Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bonus? Don't Mind If I Do!

The New York Times presents this little gem of an article on Wall Street bonuses. The gist of the article is this: After a year of record losses where the only profit on the books is likely to be in the form of government bail-out funds, the banks are taking steps to restrict their year-end bonuses.

Restrict their bonuses?

I thought the whole point of bonuses was to reward a job well done with a share of the profits that you helped to generate. And now? It appears bonuses are being given out to those employees (which is apparently most of them?) who have sucked the least.

The article is a great source of drunken rants. I'm sure I'll give it good use this weekend. But I worry that it encodes a real, and very dangerous, fact about the ways in which salaries are dictated in this country. It is now an expectation that you will receive a bonus at many of these Wall Street firms, not because you have done an especially good job, but because you have managed to show up for the terrible hours the job demands to accomplish nothing.

This week, three members of my graduate class over on the Cell and Molecular Biology end of the world (these are the people researching your pharmaceuticals) left the program for...you guessed it....Wall Street! The government has been making a lot of lip movements recently about the need to recruit more researchers into science and industries that actually produce things. I have news for them. Researchers are people too. They will not work for carrots. If the government wants to do something about failing technology industries in this country, it should take a serious look at the financial incentives it gives for going into research.

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