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Will Wall Street Change?

The uproar over the bonuses for AIG executives continues unabated and columnist Steven Pearlstein weighs in with the question of whether Wall Street will "get the message that it's no longer business as usual."

Our Readers Who Comment certainly want that to be the case. A string of solid remarks about the column includes suggestions for a constitutional convention for finance; anger with both President Obama's team and Congress for trying to close the barn door after the horse is out; defense of the sanctity of contracts coupled with criticism of Edward Liddy, the government appointed CEO of AIG; and a few expressions of confidence that a new and better Wall Street will emerge.

As Pearlstein writes, "It's cooperation and compromise, not the usual every-man-for-himself competition, that is going to get us out of this mess."

We'll start with hollygarfield, who wrote, "The trouble with finding and hiring a CEO who can properly redistribute AIG's assets is that the ones best suited to the job wouldn't touch the job with a $10 billion pole... The current head may be the wrong person for the job, but maybe he is the 'rightest wrong' person."

erikavanheusen said, "Madoff makes evaporate a mere $50 Billion (private money) and he goes to jail. The AIG execs make evaporate $170 Billion (taxpayers´money) and they not only do not go to jail but even they get a bonus. Very unfair!"

freelyb wrote, "Corporate and political self-seeking are devastating our families, our country, and out world. Maybe this will be the issue upon which both red and blue voters can agree and finally get something done together."

Hawaiian_Gecko said, "The legislation was written by Obama's team and specifically said any bonus contracts written before Feb 11th were to be respected. That's hardly business as usual, it is in fact business as NEWLY written by the Obama team."

totalkaosdave asked, "When will nonbusiness people understand contactual obligations must be met, or employees will sue (and get punitive damages as well as their bonuses)?... Your outrage should be directed at Congress, Chris Dodd, and the initial bailout."

SmileySam said, "...AIG is the largest Insurer in the World. We're talking Trillions in Life Policys that if cashed in because of a run, it's more than true that the Worlds economy would crash for decades. We need to eat the 150 Million because in the big picture it really is just chump change being used as a distraction..."

glenglish wrote, "Lovely bunch of cutthroats. They'll gut their company in a New York minute if they can't sell out to the highest bonus in a New York second. The government should put a ridiculously high tax on bonuses that are not backed by business profits, like jailtime."

And mbmclaughlin suggested, "It's time for a top marginal tax rate of 90% on all income in excess of $1,000,000. If they won't give up on it voluntarily, we just need to tax the greed out of them."

robertdashiell1 wrote, "That Mr. Pearlstein's view is correct and widely shared cannot be disputed, but there is more. The fact is system run by people who acknowledge no limits on their personal gain cannot work to the benefit of the many..."

morphnmomma said, "Wall Street -- as it has existed since Reagan -- is OVER. But, Have no fear: Something better will take its place. The Big Brands have totally tarnished themselves and self-destructed... But, out of these ashes, expect a stronger, more sustainable, more resilient, and more civic-minded Phoenix to emerge."

Craazyman wrote, "...We need a new system. And I suspect that many Americans are so fed up with this one -- where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer while the government uses their money to save the very system that has raked them over the coals -- that they'd be willing to let it collapse, come what may. And start fresh. Maybe even a new constitutional convention for finance."

myopinion1 said, "...The seeds of corruption were not planted on Wall Street, whose inhabitants are without question evil, but in Washington and throughout our political sphere including the state and local levels."

postfan1 wrote, "...While in the big scheme of things excessive salaries aren't the biggest problem we face, they are important IN PRINCIPLE. We cannot afford to reward bad behavior, simply because rewarding bad behavior results in additional bad behavior... We need to draw a hard line here..."

fieldon said, " long as the finance-trio-infernal BERNANKE-GEITHNER-SUMMERS take care of their wallstreet/bank friends with trillion-dollar taxpayer-presents, why should they learn?..."

howjensen wrote, "Only Wall Street can make Socialism seem like a better idea than Capitalism. Truth be told, Wall Street is a crime syndicate that rivals anything Tony Soprano ever did."

We'll close with Itd345, who wrote, "Now I know why the French resorted to the guillotine during their revolution."

All comments on Pearlstein's column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  March 18, 2009; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  Bailout , Economy Watch  
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