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How the Other Half Lives Starring Wall Street Second Tier and Romney

A Modest Suggestion, photo by Matt Stoller

The New York Times has another article about the shabby treatment of junior members of the financial oligarchy. At Morgan Stanley the top bonus will be $125,000 cash. The average base pay for managing directors, the second-tier people at the company, is about $400,000, so the average guy has to struggle along on income of $525,000. Of course, the NYT found people to explain their misery. Here’s a former Wall Streeter now a visiting professor at Adelphi University:

Many people on Wall Street, he said, have “multiple homes at high cost and with big mortgages, private school payments, college tuitions, car leases and payments. They were out over their skis with leverage and assumed the good days would last forever.”

A ski-jumping image: how appropriate. These cuts are a psychological knife to the heart of supposedly adult people whose self-respect is wrapped up in their pay. The pain is atrocious. An investment banker told the writer that “bankers are people too”. Maybe he’s right, sort of like how corporations are people. Or in language he can understand, Jump! You fuckers!

Maybe they don’t get their big payday because as a group, they had a miserable year at their job of separating people and pension plans from enough of their savings to fill up the trough at Morgan Stanley. And top management isn’t impressed with their threats to leave, taking the position that the managing directors should be glad they have jobs, and shut up about pay and the massive paychecks of their betters.

Of course, when a two-income working family in Colorado is “out over their skis with leverage”, and one of them loses a job because of the collapse of the greed bubble created on Wall Street by those managing directors, they’re deadbeats, immoral scum with no respect for the sanctity of contracts.

Oddly, lower profits don’t seem to have as much effect on people even higher in the food chain. At Morgan Stanley, CEO James P. Gorman is taking a pay cut of 25%, to $9.7 million in cash, stock and deferred compensation. This NYT found a compensation expert who says the disparity between money at the top and at the second level could create some “us versus them” issues. But that kind of thinking would be class warfare for people not in Manhattan who aren’t getting raises while the bosses take the profits home. They are to be thankful that they have jobs, and are not supposed to glance at the bulging wallets of their betters.

Hey managing directors: how does it feel to be locked into a lousy paying job because all around you the economy you trashed is collapsing? Let’s go protest! I can see it now, 232 legacy frat boy types out in the streets at 1585 Broadway with signs saying “We are the 99.9th%, and Jump! You Fuckers!

Which brings us to the candidate of the financial oligarchy, Mitt Romney. Some unsuspecting guy asks the thin-skinned quarter-billionaire what he would do for the 99% since he is a member of the 1%. That seems like a perfectly reasonable question, since Romney has made it plain he wants more tax cuts for people like quarter-billionaire Mitt Romney. Romney shows his pissy self (Andrea Mitchell says it was Reaganesque, and I agree: Reagan was pissy too.)

Lemme tell ya something. America is a great nation, because we’re a united nation and those who are trying to divide the nation as you’re trying to do here and as the president is doing are hurting this country, seriously. The right course for America is not to divide America, and try and divide us between one and another, it’s for us to come together as a nation. And if you’ve got a better model, if you think China is better, or Russia is better, or Cuba’s better, or North Korea’s better, I’m glad to hear all about it. But you know what? America’s right, and you’re wrong!

Let’s face it, Mitt: the nation is divided, and you oligarchs and your trained media seals did it. Now even the 99.9th % thinks their superiors are cheating them. Answer the question, Mitt. Assuming you can beat the serial adulterer for the nomination, what are you going to do to us, you and your rancid crew of religious fanatics, chickenhawk neoliberals, and economic revanchists?

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