Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should have been a banker

I should have been a banker. Not only can you fully recover from a financial crisis through government subsidies that you can later ignore, 'talented' bankers can choose whether or not to settle for a half a million dollar salary a year. Citigroup, still struggling even after its bailout from Washington, has argued in favour of increases for its staff based on the fierce competition from Wall Street. As such, they've decided to subsidize the $500,000 annual salary cap of a talented banker with stocks and other incentives that aren't based in cash.

The greed of Wall Street is legendary, along with the fat salaries that go with the job. It's been popularized in the media with films and exposed in the media more recently with scandals. A couple of years back, bankers were the scum of the earth as far as the rest of the population goes, and it was tough to be one. But for $500,000 a year, I think that I could handle a little hate.

It's been tough on bankers, having to scale back their lives to accommodate the salary cap. It's been even tougher on the rest of the population that pretty much lost everything, their homes, their savings, their jobs, their futures. And yet, here we are again where we were before the crisis happened, with the talented bankers arguing their inflated worth, saying that the world is competitive and that you have to retain the best talent with the most money.

I wish that I had been a banker. If I could do it all over again, I would go straight to the money jobs. Sure, when you're young and idealistic, you think that money doesn't matter and that you would like something more meaningful. You think that you'd rather work for not-for-profit groups that bring water to towns in Africa and you have great images of yourself pumping clean water for happy, smiling children.

But that's not what happens. Those groups pay peanuts and are up for renewal every 3 years, so you don't even know if you'll have a job, and those do-good groups are always the first to get slashed in a time of financial weakness. And the water rarely ever gets there. You can spend years in some cubicle fighting over semantics with government agencies and filling out blue forms in triplicate. And the water pump may never be a reality.

Even if you do some good in these countries, you do it at enormous risk and then there are the people that don't want you to help in the first place or who have a vested interest in your groups not being helped. Because corporate interests always find a way to trump charity and charity has little power or appeal stacked up to cold, hard cash.

But if I had become a banker, I could have coasted through years of handling other people's money and treating life like a big board of monopoly and then have all my errors erased through a bailout package by the government. In good times, the money is all play and you can have champagne at lunch. In bad times, you don't make waves and you wait it out for that time, keeping your Prada bags in the closet. You wear a sympathetic face and wear more black and talk to clients in a somber manner, like the guy who runs the funeral home and you wait for better times to come around. And then when you get your $500,000 contract offer, you can decide whether or not you can take that kind of paycut, or if you'd rather swim with the big boys on Wall Street.

Some tough choices. Straggle along on the half a million a year, or work yourself to death on Wall Street for a heck of a lot more?

It's the same old story; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's just that this time around, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poorer who are subsidizing their mistakes.

No comments:

Post a Comment