Bloomberg Poll: Stick It to Wall Street

Bloomberg News got some stunning numbers polling Americans on whether big bonuses should be banned at Wall Street’s bailout recipients, which essentially means all of the Wall Street banks.

A whopping 71 percent say they should be banned outright, and another 17 percent say they should be taxed an additional 50 percent. In other words, 88 percent say Wall Street should be dunned by half or a whole. Just 7 percent disagree. And 70 percent say Wall Street should be taxed to bring down the deficit.

Even if this poll were off by twenty points, I’m pretty sure it shows there’s political gold in them thar’ hills.

Good news for Wall Street, though: Even 88 percent polls won’t be enough to loosen its grip on Washington. Meantime, bonuses are going up:

Cash bonuses to securities industry employees in New York City grew 17 percent, to $20.3 billion, for work in 2009, according to estimates in a report last month by the New York State Comptroller’s office. While the cash bonus pool for 2010 will probably be smaller, the average bonus may be bigger because after job losses the money will be divided among fewer employees, the report said.

Bloomberg, naturally, didn’t have any problem finding quotes from men and women on the street:

“We need to come down to a more equal level of people,” said Melba Northern, 62, of Red Bluff, California, who was laid off from her job as a nursing assistant. “The finance companies got bailed out and then they got bonuses. But the people who had loans through them still have to pay them back, and they are struggling to keep a roof over their head. No one is bailing them out.”

But Bloomberg misses a bit here:

President Barack Obama, in July, signed into law a sweeping financial-regulation package that aimed to give shareholders more of a say in the compensation of bank executives.

“More of a say” is technically right if you compare it to what shareholders had before. But it should have been noted that this “say” is actually just a non-binding vote. To quote the big law-firm Skadden here on the two votes shareholders get:

The first is a non-binding vote to approve the compensation of executive officers as disclosed in the proxy statement. The second is a non-binding vote on whether future non-binding shareholder votes on executive compensation should take place every one, two or three years.

In other words, Dodd-Frank gave shareholders the right to have a non-binding vote on how often to have a non-binding vote on executive pay. Shareholder democracy in action.

Bloomberg correctly focuses here on the Wall Street bonus question, but it’s interesting to see what the poll found on other questions, like how to close the deficit.

The four most popular ways to reduce the deficit were: taxing Wall Street (70 percent to 24 percent), reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits for the rich (67 percent to 27 percent), eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich (59 percent yea, 38 percent nay), and raising the payroll cap from $107,000 (51 percent yea, 38 percent nay).

Needless to say, the odds of any of these things happening are nil.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,