Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Wall Street Traders Bring Home Far More Than Brain Surgeons
Some statistics graphically and poignantly tell what's wrong with a society -- like a fever thermometer registering 107 degrees. Bloomberg News has come out with such figures. An oil trader on Wall Street with ten years of experience is likely to earn $1 million this year, while a neurosurgeon with ten years of experience makes $600,000. A Wall Street banker arranging mergers will bring home $2 million -- ten times what a similarly seasoned cancer researcher makes. The pay gap between finance and other professions widened between the 1980s and 2006, exceeding the record set before the Great Depression, according to a study by New York University's Stern School of Business. A four-star general with more than 34 years in the military makes $185,000 a year -- less than half the $498,246 average compensation and benefits package that Goldman Sachs paid employees in 2009.
Despite the yawning gap, you can hear Wall Streeters complaining about declining bonuses. The Bloomberg story did not mention that the big Wall Street houses paying such lavish compensation were bailed out by U.S. taxpayers. Nor did the story mention that many on Wall Street -- such as those arranging mergers and leveraged buyouts -- actually DETRACT from the economy, and others add nothing to it. This is just more evidence that the U.S. has moved from product engineering to financial engineering -- a one-way ticket to economic perdition.