Today the New York State Comptroller’s office released its annual report on the bonuses paid to an estimated 167,800 employees of Wall Street banks. Just to be clear (maybe you should sit down, away from sharp objects), this is the amount of money paid to Wall Street bank employees in addition to already lucrative salaries: The report estimates the average base salary in the securities industry for 2013 was $190,970.
So how much are the wolves of Wall Street cashing in? Collectively, the report found, the employees received $28.5 billion in bonuses last year, a 3 percent jump, despite a decline in industry profits. That's a lot of dough to spend on cars, jewelry, helicopters, hard drugs, Apple watches, ivory back-scratchers, and whatever else bankers blow their money on. In fact, $28.5 billion is the same amount pledged last year at the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment Conference to improve basic education in developing countries. (At least that, too, was a record high.)
The amount of cash is in fact so massive it could go a long way in the United States. It could, for instance, double the annual earnings of every full-time minimum wage worker in America, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, which simultaneously released a report of its own. You could also take $28.5 billion and, say, raise the pay of 1.5 million home health care aids up to at least $15 per hour. Doing so would help to obviate the Department of Labor's ongoing struggle to guarantee these same home health care aids a minimum wage and overtime protections.
To help put things in perspective vis-à-vis bank bonuses and low-wage jobs, we made a graphic, below. As you can see, it's deep green.