## Recent Claim About Wall Street Bonuses

You may have seen a claim that the Wall Street bonuses for a year are more than a gazillion minimum-wage workers make in a year. I figured I should check it out. Here’s what I found.

It made me want to vent, so I did. Here’s what I posted as a comment on facebook:

• The math is about right. Federal minimum wage is \$7.25/hr. To keep it simple, I won’t count deductions for FICA or Medicaid or any other taxes at all, nor will I count any work done off the books or nor food stamps nor help from family members, and I will pretend that an average minimum-wage worker is able to find 40 hours of such low-paid work, 50 weeks a year, so that’s 2,000 hours of work per year. At \$7.25/hour that’s theoretically \$14,500 per year of income. Now, let’s compare that to the 26.7 billion dollars of bonuses given to a few thousand highly-compensated Wall Street number pushers. \$26,700,000,000 is what 26.7 billion looks like; if you divide that by \$14,500 total annual income per low-paid worker, you get very close to 2 MILLION PEOPLE (my calculator says about 1,841,379. Which is more than all the people in Philadelphia. Or than in San Francisco and Indianapolis combined. Or more than the population of any of twelve different US states. And don’t pretend that those Wall Street guys actually work thousands of times harder than all the rest of those poor low-wage slobs! They’re just really good at bending the rules behind closed doors and inside fancy legal and mathematical jargon so that they end up getting such insane rewards, shafting everyone else.
• Guy Brandenburg In actual fact, the services of banks could be done by nearly anybody with enough education to read spreadsheets or translate words on the page into formulas (which we try to teach kids in Algebra 1 & 2, so it’s not that complicated). The legal jargon? You kind of need specialists to translate that into clear plain English — it’s impenetrable, and intentionally so. Then you have some committees of knowledgable people to decide if it’s a good idea to invest in project X or not, and so on. Again, it’s not rocket science. All that fancy stuff about credit-default-swap collateral, multi-second currency trading, junk bonds, and arcane statistical theories, didn’t help the economy. All that fancy stuff simply is brillianltly designed to make a handful of people very, very rich and nearly collapsed the economy, throwing millions of people out of work and/or out of their homes. We all know about stuff hidden in fine print. Our overlords have become very good at using math to intimidate people as well. The people who actually
• Guy Brandenburg do the work on the projects: dig the basements, pour the concrete, wire the lighting, do all the plumbing and then work at the machines or computer terminals inside the structure and guard the place and clean it up and run the lunch counters and fix the streets and run the public transit systems and bring the gasoline or diesel fuel to the gas stations and so on… those are the people who actually make the project work and produce a profit for whoever got the loan. Again, a committee of reasonable people could easily decide whether5 the project is likely to be a good idea or not. You don’t need to earn BILLIONS in order to have the privilege of making those decisions — and never to be harmed financially or in any other way if your decisions all go wrong — as we have seen. We all have heard many stories of rich business or bank executives with golden or platinum parachutes after they retire from a company they drove into he ground. Not a single one of the wall street/banking types who bankr5upted the country a few years ago has even been indicted.
Let me add: according to one official study from the bureau of labor statistics, there are about 3,550,000 people working at or below the minimum wage. Another way to look at this is to see if we divided all those bonuses by all those workers, how many months of their labor would that be? To make things simple, I’ll pretend each worker puts in 170 hours per month, at \$7.25/hour, meaning he/she earns \$1,232.50. Now, there are 3.55 million such workers, so if I used my calculator to multiply the last two numbers, I get that all of America’s minimum-wage workers, combined, earn a total of \$4,375,375,000, which you can think of as around 4.4 Billion dollars, per month.
(By the way – I learned in Econ 101 at Dartmouth College that unlike the wealthy, these low-paid people spend every bit of that, so it gets put right back into the economy! It does not end up in Swiss accounts or Cayman Island tax havens! (In algebraic terms, the savings and expenditure lines cross, meaning that poor folks each year on the average go deeper and deeper in debt, without comine even close to meeting their real needs, while the wealthier folks easily satisfy their every extravagant whim and then some, and proceed to save large amounts of money that is very often not re-invested in anything, as we see right now when large corporations are flush with cash and are not investing in retoolling or construction or hiring) (Or the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer) (Which means that if we redistribute that money to the low-wage folks, then the economy takes off and people are happier because they can pay their bills (including those student loans or medical stuff) and that creates even more jobs… )
So let’s divide all those bonuses by that monthly total. Rounding, I get that this relative handful of highly-compensated Wall Street leeches are given BONUSES alone — on top of their annual salaries, and not counting any commissions or stock options or any other fees they earn — an amount equal to what all the minimum-wage workers in the entire UNITED STATES earn in about six months.
Incredible.
Who knows how many months it would be if we included all the rest of these rich parasites’ compensation?