Details.com doesn't know bull from bear when it comes to Wall Street bonuses—though we prefer the former. As any good trader will tell you, ignorance is no reason not to go long. If you find yourself trading opinions about Wall Street pay and the outcry surrounding it, compensate by dropping any of these entirely believable, pretty intelligent-sounding, and possibly even true statements into your conversation.
1. "Of course, everyone should be outraged at the news Goldman Sachs is going to pay out $23 billion in bonuses for the second half of 2009. Nobody should be rewarded for taking over the federal government—I mean, it's a giant money-loser."
2. "Actually, these bonuses are not the worst money ever spent rewarding Wall Street excess. I mean, making The Bonfire of the Vanities cost $47 million—that's $81 million in 2009 dollars."
3. "The cries of the angry mob have had an effect. John Thain wasn't just forced out of Merrill Lynch—Merrilly Lynched was more like it. "
4. "Sure, AIG paid $450 million in bonuses to the unit that caused their collapse. But that's a bargain: Those guys brought in $165 billion in new capital—bailout money."
5. "True, Citibank's CEO, Vikram Pandit, may seem noble for taking a $1 salary and no bonus until his company is profitable. Problem is, he took three times that much from me for my last ATM withdrawal."
6. "If you're still naive enough to think that Wall Street has been cured of excessive greed, consider this: Oliver Stone is making Wall Street 2 and Gordon Gekko is actually a good guy this time around."
7. "Now that the Fed can halt any bonuses that encourage bankers to be too risky, I presume this means Ben Bernanke will also have to spend his nights playing bouncer at Marquee."
8. "Of course, we all know the economic crisis and the bailout have been a disaster. But Obama's Wall Steet pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, has handled compensation for September 11 victims, people affected by Agent Orange and Asbestos, Viriginia Tech shooting victims, and survivors of the Holocaust. As tragedies go, how do you think he's going to rank cutting paychecks to stockbrokers?"
9. "Has anyone considered that these payouts might be put to good use? Andrew Hall, he of the $100 million bonus, has a castle to house his art collection and cuts short his days of trading oil futures to train with a ballet teacher. For once, that's not code for hitting Scores."
10. "I know I'm not the first to suggest the ideal bonus structure is one that rewards both risk and financial prudence. Merv Griffin got the concept—and anyone who's watched a Wheel of Fortune bonus round can see that it works."