Morning Report 12/28/04You can’t spell ‘investors’ without ‘vests’


Big bonuses on Wall Street should cheer up soldiers and their families

Great news today from the real battleground of the War on Terror: Wall Street’s big bonuses are back.

This morning’s New York Times reports this year’s gains, after noting that “the totals in 2003 were already impressive.” The breathless story by Jenny Anderson is devoid of any mention of the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us.

And of course there’s no mention of the fact that many American families are having to buy armor for their children fighting in Iraq because George W. Bush’s regime refuses to do it.

But even though our huge “defense” industry generates millions of dollars for investment bankers, and Mr. and Mrs. Average Struggling American’s mortgage is churned by other bankers into billions of dollars in derivative-securities markets, and funds for education—even of soldiers’ children—are being slashed, why bring that stuff up? This story is about long lines at Ferrari dealerships and purchases of $10 million apartments. Anderson notes:

The year-end bonus is a Wall Street tradition, and for a second consecutive year, the amounts are significant. Three major Wall Street firms—Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns—have reported record profits for the year and all are said to have given out handsome bonuses.

Anderson writes that “an investment banking analyst right out of college would have made a $65,000 salary and a $35,000 bonus last year. An associate just out of business school might have made $85,000 in salary and a $115,000 bonus.”

And that was last year. She adds:

This year, investment bankers are expected to see gains in bonuses of 10 to 15 percent, amid a year-end flurry of mergers. Fixed-income traders, who have been the best compensated Wall Street professionals in recent years, will also be amply rewarded, but their percentage gains may be smaller than those of bankers. Bonuses, of course, vary by bank, by division and by individual. They reflect the firm’s profitability and the group’s performance, as well as the individual’s contribution.

This year’s bonuses do not quite reach the heights touched by star bankers and traders in the heyday of the late ’90s technology bubble. But they are rich enough to persuade many of Wall Street’s elite to rediscover conspicuous consumption.

Oh, this is such great news that I can’t resist one more cheery paragraph from Anderson:

Wall Street bonuses are expected to total $15.9 billion in 2004—second only to $19.5 billion in 2000—according to Alan G. Hevesi, the state comptroller of New York. In 2003, bonuses totaled $15.8 billion. Mr. Hevesi said bonuses of that magnitude were “good news for New York.”

OK, that’s enough good news. Now let’s go back to November 2003, when journalist Dave Lindorff catalogued the Bush regime’s treatment of the people it has sent to die in Iraq for that very profitable war. Lindorff sets the stage by saying:

Even more than his father, and Ronald Reagan before him, Bush is cutting budgets for myriad programs intended to protect or improve the lives of veterans and active-duty soldiers. Bush’s handlers have worked hard, through the use of snappy salutes and fly-boy stunts, to present the service-ducking former National Guardsman as the soldiers’ friend. But though Republicans enjoy widespread military support, Bill Clinton was the only president of the last four to cut weapons programs instead of veteran benefits.

Then Lindorff notes that the Bush regime:

• Sought to cut $75 a month from the “imminent danger” pay added to soldiers’ paychecks when in battle zones.

• Sought to cut by $150 a month the family separation allowance for overseas service as “wasteful and unnecessary.”

• Charged injured GIs from Iraq $8 a day for food when they arrived for medical treatment.

The most directly dangerous act by the corporately responsible White House, as Lindorff notes, was “refusing to provide more than 40,000 active-duty troops in Iraq with Kevlar body armor, leaving it up to them and their families to buy this life-saving equipment.”

Colonel David Hackworth wrote about this disgrace—he called it “Pentagon criminal negligence”—back for the right-wing World Net Daily back in October 2003, long before Don Rumsfeld had his publicized question from a soldier about equipment:

Worried moms and pops are sending vests to their kids in care packages that in other conflicts contained cookies and Kool-Aid.

This one can’t be laid at the feet of the doormats in Congress. Hackworth writes:

Congress is about to approve about $65 billion for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Bush & Company haven’t included one penny for body armor, even though the cost of the extraordinary security precautions on the president’s recent Asian tour would cover a vest for every soldier seconded to the Iraqi sand traps.

For sure, enough cash would be skimmed off that giant pile of taxpayer dough to fix this critical problem if Rummy, General Richard Myers and a few of the Pentagon supply generals were outfitted with obsolete vests and sent off with our serving heroes to patrol the mean streets of Iraq.

The vests would suddenly be exchanged as quickly as Abrams tanks’ and Bradley Fighting Vehicles’ tracks get replaced—with U.S. plants working three shifts and the heavy tracks then rushed by air to the battlefield.

Does Ferrari make a vest?