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Wall Street bonuses are ‘shameful’

Yes, Mr. President, it is shameful.

In the wake of reports that Wall Street bankers and corporate employees earned more than $18 billion in bonuses last year, our president condemned the move as “the height of irresponsibility.”

“It is shameful,” he said.

And we have to agree.

Wall Street leaders and corporate giants are much to blame for America’s current economic crisis. The lived large and fast, dealing in credit and speculation, while the foundations of America’s free enterprise system were tested to the core.

Now, in the wake of a banking crisis that prompted the need for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry last fall. Unfortunately, that taxpayer money hasn’t trickled down into the economy as many trusting Americans expected it would. National holding company banks are not easing the reins on credit quickly enough, choosing instead to buy other, struggling institutions; to hold onto their bailout bucks; and, apparently, pay CEOs huge year-end bonuses, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

We believe corporate leaders deserve the right to earn bonuses and heft pay for their work, most of the time. But, given the climate in our country and the challenges faced by our economy, we wish some of those banking and corporate leaders would have exercised more sensitivity, more leadership and refused or deferred those bonuses last year.

After all, the president has warned that righting the ship of America’s economy will require hard work and sacrifice, at every level.

Millions of “average Americans” already are making those sacrifices. And, if the record setting $900 billion stimulus package likely to pass Congress, in some fashion, it’s a given that we average Americans will continue to sacrifice – through added taxes, increased government debt, and more – for years to come.

If the Wall Street bankers and corporate giants want to renew investors’ confidence in the market and the economy, they need to heed the president’s call and be willing to make the responsible decisions, even if that means a sacrifice or two along the way.