Wall Street Bonuses: “Plummeted” or “Hefty”?


Sometimes the New York Times leads consensus, sometimes it follows it. Rarely does it break with consensus, which is what’s interesting about today’s “What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses” story.

The paper reports the $18.4 billion workers in the securities industry collected as bonuses “was the sixth-largest haul on record… While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.”

This is in sharp contrast to the spin elsewhere from papers working from the same state comptroller’s report, which also noted that “the average bonus declined by 36.7 percent to $112,000 in 2008.”

Bloomberg News says those bonuses “Plummeted 44 Percent.” Newsday says, “City loses out on Wall Street bonuses,” because it means $1 billion less in state taxes and $275 million less in city taxes collected on the bonuses. “When they don’t get theirs,” they warn the proles, “you lose out too,” seeking to dampen what Portfolio calls “Pyrrhic Shadenfreude.”

“NEW YORK TAKES $1B TAX REVENUE HIT” concurs the New York Post. The Daily News stressed that, while the drop was “something the little guy can applaud,” it “dealt a painful hit to the city’s tax coffers.” Much further down it reports the bonus pool’s sixth-largest status, but also that “the decline is the largest percentage drop in more than 30 years.”

The New York Observer, almost self-satirically, says “Wall Street Bonuses Down 44 Percent, Real Estate To Feel It.” Though “the rental market may actually feel a slight bounce,” it’s only because “the top end of the luxury apartment market, for one, will find far fewer buyers…”

The Times‘ angle echoed its blog entry yesterday that said, “In no other line of work is it imaginable that six-figure bonuses would be doled out to the people most directly responsible for nearly wiping out the American financial system.” In this approach they are closer to the lefty site TruthDig (“Bankers Took Home Billions While Wall Street Burned”) than to their local journalistic comrades. Maybe somebody sent them a box of Wheaties. (Graph via NYT.)


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 29, 2009


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