Wall Street bonuses are Robin Hood in reverse -- but one Robin Hood approves

record-wall-street-bonuses-are-robin-hood-in-reverseWe all know that Wall Street's bad bets nearly brought the financial system to its knees last year. Then U.S. taxpayers footed the bill to bail out Wall Street -- taking on obligations potentially as high as $23.7 trillion, leading to a $1.4 trillion federal deficit, and $12 trillion in national debt. To me that's a kind of reverse-Robin-Hood action. Ironically, a New York City charity called the Robin Hood Foundation, which says it supports 200 poverty-fighting programs, is celebrating Wall Street's expected $140 billion 2009 bonus windfall.

The head of Robin Hood's response to the upcoming record Wall Street bonuses is "Hell yeah!" reports Bloomberg News. The reason for David Saltzman's enthusiasm is that Robin Hood claims it gets more than half of its annual $150 million in donations from the employees of investment banks, brokerage firms and hedge funds.

That is nice for the egos of the Wall Street denizens who attend the Robin Hood fundraisers, where they publicly signal their relative net worth as they bid in live auctions in front of their peers. But Wall Street has contributed plenty of pain to the average American -- 401(k) investors have watched the S&P 500 lose 22% of its value in the last decade and 15.1 million Americans are unemployed.

As Thanksgiving approaches, there may be some who can be forgiven for thinking that it would have been better if America had not stolen from the poor to give to the rich -- even if a 0.054% sliver of that $140 billion in bonuses ends up back in the hands of Robin Hood's charity recipients.

Peter Cohan is a management consultant, Babson professor and author of nine books, includingCapital Rising (due in June 2010). Follow him on Twitter.

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