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Wall Street bonuses: where's the outrage?

October 15, 2009 |  7:14 am

Getty
Except for Michael Moore, whose new movie posits that capitalism is one big Ponzi scheme, the news Wednesday that banks are thriving and that Wall Street analysts are in line for big bonuses this year seemed to land with all the political weight of a dull thud.

Oh sure, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he'll soon hold hearings on executive pay at firms that got taxpayer bailout money, like AIG and Bank of America.

"What infuriates people is when bosses at bailed-out companies ... continue to rake in millions," said New York Democrat Edolphus Towns, the committee's chairman. "It doesn't seem right that the people who caused this tragedy should be so richly rewarded."

And the White House chimed in too, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs intoning that "pay on Wall Street can't return to the speculative era that we saw ... right before the economic collapse."

But with the Dow Jones hitting 10,000 and the economy stepping back from the precipice of last fall's collapse, there was little of that tea-party outrage that might have been expected.

Have we moved on? Arguing that the country is now more concerned with Afghanistan and healthcare, the Wall Street Journal said of bonus outrage: "That's so last March."

Maybe taxpayers have simply given up on Washington's efforts to corral Wall Street.

After all, Monday President Obama's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, approved the compensation package for Robert Benmosche, AIG's new CEO: $3 million in cash, $4 million in stock, and $3.5 million in annual performance bonuses, for a total of $10.5 million.

And Wednesday Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the government’s financial rescue program, said the pay czar really has limited say over executive bonuses. The bonus quandary, he said, is “a mess.”

Let us hear from you. Are you outraged?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Protesters outside AIG headquarters in March. Credit: Getty Images

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