconds. Now, sooner or later people are going to say, ‘That’s it. That’s enough.'”
He continued: “You said that Bank of America is going to hand out $30 billion in bonuses? You know how much TARP money — bailout money, our money — they got? $30 billion. That’s our money! This, I … If people just sit by and let this happen, then we deserve everything we get.”
This video is from NBC’s Today Show, broadcast Oct. 15, 2009.