But didn’t taxpayers bail out the financial system, so don’t taxpayers deserve the bonuses? No. Taxpayers (aka voters) were acting in their own interests in bailing out the system. They weren’t doing anybody a favor. Furthermore, government already stands to collect about 50% of any Wall Street cash bonuses in the form of income tax (which explains why the subject is of interest to the New York state comptroller).

What’s more, despite a casual imputation that taxpayers were the suckers at the table, taxpayers did not, as commonly alleged, “spend” money to bail out the banks. They traded one claim for another. Mostly, they traded claims they printed (dollars) for claims on real assets, such as housing, commercial property and industrial equipment…

In fact, yesterday the Fed, whose balance sheet is about the size of Citigroup’s, reported whopping profits for 2009 of $52 billion—just a few billion shy of what Wall Street as a whole is likely to report for the year. (All this throws a mocking light on the Obama administration’s claim yesterday that a new tax must be imposed on banks to “recoup” bailout costs.)