Should Wall Street get bonuses? No, say most Americans.

70 percent of Americans want bonuses banned at taxpayer-supported banks.

Photo illustration / Frank Franklin II / AP / File
More than 2 in 3 Americans thinks Wall Street bankers who received TARP bailout funding should be ineligible for bonuses. Leaving aside the question of whether people should have a say in each other's bonuses, what's driving this?

There is a thin line between the desire for fairness in society and the desire to punish people for success with confiscatory taxation and compensation rules. And straddling that line is the debate over whether banks that were revived thanks to taxpayer assistance should be allowed to light up the scoreboard with record bonuses while still on life support via ultra-low interest rates. This despite the fact that most Wall Street firms have "paid back TARP" already.

Anyway, according to a new poll, the people have spoken - apparently, they'd like to have a say over how much public company employees get paid.

From Bloomberg:

More than 70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

An additional one in six favors slapping a 50 percent tax on bonuses exceeding $400,000. Just 7 percent of U.S. adults say bonuses are an appropriate incentive reflecting Wall Street’s return to financial health.

A large majority also want to tax Wall Street profits to reduce the federal budget deficit. A levy on financial services firms is the top choice among more than a dozen deficit-cutting options presented to respondents.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.8 percent, resentment of bonuses and banking profits unites Americans across political, gender, age and income groups. Among Republicans, who generally are skeptical of business regulation, 76 percent support a government ban on big bonuses to bailout recipients, that’s higher than backing among Democrats or independents.

Resentment or justice? How much of this debate is really just the age-old Good vs Evil, "the bad guys haven't been punished" type of thing?

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