Kudlow’s Money Politics

My Solution to the Banker Bonus Brouhaha

I have a few thoughts concerning the burgeoning public backlash against big banker bonus announcements expected in the weeks ahead. This backlash, of course, stems from taxpayer fury over banks that were rescued by taxpayer-financed TARP money.

A recent Rasmussen poll revealed that 61 percent believe the government should regulate the level of pay and bonuses for company executives who were on the public dole. However, if the bailed-out banks do pay their money back, another 64 percent say the government should actually stay on the sidelines and not regulate compensation.

Here’s my thought: The banks need to step up the plate, fess up, and thank the American taxpayers for their largesse. It’s a public-relations move. They’ve never really done that. Taxpayers deserve a thank you. That’s point number one.

Point number two: In June of last year, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs — joined by eight other banks — paid down TARP. So, my humble opinion is that these banks ought to receive their bonuses, whatever that number may be, for the second half of the year, but not the TARPed-up first half of the year.

As for the other big banks like Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, they didn’t de-TARP until the end of 2009. So why should they’re people get any bonuses at all? And if they do get bonuses, the bonuses should be minuscule.

In other words, let the banks that paid back their TARP money in June take a half-year bonus. The ones that didn’t should forego 2009, and look forward to 2010.

Larry Kudlow is the author of JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity, written with Brian Domitrovic.

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