Fight for $44! What if Wages Matched Wall Street Bonuses?

Wall Street Bull Via Alexander Naumann

While the Fight for $15 movement stalled in Congress, thanks to every Republican in the Senate, a select few Democrats, and one independent U.S. Senator, an amazing idea has been brought to national attention by Sarah Anderson. Anderson is a co-editor at, a project of the progressive Institute for Policy Studies. According to Anderson, if the minimum wage had kept track with Wall Street bonuses since 1985, it would now be $44. To repeat, the minimum wage would be $44 dollars today.

For those wondering, Anderson says Wall Street bonuses since 1985 have increased by 1,217%, with the average in 1985 being $13,970; in 2020 it was $184,000. According to New York’s State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the total 2020 bonus pool increased in the securities industry to 6.8% or $31.7 billion. In 2019, it was $29.7 billion.

While this may embitter people making $7.25 an hour—especially since this has been the minimum wage since July, 2009—Wall Street traders are certainly not feeling it. In fact, since the pandemic started, they’ve actually been making more money. According to DiNapoli, bonus pay actually increased in 2020 by as much as 10%: “The average bonus paid to employees in New York City’s securities industry grew by 10 percent in 2020 to $184,000, in line with the city’s most recent 9.9 percent projection.”

DiNapoli’s office said that while some had predicted that Wall Street would take a heavy hit during the pandemic, they had a nearly record-shattering year.

This was due in part to low interest rates, a massive increase in underwriting and, most dangerously, an increase in trading in volatile markets. While this may be a good thing for New York’s tax revenue, it doesn’t exactly help the little guy, with DiNapoli himself saying, “New York benefits when Wall Street succeeds, but our economy won’t fully recover until other sectors can reopen and all New Yorkers have a chance to share in economic success.” So far, based on the closing of numerous businesses and massive unemployment, New Yorkers and the rest of the country are not sharing in that success.

According to, this is especially true for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and women, who for the most part, were left out of these bonuses. White men make up the majority of the financial sector with all five of the largest US investment banks’ CEOs being all male and all white. Of the top five largest investment banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup, the majority of top managers and senior executives were men, with Morgan Stanley and Citigroup being the most gender diverse, at 66% men making up the upper branches of the company, and Morgan Stanley being the least at 82%. However, they made up only 33% of minimum wage workers.

As far as whites went, in the security industry they made up 80.5%, and over 50% of those making less than $15 per hour. At the big five investment banks, those same top managers and senior executives made up the majority of the top positions with Citigroup having the least at 71%, and Morgan Stanley, again, having the highest concentration at 83%.

There are reasons for so many people at the top doing so well, while those at the bottom do not, according to Sarah Anderson. She says, “Since 2010, the year the Dodd-Frank financial reform became law, regulators have failed to implement that law’s Wall Street pay restrictions and Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage. These two failures speak volumes about who has influence in Washington — and who does not.”

She blames Wall Street lobbyists for blocking section 956 of Dodd-Frank. With that in place, it would have prevented inappropriate risks, such as the ones that caused the market to crash in 2008.

While the Fight for 15 continues, it’s important to point out that, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if the minimum wage had been tracked to productivity growth since 1968, it would actually be $24 an hour, or with an average workweek, $48,000 a year, or $96,000 for an equally well-earning couple. This does not perfectly track with inflation but it’s very close.

Of course, while Wall Street enjoys its bonuses, Main Street has been on the verge of collapse, with more than 97,000 Yelp businesses alone closing, permanently shut down due to COVID.

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