This chart comes from a recently released report (.pdf warning) from NY's comptroller's office on the securities industry.
Economix states the obvious:
It shows that the average salary in the industry in 2010 was $361,330 — five and a half times the average salary in the rest of the private sector in the city ($66,120). By contrast, 30 years ago such salaries were only twice as high as in the rest of the private sector.Sure, the "free" market may say that's what bankers are worth, but it's hard to look at the history of the past 30 years and conclude that, from a societal perspective, bankers have been or are worth their exorbitant salaries, particularly considering all the damage they caused in the most recent financial crisis.
Add to that the fact that the government always has (and always will) bail out the big banks when they get into trouble, and you've got a recipe for a lot of resentment from the 98-99% of Americans who pull in (significantly) less money than Wall Street types.
Krugman thinks that the "plutocrats," as he puts it, are starting to panic:
We'll see if they manage to drive Occupy Wall Street from the stage, and on which side the Obama Administration lands. Thus far, one could argue that Obama has been doing his best, given the policies put in place by his predecessor and the messy realities of a slow recovery.
Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage.
But, now that (some of) the masses are getting seriously pissed, and that it's obvious that the Republicans aren't going to help the Democrats do anything productive about economic growth, jobs, income inequality, or anything else between now and the next election, I'm curious to see whether Obama rediscovers the passion, drive, rhetoric, and ideas that got him elected in the first place. Only time will tell.