Somebody call a waaahmbulance! Wall Street got slightly less insane bonuses this year and they’re all crying about it in this New York cover story by Gabriel Sherman.
Since 2008, the rest of America has suffered a severe economic correction. Ordinary people everywhere long ago had to learn to cope with the equivalent of a lower bonus season. When the crash hit, regular people could not make up the difference through bailouts or zero-interest loans from the Fed or leveraged-up synthetic derivative schemes. They just had to deal with the fact that the economy sucked – and they adjusted.
This ought to have been true also on Wall Street, but in a curious development that is somehow not addressed in Sherman's piece, the denizens of the financial services industry managed to maintain their extravagant lifestyle standards in the middle of a historic global economic crash that, incidentally, they themselves caused.
Look, the financial services industry should be boring. It should be quaint. Let’s take the municipal debt business. For ages, it was a simple, dull, low-margin sort of industry, in which banks arranged municipal bond issues and made small but dependable profits as cities and towns financed improvements and construction projects.
That system worked seamlessly for decades, until people like Sherman’s interview subjects suddenly decided to make the business exciting.
Of course, I still sock away money for retirement every month, so I guess my bitching about Wall Street’s bitching sounds an awful lot like this:
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