Another Attack on Outrageous Bonuses
| Mike Sykuta |
For the second time in a week, the Obama Administration attacked what it referred to as “outrageous” bonuses paid during a time of economic struggle for so many Americans. The announcement came as a reaction to Walmart’s announcement that the Arkansas-based retailer paid almost $1 billion in bonuses to its employees. Adding in profit-sharing, 401K contributions, and employee discounts, the total giveaway is closer to $2 billion, according to company officials.
The White House reacted strongly to such “corporate largess” less than a week after reports that bailout target AIG paid millions in bonuses to its employees. “At a time when so many Americans are losing their homes and unable to put food on their tables, it is unconscionable that a retailer that has benefited so much from consumers should be paying out such astronomical sums in bonuses to its employees. To make matters worse, we understand these bonuses were not even contractually obligated, as in the AIG case,” stated White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “Obviously Walmart’s ‘Every Day Low Prices’ are not as low as they should be.” Congressional Democrats said they are considering legislation to tax Walmart employees’ bonus payments and to force the retailer to lower its prices further.
In case you weren’t sure, rest assured that the preceding paragraphs are satiric. However, if one follows the logic, why should it be any less outrageous that Walmart should be paying out $2 billion worth of bonuses and extra benefits to employees? After all, that money is every bit as much out of taxpayers’ pockets as the money doled out by the federal government to AIG and others. And yet there is no outrage, no moral indignation. Why not?
Maybe it’s because the Walmart bonus averages out to only $2,000 per employee. Maybe it’s because they don’t work on Wall Street. Maybe it’s because consumers got to chose whether to spend their money at Walmart, thereby providing the necessary funds for the bonuses. Maybe its because we think the AIG employees who got bonuses are personally responsible for the company’s misfortunes — though we have no information or basis for assuming those specific employees did anything wrong at all. Or perhaps its just the sort of class-based discrimination and double standard that typifies public debate.