Americans are having a field day with Andrew Schiff, a Wall Street banker who complained in an interview with Bloomberg about his “paltry” $350,000-a-year salary. Says Schiff: “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”
It all started when 46-year-old marketing director of Euro Pacific Capital, a global investment strategies company, was on his way back from speaking at a conference in California -- and got caught in traffic. This traffic situation was the last straw; he wasn't going to take it anymore. He found himself getting out of the car and screaming profanities.
In a later interview, Andrew Schiff said he was already seething because of a reduced bonus. His basic pay -- $350,000 per year – was peanuts. Net, he brought $200,000 home. As a result, he can't send his kids to private school anymore. He has to make do with his 111-square-meter (1,195-square-foot) apartment in Brooklyn the way it is – no upgrade in the cards now. And his family will only be able to rent the summer place for one month this year instead of the usual four.
Spilling the beans like that to a Bloomberg reporter is probably something Schiff wishes he hadn't done. Americans have been having a very public field day with his words since the interview was published. In this election year, when the growing divide between rich and poor is a central theme, Schiff has become a symbol for the unbridled greed of the financial sector.
If Schiff's bonus was cut, so were the bonuses of many Wall Street bankers – "only" $20 billion were distributed for 2011, 14% less than during the preceding year. But by comparison to the 51% collapse of profits on Wall Street, the cuts seem modest.
"The poor guy..."
Many Americans would like to have the problem Schiff complains of. Newspapers and blogs were quick to mock him -- this "poor" member of the 1% highest earners in the country that the Occupy movement "99%" has been protesting against for weeks. The salaries of many Americans have gone down in the past few years. The average salary – after adjusting for inflation -- is $50,000, well less than a fourth of what Schiff earns.
Plenty of fun is being had at Schiff's expense on Twitter too. "Does anybody have Andrew Schiff's bank account number? I'd like to transfer my last euros to the poor guy," wrote one tweeter.
Schiff is now trying his darnedest to redress the faux pas. He's been calling journalists and telling them he just meant to illustrate how high the cost of living is in New York.
He's not wrong there: according to the Center for an Urban Future, a New Yorker needs to earn $123,000 a year to be counted among the middle class. Pre-schools can cost up to $30,000 a year, and private schools an easy $40,000. Even upper-middle-class Americans find these sums tough to shoulder.
"The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach," Schiff told the reporter. Many New Yorkers would agree with him.
However, Schiff's defense strategy isn't really making things much better. Honing his "poor me" persona, he told a Washington Post reporter: "I don't have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand."
Read the original story in German
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