As small children, we were less concerned with the metaphysical questions (Why is my bank a pig?) than the practical (Now that I’ve learned to put coins in the slot, how do I get them back out?)

Having since grown in wisdom, in age, and in grace, we’re finally ready for the worldly whys (Why are bankers such pigs?)

We’re not talking here about Jimmy Stewart in the local savings & loan – more like Orwell’s pigs in Animal Farm. These days, that means the big investment banks with their own version of the one-way slot where your dollars go to die.

After the piggy bankers blew up the economy in 2008, some of us started to wonder if they were overpaying themselves with the help of our tax money. We noticed they were gloriously overcompensated all year long and then got huge bonuses on top of that. For what?

Don’t ask. It’s a wonderful life.

Understandably, in the U.S. and Europe there’s been a recent move to clamp down on excessive bonuses. Surely two or three times a banker’s annual salary is enough?

But no! But no! rose the terrible squeal of porcine lobbyists in unison:

“How is an investment bank supposed to attract top talent merely by paying bloated salaries and then tripling them at year’s end?”

Still, bankers are clever pragmatists, else why would we pay them so much? Once they had grasped that the word “bonus” had acquired a pigpen aroma, they got out the thesaurus to find other words – innocent terms that the new regulations had failed to anticipate.

Instead of bonuses, some banks now speak of allowances. Didn’t we all used to get allowances? Some call their bonuses “role based pay” or “reviewable salary” and, under such banners, are managing to hand out bonuses ranging to more than five times an employee’s already majestic annual wage.

Orwell’s pigs had learned to talk like humans. Ours have graduated to fluency in weasel words.

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About Al

Editors of The Horse You Rode In On (listed below) hail from Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. All contributions are signed. When guest contributors are included, their comments will be signed in a manner consistent with their needs for discretion, witness protection, or yearning for personal adulation.