Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama is missing the point about bank bonuses

The president-elect is right about one thing: executives at failed or failing banks should not receive bonuses this year.

Obama said bank executives should make sacrifices because so many other people are struggling as the nation's economy slips further. Some financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, the Swiss bank UBS and the British bank Barclays, have said they aren't handing out annual bonuses to top executives, and Obama encouraged more to follow.

"I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers," Obama said, "the least you can do is say, 'I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times.'"
But the withholding (rather than the forgoing) of bank bonuses this year has nothing to do with affecting a sense of solidarity with their rank-and-file employees.

Bank executives should not receive bonuses this year because they have not earned them.

A bonus is a reward for extraordinary performance. Granted, the destruction of a company like Citi Group is an extraordinary thing, but only a lunatic or a bank CEO, apparently, would consider the act worthy of reward.

The executives who led the American economy to the brink of insolvency have not even earned their salaries this year, much less the multi-million dollar gifts to which they seem to think they are entitled.

As they come hat in hand to the American people begging for a bailout, these people should not be thinking about bonuses. They should be worried about keeping their jobs.

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