Americans Vote to Kill Bonuses - For Other People

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Kill them all. Let God sort 'em out. That, in a nutshell, seems to be how the average American views finance industry workers.

A recent poll of 1,000 people by Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times found 76 percent say no one who works in any capacity at a financial firm that received government cash should be paid any bonus for 2008. "About half of those say all Wall Street firms, regardless of whether they participated in the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, should cancel bonuses," Bloomberg reports.

Here as elsewhere, public opinion appears to draw little distinction between withholding pay from senior executives and from the mass of bank employees. However, a majority of respondents opposed the idea of slapping a $400,000-a-year pay ceiling on executives of companies that received taxpayer aid, which some lawmakers advocate.

The poll results indicate that - although public fury at the bogeyman labeled "Wall Street" continues unabated - the reality of economic crisis has sunk in enough that even relatively less-educated Americans now recognize the need to weigh unpleasant choices.

Fifty percent of those surveyed said government ownership of teetering financial institutions and automakers is necessary to rescue the economy (33 percent were opposed). At the same time, a majority found the $700 billion Treasury bailout and proposed auto industry bailout legislation troubling enough to label them "steps toward socialism," Bloomberg says.

There is less support for helping financial institutions, however: 48 percent said banks should be allowed to fail if they can't sustain themselves, while 34 percent rejected that statement.

About half the respondents said deregulation is entirely or mostly to blame for the financial crisis.

The poll was conducted Dec. 6-8.