The folks in the United States seem to have some clear ideas about what they like and dislike, want and don’t want.

Dislikes? Bankers, Bonuses, and Congressmen.

Wants? Public Works programs, Jobs.

Paying for all that? The Rich.

That’s the result of a pair of surveys out this week from Bloomberg. The numbers are less than encouraging for bankers concerned about their reps:

• 75% of Americans believe banks that got TARP money shouldn’t pay any bonuses;

• 51% say banks that have repaid the government shouldn’t be rewarding their employees so soon;

• 64% said bailing out the banks was a bad idea.

• Over half said banks should be subject to stricter regulation;

• Only 31% would allow troubled banks to fail;

• Only 10% favor breaking up big banks.

I am surprised — but I guess I should not be — that so few people want to see capitalism operate by allowing failed banks to, well, fail; Even more surprising is so few Americans want to brerak up the behemoths . . .

Here is Bloomberg:

“Wall Street firms are recovering. Their standing with the American public isn’t.

Executives at financial firms, coming off two years of failures, bailouts and writedowns, are less popular than Congress, lawyers and insurance companies. As they prepare to give out year-end bonuses, they risk another wave of public fury, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

Two-thirds of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of financial executives. More than half say big financial companies are only out to enrich themselves and also say they shouldn’t have received government aid. And most Americans don’t want to see bankers collecting fat checks at the end of the year if their companies were bailed out by taxpayers.”

Wow, who ever could have seen that coming?


Bankers Lose to Congressmen Among Americans Furious Over Pay
Alison Fitzgerald
Bloomberg, Dec. 10 2009

Americans Want Government to Spend for Jobs, Send Bill to Rich
Mike Dorning and Catherine Dodge
Bloomberg, Dec. 10 2009

Category: Bailouts, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

26 Responses to “Poll: TARP Bonuses Bad, Bank Fails Worse; TBTF OK”

  1. [...] Americans surveyed by Bloomberg want job programs paid for by taxing the rich.  (TBP) [...]

  2. gloppie says:

    • Only 10% favor breaking up big banks.
    “I am surprised” wrote our host.
    That is because the multiple question choice was;
    “to avoid any more taxpayer bailout, which of the following do you think is the better course?
    10 % Break up large banks
    52% impose stricter regulations on bamks
    32% allow large bank to fail
    7% Not sure”
    First, this multiple choice question is loaded. Second, the snippet is misleading, Barry. Read the whole thing. Here is how I interpret this particular result:
    Only 7 % percent of sheeple is still too distracted that they can’t form an opinion about how to break up, curtail, or dismantle Banks.

  3. gloppie says:

    From the same Poll:
    In politics as of today, do you consider yourself a
    25% Republican
    31% Democrat
    40$ Independent
    1% other
    3% refuse/not sure
    In other words, a majority of Americans feel they are not properly represented.
    wow. Time for a 3rd party. Maybe after DJIA 3600 things will change.

  4. gloppie says:

    Here is another piece of data that I believe is more representative:
    a majority (54%) of Americans think that That big financial companies enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary people and have a negative impact on the economy.
    Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Wall street! as would Karl Denninger say.

  5. We’re, so much, like Nipper–RCA-Victor logo of yore–What would you expect?

    I haven’t been hearing MSM drumbeats for “breaking up the TBTFs”, but I have heard that Curtis Granderson is going to play ball with the NYY..

    (Stupid Tigers, Dumb ‘Caines)

  6. ella says:

    Query me this, if Wall Street, Big Banks and Corps can pay out $130Billion + in bonuses this year why do they need bail outs? Oh, my bad, they never save for the future nor fund their CDS’s or accurately value their MBS’/CMBS’/ other derivative holdings, are allowed to keep two sets of books and write their own accounting rules and then they just wait for the taxpayer to bail them out.

    Where can I as a small business person find such a deal?

  7. Marcus Aurelius says:

    It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Americans are suffering a steep decline in cognitive/intellectual rigor. We should probably look for an environmental cause, as such a decline would not be expected considering our deep genetic pool or in light of our failing, but not insubstantial, education system.

    Somebody put something in our drink.

  8. ashpelham2 says:

    I was looking at those poll results, and they just somewhat contradictory to me. If 64% say that bailing out banks was a good idea, then I would expect that those people were in favor of the other options, besides rescue:

    Allow them to fail.
    Save them by breaking them into smaller pieces.

    Instead, only 31% would allow to fail, and still even less would break them up. You can’t NOT save them, and also not have them fail, and also not break them up so pieces would survive.

    That’s a stupid response to survey. I won’t blame the surveyor or Bloomberg, but the people who voted in it are talking out of both sides of their mouths. I guess this is what we should expect from a general public that is too caught up in texting and Tiger Woods trysts to really care what the government is doing. WE DON”T WANT GOVERNMENT HEALTHCARE, the Medicare patients are screaming.

    I’d say our government has already won.

  9. tenaciousd says:

    Well, it’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. For many decades, American’s have been conditioned to believe that America’s form of crony capitalism is actually a “free” market. It is freer than most, but by no means free. They’ve been coached by every politician over the last 30-40 years to shy away from any radical action that might result in “the loss of jobs” no matter how crummy those jobs might be (e.g., corner sign spinner) or the extent to which the holders of those jobs might be victimizing the rest of the workforce (e.g., investment banker). So, it’s no surprise to me that they will latch on to any option less drastic than allowing banks to fail or breaking them up.

  10. clawback says:

    What does “let them fail” even mean in this poll? Even though “let them fail” could mean an orderly restructuring of the debt, after being told by everyone from the Treasury Sec to the President that TARP saved Western Civilization by not allowing the banks to fail, it’s no wonder that people wouldn’t choose this option. Most of these people heard “let them fail” and thought “2nd Great Depression.” Because that’s what our politicians (scumbags) keep telling us — that they were brave enough and strong enough to ignore our “populist” demands last fall, and were thereby able to save the world from financial armageddon.

  11. DL says:

    It’s wonderful that Obama is going to make the top 2% bail out the other 98%.

    (Neat trick if he can pull it off).

  12. DL says:

    Clawback @ 10:02

    “[The politicians] were brave enough and strong enough to ignore our ‘populist’ demands last fall, and were thereby able to save the world”.

    Yeah, that makes me sick too. And there are too many morons who believe that nonsense.

    Add the fact that there are a few pundits who have called Hank Paulson a “hero”.

  13. dan10400 says:

    I think the reason a larger percentage don’t favor banks failing, is that they do not have a
    clear understanding of the process (even if they do understand FDIC protection on their

  14. gps says:

    Hi BR,
    I’d like to know your views on Banks repaying TARP!?

  15. franklin411 says:

    I’m always suspicious of public opinion polls on very specific, narrow programs like TARP (which the average person can’t possibly comprehend). I’d give dollars to donut holes that the average “man on the street” couldn’t even tell you that TARP has something to do with banks + bailouts.

    And the public contradicts itself all the time: witness the polling on health care reform. Less than 40% say they support the Democrats’ health reform plans. But 60% say they support a government run health plan!

    I saw a poll a few weeks back about state budget cuts. 90% of Californians say that universities are vital for our economic future, and 90% say they fear their kids won’t be able to go to college due to the high cost of tuition. But only 56% said they were not willing to pay higher taxes to keep universities affordable, and almost 70% said that tuition should not be increased. I guess they figure we ought to have colleges where volunteer professors instruct their students out in the open air!

  16. clawback says:

    DL pointed out: Add the fact that there are a few pundits who have called Hank Paulson a “hero”.

    (anyone know the emoticon for “excuse my while I wretch”?)

  17. ashpelham2 says:

    This discrepancy in the numbers in this poll get me to thinking about how little the American public really understands about events and consequences. I’ll use the next few lines to bash Wal-Mart, so if your not into that kind of thing, then skip on by.

    All the cheap imported consumer goods that are sold to us now have come at the expense of American jobs. We know this much. But what Americans don’t understand is how much of that will never come back, and how our unemployment in this nation is probably not ever going to be 5.5% again, aside from some future employment revolution.

  18. EAR says:


    “Even though ‘let them fail’ could mean an orderly restructuring of the debt…”

    Please elaborate on this. I’d like to know how this could have been achieved considering the circumstances at the time. I’m not being sarcastic, I just want to know what the alternative could have been, the system was (is) a disgraceful mess that was decades in the making and was unraveling rapidly.

    I understand that there are many knowledgeable people who wanted the TBTF MFs to be allowed to fail as a natural function of capitalism (whatever that is) but what would the societal implications have been? Especially in this type of environment…

    or are TBTF and systemic risk the same as Saddam and WMD?

    If one believes we should have had an all out economic and social collapse as a way to unwind it all I have to say “Fuck that!” Give me some time to prepare for the depression rather than dropping it on me like a Steinway.

  19. dblwyo says:

    Barry – thanks for sharing those though I think gloppie has a good point. On the whole the sheeple strike me as having a pretty realistic grasp – they don’t like it but recognize the bailouts were vital. Some will disagree of course but nonetheless in “heat of the arena” working 24X7 it’s hard to say how or how could have done much better.

    But I also think the sheeple have it exactly right on who the bankers are out to serve. They almost collapsed Western Civilization and their behavior since doesn’t encourage one to think there’s any willingness to change. When society is threatened by the irredeemable what choice has it?
    href=””>The Corporation vs Society: Performance, Social Responsibility and the Win-Win

    Oh btw the Industry almost destroyed itself in the process of taking the rest of us to the cleaners:
    href=”“> The Broken Finance Industry II: Crisis, Adaptation, Innovation and Value?

    And continues to be blind, dumb, tone-deaf and oblivious to the sound of pitchforks being sharpened:
    href=”“> The Firestorm is Coming: Financial Sector Reform, Puschbak, Sausage-making and the Public Interest

    I think the “business case” for reform is overwhelming.

  20. clawback says:


    First, it was never a choice of Bail Out Everyone and Their Bondholders vs. Surprising Everyone and Their Bondholders and Watching Everyone Piss Their Pants. There’s a whole range of options here between what we might take as two “extremes.”

    Second, this “choice” was not forced upon our Dear Leaders all of a sudden one September day, coming out of the clear blue skies like some kind of financial 9/11. According to Neel Kashkari in his Charlie Rose interview earlier this year, Bernanke and Paulson (and assumedly Geithner as well) “knew” by the beginning of 2008 that they would need to go to Congress for a giant taxpayer funded bailout. Their only concern was that no one would believe them unless there was real panic in the air. Lehman gave us that. And gave them their bailout.

    Taking this view of things, which is the view Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner had, we realize that none of the banks were required to reduce leverage, take necessary writedowns, build up sufficient cash, etc. Instead, they lied to the cameras and to Congress, and allowed the party to go on — until it didn’t. At that point, they put the gun to our heads and demanded the bailout.

    This idea that the world would end if Lloyd and Jamie didn’t get their bonuses is pure bunk. Even as late as September, we still could have done things other than “do a bailout.” The Fed could have provided necessary liquidity by making super-senior loans to struggling banks until their debt could be restructured. They could have begun doing this in late 2007 or early 2008. Moreover, we could be doing this NOW. Do you really think the world would end because Citi’s bondholders got whacked in a voluntary or involuntary restructuring? No way. Everyone KNOWS that risk is there. Ditto BofA.

    It really comes down to the bondholders. If a bank has no debt, it doesn’t matter what its assets are worth. Geithner, BB, et al. are afraid to take the necessary steps. Yes, there will be losses. But papering them over, or giving them to the taxpayer doesn’t make them go away.

    The saddest thing is that by doing what they’re doing, which is using the govt. to prop up bad debt, we are on our way to a Japanese-style lost decade (or two).

  21. EAR says:

    Thanks for bringing me back, clawback!

    I cited the fact that this mess was decades in the making but forgot about the months leading up to the bailout. Might be information overload or denial or hope that the dismal state of things today and beyond were necessary to avoid devastation. Probably all of the above. Led to the application of lipstick to an enormous turd.

    I’ve got all of the gory details in my head but I’ve also got two young boys, a mortgage and hope for the best (there’s that word again).

    Not so familiar with super-senior loans, though. Thanks for laying out a process for me.

    BTW, in the spring I thought one of the most popular words in the country would be your handle. Apathy, confusion, ignorance, the defense of “capitalism”, the whining about luring the best talent to the most insolvent, the healthcare “debate” and many other distractions changed that.

    Maybe recent moves in the UK will bring it back next spring? Unless this…

    and TARP repayment become clawback – American style.

  22. clawback says:

    Sorry, “super senior” is a nonce term — what I mean is that the Fed gets paid back before any other creditors if it comes in to stem a crisis. I mean, I guess Congress could pass a law or whatever, but nobody really gives a f*** about laws anymore.

    And hell f***ing yeah, on us getting some “clawback.” We’re comin’ after you Stan O’Neal! — that’s what I want MY treasury sec saying.

    If you want to hear it from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, Chris Whalen has written (and testified before congress) that we could do Citi and BofA tomorrow if we had the political will. The regulatory structure is already there. BB and Geithner are lying out their wazoo’s when they say they couldn’t do anything about the big firms. In fact, the law requires that something be done already. But like I said, nobody cares about laws anymore. Basically, the mgt and/or BOD of, say, Citi, could be removed by the regulators (like BB threatened to do with Ken Lewis) and replaced with a BOD committed to the orderly — voluntary — restructuring of the debt. This is what Whalen calls the “adult conversation with the bondholders.” Basically, the govt has the bondholders and the mgt by the balls, but they either don’t know it or don’t want to admit it. Yes, bondholders would scream, pension funds would lose some money, and CDS might go off like firecrackers. The CDS you just have to deal with one way or another. Bailing out JPM or AIG (again) to pay out 100% on fraudulent CDS is just stupid. In fact, legislating that most of the CDS market is fraudulent might be one way for the govt. to neutralize most of the problem.

    I can’t solve the CDS problem, but that’s what the geniuses in D.C. should have been talking about all this time, not trying to figure out how to lie and kick the can down the road — with the taxpayer footing the bill.

  23. bruerr says:

    At best it is a crudely developed poll. At worst it is an effort to poll a lot of things, and by omitting to mention all things in the poll, is easily manipulated in the media to suggest, what political activist behind the poll, want it to suggest: For example, Americans do not like bankers receiving bonuses, but even then, do not want to break up the big-shtick banks.

    Conspicuously absent from the poll (as to suggest potential influence from lobbying-contingent behind BOTH parties):

    1) Of banks receiving TARP, do you believe executives stole or robbed money from the American public, during a crisis, or at anytime in following the crisis?

    2) Do you think large bank executives should by subjected to criminal prosecution for abusing trust of Americans or stealing from them, during a crisis?

    3) Do you think criminal prosecution should be for 2-3 year sentences, 4-5 years sentences, 8-10 years or 15+ years?

    You can tell this poll is biased in trying to overlook the possibility that anything criminal has been done. It closely follows the two-party line after that, trying to distract the attention of the person being polled into health care and war overseas and who their favorite politician is, how Sarah Palin is looking, and some other double dribbling.

    Now what we will be forced to seeing in the business media for the next two months: A poll conducted by “a prominent media firm,” found that people hold bankers in more contempt than lawyers who cheat. (You can almost hear Schatzker’s voice) … But also in the poll … though they dislike large bankers, those polled think large banks should be kept in tact and that no executives should be held accountable.

  24. bruerr says:

    Like to see Bloomberg ask some real questions::)

    4) Given a choice do you think executives at large banks should be held accountable, for failure at large banks, or do you think senior citizens and common Americans who had nothing to do with the banking industry, be held accountable?

    5) Do you support public censuring of large bank executives, for their behavior during the crisis, or when their banks fail – similar to credit reporting, only for bank executives who fail to pay the bank’s debt on time?

    6) Do you think it is fair treatment, or unfair, for Americans to receive bad marks or dings on their credit reports, when they are late or past due on balances, and the same industry does not take responsibility for executive mis-management, when they are late, mess up their bank’s finances, or fail their institutions?

  25. bruerr says:

    A potential problem with this poll is that it is developed by Mayor Bloomberg’s media organization. Data does not indicate what part of the country was polled, or if all geographical areas were represented. We do not know if the poll was conducted in wealthy district neighborhoods, suburbs traditionally loyal to New York or Wall Street, or in far remote regions such as Louisianna, which does not have a high incident of purchasing newspapers or internet.

    More poll questions I would like to see the folks at Bloomberg media ask 1000 Americans:)

    7) If given a choice, would you say large bank executives have been loyal to the United States during a crisis or disloyal, which would you choose.

    8) Given the last two Presidential administrations have sent troops overseas, do you think our country’s Attorney General, regulators and prosecutors should be more tough, or less tough, on bank executive greed and irresponsible conduct?

    9) Does it send out the wrong message to Americans that bank executives appear to be getting by with anything that suits their industry, or do you think they are NOT getting their way?

    10) Do you believe banking industry executives should be less responsible for failures at their banks, not responsible at all, unaccountable, have no liability whatsoever, have at least a little 10 percent liability, 50 percent liability or 100 percent liability?


  26. bruerr says:

    That was suppose to be an “8″ followed by a right parenthesis, not a smiley face with shades.=-]


    A few more questions for Bloombergs next poll:

    11) Should executive compensation committees who dismantle bankruptcy and contract law long enough to dump large bank dept onto the American common, be allowed to re-construct contract law a few months later or a year later, as a basis for paying out bonus awards or to justify an uptick in salary 1.2-4.5 times what bank executives were paid in the year before the crisis?

    12) Are you suspicious of a President who condones sedition of bankruptcy laws in the United States, and then holds executive pay (which are corporate by-laws) in higher regard than he esteems bankruptcy or insolvency laws?

    14) Should regulators and regulatory agencies, approving to bathe bank executives in lavish bonus awards and salary increases, during a crisis or within 3years after, be kicked to the curb or shot on sight as are looters during a declared emergency of any other nature?

    (Sorry, I could not resist that last.)