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You’re right: The commoners just don’t get AIG

Submitted by on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 2 Comments

Go ahead, tell us we just don’t understand.

Patiently explain why the $165 million in bonuses American International Group is paying 400 people are necessary to keep “some of these brainiacs in their seats.” Tell us it’s for our own good, pat us on the head and send us along the way.

Maybe we’ll find inspiration in our daily struggles in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ speech Monday at a Virginia college, when he chided Americans for not being willing to sacrifice enough. “Our country and our principles are more important than our individual wants,”Thomas said.

Seems that 400 executives at a colossally failed insurance company are a prime example of “individual wants.” They want the bonus even though the company was on the brink until the American taxpayers bailed it out. Bonuses that wouldn’t  have been possible had a $170 billion public investment not pulled the company back from the cliff called bankruptcy.

“If the taxpayer didn’t bail out AIG, those contracts wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re printed on,” said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who’s subpoenaed company records to find out who got how much and when. “The whole concept of a performance bonus to me is oxymoronic when it comes to AIG.”

Oh, but we have to pay the bonuses, AIG says. We’re contractually obligated.

Might want to ask U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell about contractual obligations. He had no compunction about killing the automaker bailout because the unions weren’t renegotiating contracts quickly enough to suit him.

The apologist rhetoric was stunningly similar last month, when Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill was the only one in the U.S. Senate with enough guts to introduce a bill capping executive pay for companies receiving bailouts.

No one will work under these conditions. We have to pay to keep “top talent.”

America is calling “bullcrap.”

According to a poll Pew Research Center conducted last week, 48 percent of us say we’re angry that the very financial institutions that screwed the pooch are being bailed out. A lot of us – 39 percent – also are mad about help going to homeowners who made dumb decisions to buy more than they could afford.

To be fair, the president’s also angry about the bonues, though the best plan the administration has been able to come up with so far is to say “pretty please give back the money.” Payouts, by the way, that the Treasury Department approved.

Excuse me, but don’t we, the taxpayer, actually own about 80 percent of that company? I suppose that depends on your definition of what “owns” is, since neither Treasure nor the Federal Reserve Board seems to want to be in charge and pre-bailout company executives couldn’t find the way to doing the right thing if the directions were in flashing neon.

At least Citigroup chief Vikram S. Pandit agreed to work for $1 this year after collecting his $32 million bonus for 2008.

Meanwhile, families struggle with unemployment or pay cuts. School lunch programs are running out of money because more children need help paying for meals. The Federal Reserve Board chairman says the recession “might” end this year, but no promises.

All of that makes it hard for the rest of us to understand how folks sleep at night after accepting performance bonuses for  performances that would be considered abject failures by most rational standards.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • ChefMommy said:

    Let’s see…If you sucked at your job you should not get a bonus. Driving it into the ground and making poor business decisions classify as job suckage. Also, if you did either of those things then you are NOT top talent and therefore should not be retained or rewarded. Do you give your dog a treat when he poops on your carpet? I am a firm believer of don’t spend more than you have. We should never have bailed out any company. We should not be bailing out any homeowner. If you make poor finacial decisions you should suffer the consequences – lose everything you cannot afford. Including that $400,000 home when you make less than $250,000 a year!

  • Debra said:

    That’s the part that cracks me up: The thinking that says the folks who royally fubar-ed everything are “top talent.” I read one article last night that said, in essence, “for the sake of the country, we have to keep some of these folks because the mess is so complicated only they know how to fix it.”

    My head exploded. Then I wondered, “if they know how to fix it, why haven’t they?