Commentary: Troubled bank bonuses outrageous

In his first town hall meeting following inauguration, President Barack Obama emphatically disapproved of the lavish salaries and bonuses in troubled Wall Street firms. "You cannot — you cannot — you cannot expect taxpayers to bail out banks that have made bad decisions when they are then using that money to give themselves huge bonuses," he said in Elkhart, Ind.

Self-evident truth in America's heartland, it turns out, is anathema in the heart of the financial industry.

Nine banks that received a government bailout paid out $32.6 billion in bonuses last year to hundreds of executives, according to a report compiled by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Bad enough that bonuses were paid while banks were receiving government aid. Worse yet that the bonuses were so high. Example: 783 Citigroup employees received bonuses of at least $1 million each, even though the bank lost $27.7 billion and needed $45 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to stay afloat. It has yet to pay back the money.

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