Commentary: The difference between just money and crazy money

The Charlotte ObserverOctober 22, 2009 

There's just money, and then there's crazy money.

Let's do crazy money first.

Crazy money is what you get on a game show for knowing that mountain range in Bolivia.

Crazy money is what goes to some NFL defensive ends.

Crazy money is what happened in the final hours of the Merrill Lynch deal when Bank of America agreed to buy out the Wall Street brokerage. Late in the night, with all the numbers in place, Merrill Lynch execs bellied up to the trough and began asking for millions of dollars for their help in making the deal. And got it.

Then before the deal closed in January, Merrill's leadership — fresh from running the company into the ground — slathered $3.6 billion in bonuses to deserving employees. With that bit of housekeeping done, it burped contentedly and announced it would suffer a quarterly loss of $15 billion.

That's crazy money.

Then there's just money.

Just money is what we pay school teachers.

Just money is what puts shoes on your kid's feet.

Just money is what some Mecklenburg commissioners are wondering whether they should pay to Harry Jones, the county manager. Jones makes about $215,000 for running the state's largest county and if he does it well, he can get maybe a 30 percent bonus.

Because things are tight, the county is capping the potential bonus at $38,400. But even that is a touchy thing, because the financial lizards who led the economy into a mire are still jowling up millions and that's making people righteously sore.

And they're staying sore because they have trouble telling the difference between just money and crazy money.

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