My Financial Funk & Wagnalls dictionary defines “performance bonus” as money awarded in recognition of something done well. John Thain, the deservedly disgraced and now deservedly unemployed chief of Merrill Lynch, and his co-Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, live in an alternative universe where the wanton destruction of our nation’s economy is seen as a job well done. The reported $4 billion dollars that Mr. Thain pissed away on year-end “bonuses” – even as his company was begging for bailout funds from the US Treasury – is stolen money: stolen from shareholders, from clients, and from American taxpayers. This money should be clawed back, by whatever means, and returned to the taxpayers who have pulled Merrill Lynch’s chestnuts out of the fire. Paul Begala rightly calls for the return of stocks to Wall Street – not the kind that one trades, but the wooden kind that was once used to shame criminals and thieves. Wall Street is well-known for its ticker-tape parades celebrating American heroes; we the people would like to see the likes of Thain, Lehman’s Richard Fuld, Bernie Madoff et al frog-marched down that street, in stocks, while a cloud of shredded pink slips, worthless brokerage statements and home foreclosure notices rains down upon them. Masters of the Universe, indeed.