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Skelton decries Wall Street bonuses
Skelton decries Wall Street bonuses

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 13, 2010) — Yesterday, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) issued a statement before the House of Representatives urging Wall Street banks to review their payroll policies with regards to the awarding of bonuses to top executives. In concluding his remarks, the Congressman stated:

“I fully realize that American companies must retain good workers to be competitive in the global marketplace and it takes pay to do that, but I am angered that executives at firms that received federal taxpayer assistance do not possess the common sense to share in the sacrifices being made by the American people during this tough economic climate. I urge them to take a step back and to reconsider their actions.”

His full remarks are included below.
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Statement of Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) on reported Wall Street bank bonuses

Madam Speaker. I come from Missouri — the Show-Me State — where people conduct their lives with a sensible skepticism and a great devotion to common sense and patriotism.

Missourians pride themselves in being straight shooters. They work hard and play by the rules. They look at issues with a pragmatism that more Americans should possess. They, like I, have been angered by the greedy behavior of Wall Street tycoons who helped get our country into its current economic mess.

Their anger is amplified when they hear news stories, as all Americans have in the past few days, about how some of Wall Street’s biggest banks are planning to give millions of dollars in bonuses. I am outraged by this. I have to ask myself, “Where is the common sense of these Wall Street bankers? Where is their patriotism? Where is their shared sense of sacrifice?”

I grew up during World War II. When this nation was in trouble then, all Americans stood together; all Americans made sacrifices — the working men and women of this country and the barons of industry. This current crowd on Wall Street just doesn’t seem to get that. And that is a shame.

It was important for the government to help save the American financial system from ruin. It was close to going off a desperately high cliff in the autumn of 2008. That would have been devastating for the Missouri families I represent. Was I angered that the government had to take emergency action? You bet I was — as were the folks in whose shoes I stand each day in Washington.

Action was needed in large part because Wall Street tycoons had gambled with risky mortgage-backed securities and because the government was not shining its regulatory light fully on these risky investments. And, many Wall Street firms rewarded employees with exuberant pay packages based on get-rich-quick financial transactions.

In February 2009, Congress directed Treasury to review and set strict guidelines on executive compensation at financial institutions receiving assistance under the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. Treasury has been doing that under the direction of Kenneth Feinberg, who runs the Office of the Special Master on executive compensation at the department.

I am saddened that Congress would have to create a special office to help this greedy bunch find their moral compass. And, I am even more saddened that Wall Street banks would continue to think it appropriate to cut enormous bonus checks when so many American families are out of work and many others are very deeply concerned about their economic future. Can’t the Wall Street crowd see how their pay schemes are interpreted in middle America? Can’t they understand that their profits are occurring because the American people made serious sacrifices to right the nation’s economic ship?

I am not yet convinced that the Treasury Secretary, the Federal Reserve Chairman, or the President have worked hard enough to press this compensation issue with the Wall Street community. That is why Congress has been working on several bills to establish more sensible policies in this area and in financial regulation more broadly.

I fully realize that American companies must retain good workers to be competitive in the global marketplace and it takes pay to do that, but I am angered that executives at firms that received federal taxpayer assistance do not possess the common sense to share in the sacrifices being made by the American people during this tough economic climate. I urge them to take a step back and to reconsider their actions.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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