When I first read about the $18.4 billion in bonuses, my first thought was that “They Just Don’t Get It”. I was amazed that anyone who had witnessed the pillorying of the automobile executives would have the gall to sign off on those bonuses while the entire financial industry went down in flames.
At the time, I thought they had made a serious error. That if they had been properly acquiescent, then it would have business as usual next year. And that $4 billion in bonuses would poison the well for years to come.
But the more I read, the more I think that I was the one who didn’t get it. We may have just seen the end of an era. It’s always been possible for people to attain serious wealth by creating a business. But when it comes right down to it, the financial industry didn’t create a thing.
Over the past years, the financial industry has created vast wealth based upon a bit of an edge and a lot of leverage. Leverage was what allowed them to rake in the bucks. And leverage was what drove their massive losses when their edge was exposed.
After what we’re going through, it is going to be a long time before financial companies will be allowed to become so heavily leveraged. Maybe the financial execs didn’t care that they were poisoning the well because they knew that the well was going to dry up anyway. This was their last chance at a big payday and they were going to milk it dry.