It's really difficult to pull for banks these days. Really really difficult. Alas, we must. You can call what they do God's work or a necessary evil. But, in the end, we need them.
Still, it stings more than just a little bit when you hear about record earnings and bumper bonus pools. On Tuesday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli threw some more data in our collective faces that will make many of us cringe: Six banks -- Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo -- set aside $112 billion for salaries and bonuses over the first nine months of the year.
"The national economy is slowly improving, but Wall Street has recovered much faster than anyone had envisioned," DiNapoli said in his office's annual report. He added that profits should top 2006 levels, thanks in part to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates near zero for banks.
That's the real kicker. Banks have been rebuilding profits through the benefit of cheap credit, while at the same time jacking up interest rates and cutting back credit lines to consumers and businesses.
DiNapoli, of course, has to root for the banks. They're a huge source of tax revenue for New York State, which is facing a $10 billion budget deficit.
The securities industry accounted for 20 percent of state tax collections two years ago, but just 15 percent this year, the report said. In New York City, tax revenue from banks plummeted roughly 40 percent in the fiscal year ended June 30 compared to a year earlier.
"Wall Street remains the economic engine of both New York State and New York City," the report said.
The big picture story in the economy still remains jobs or lack thereof. Even there Wall Street has come out better off than expected. The report said securities industry job losses in New York City may not exceed 35,000, significantly less than the 47,000 predicted in June.
Of course, that doesn't measure the real impact of Wall Street. Overall, the financial crisis cost New York City 106,300 jobs from September 2008 to September 2009.
So while we'd like to see Wall Street suffer a bit, we have to realize we'll be suffering right along with them. Maybe even a little bit more.