One result of the recent economic woes was that I, a frugal teacher whose financial prowess heretofore consisted mainly in being a black belt grocery shopper, began to read the on-line Wall Street Journal. The news there was so dispiriting, and often beyond my intellectual ken, that I migrated over to the Lifestyle section, where I read news on books, food, and fashion.
One feature that melded Lifestyle and Economics is a series of blog posts by the unemployed: bankers, analysts, CFOs, and the more junior incarnations of the business class. The posts were often a mix of self-pity and pugnaciousness. Shining through many was a sense of entitlement: I WORKED HARD and got an MBA. NOT FAIR!
Anyway, I checked back yesterday post-vacation and discovered that about half of the bloggers were now employed! One fellow, whose name is Spencer Cutter, was laid-off from the late Lehman Brothers in spring 2008 (in other words, before it was late). During his job search, he took care of his toddler son, while his wife remained emplyed in the luxury retail business. Guess what? Mr. C. just got a job. Only it's at 80% less than his previous job.
Let's compute. OK. I know I have a pitiful salary, though it is above the U.S median. 80% off and I would be earning less than a part-time baby-sitter. It occurs to me that when Mr. C takes an 80% pay cut, he's still earning a lot more than I am. Maybe even twice as much? Maybe more?
So while the percents are shocking, the % off method with salaries may be as misleading as in retail. If you get a designer tee shirt at 80% off its original price, you may still be paying a ridiculous $60.00 for a simple tee. The fact that Mr. C remains in the affluent class at 80% off suggests that Wall Street salaries may be as inflated as designer duds. In fact, if I've learned anything from the various lifestyle portraits of the former and current Masters of the Universe*, it's that the financial world is a parallel universe. I can't even imagine what these Masters think of people like me. Or if they think of me at all.
* Masters of the Universe: from Tom Wolfe's prescient Bonfire of the Vanities.