Yesterday, I read in The New York Times that Wall Streeters fear if compensation is limited just a brain drain will result. The quote: "The sharpest financial minds will up and quit, the argument goes, and take their smarts with them at the very moment they’re needed to re-engineer their companies and restart the economy."
After reading the article I felt compelled to state the obvious, so forgive me, but here it is, my obvious:
1) Where are they going to go?
2) And, seriously, do these guys not get out of bed for less than a million dollars a year?
3) But then again, weren't these the bright lights that caused the financial crisis in the first place?
4) Also, wouldn't it be good for the world if smart people (not that they were so smart not to be fooled by their own arrogance) did things other than try to pretend like they know how to make a lot of money? Couldn't all that creativity be usefully applied elsewhere?
OK. So I've had my little know-it-all-let-me-wag-my-finger-fest. Now, I want to get serious because what these guys did, the hubris with which they acted and the selfish demands they are now making have real and irrevocable consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. For the human face of the foreclosure nightmare, there's George Packer's piece in the February 9-16 New Yorker. (You have to register to read it online.)
After describing the craziness of the Florida real estate world, the political shortsightedness of the state, its boom psychology and the consequences of job losses and foreclosure on many, Packer gets to the Hartzells. They are a hard-working, blue-collar family of four living in a small apartment and relying solely on each other for emotional support through the trials of unemployment and threatened homelessness, Packer writes:
"Dan knew that his plight was the result of rising unemployment in a bad economy that was shedding jobs. In Hillsborough County, forty-eight thousand people had no work. And yet, in pondering the causes of his trouble, Dan couldn't avoid the feeling that the world had singled him out for some terrible payback, that it must have been his fault, that the failure was his alone and he had no right to anyone else's help. It occurred to me that this was an attitude that no senior figure on Wall Street had adopted."
Packer is right. Shame on them.