The circus that has become the AIG bonus "scandal" needs to end. It needs to end now.
I don't like the fact that people were rewarded for their performance at AIG. If for no other reason than it looks horribly out of touch, AIG executives should have had the foresight to postpone any bonuses until such time as the company is back in the black.
That said, the phony, pretend, extremely exaggerated outrage from so many members of Congress and the administration is disgusting. I'm disappointed with AIG. I'm mad as hell at Congress and the President.
Congress and the administration new for months about the bonuses. Senator Dodd put a clause in the bailout bill that explicitly protected these bonuses. That bill passed through Congress and President Obama signed it. They knew what they were doing. Now they want to pretend that they were had. They want to pose for holy pictures with torches and pitchforks.
The endless calls to tax all of the bonuses after the fact are bad enough. Brad has pointed out the potential constitutional problems. I think it is safe to say that there is no legal recourse to retake the bonuses. It may not be a pleasant reality, but following the law and the constitution are far more important than the money paid in these bonuses.
But as much as the blatant hypocrisy bothers me - I unfortunately have come to expect it from elected officials - I am truly disgusted by two remarks in particular.
The first is Senator Grassley's now infamous remark that these executives should commit suicide. I can't believe a US Senator would actually say something like that - whether it was in jest or not. It's absurd, and he needs to spend a long time apologizing to each and everyone of the people who got these bonuses. These are not evil people. They may not be saints, I don't know. I really don't care. But these people are not Bernie Maddoff. They have been charged with no crime. It's disgusting to attack them so personally.
The worst comments I have heard, though, came from Rep. Barney Frank. When the current CEO of AIG, Liddy, was testifying about the bonuses before Congress yesterday Frank insisted that he turn over the names of the recipients. Liddy declined, citing death threats sent to AIG. When Frank persisted, Liddy read a threat about killing each of the executives - and their families - with piano wire. Frank's response is truly dispicable:
"I am not persuaded." and "Everyone here gets those threats."
Sorry, the AIG execs are not public officials. Their identities should be protected when this kind of rage and hatred exists and threats have been made- spurred on, I might add, by people like Mr. Frank. We should never be so dismissive of graphic threats made against innocent people. Remember, these people are not criminals.
My point is that everyone currently faking outrage - for crying out loud, President Obama needed a teleprompter to tell him he was mad - they need to look in the mirror. The laws they passed, the loopholes they created and encouraged brought us this mess.
Taking all of our collective anger out on the people who got one-tenth-of-one-percent AIG's total bailout is ridiculous.
The constitution was written in large part to protect against this kind of thing. We can't use our laws to go back and penalize someone, or some group of people after the fact. That isn't what our nation is about. If we go back and forcibly take the bonuses, our government has broken a valid contract simply because they didn't like the terms. That's not the way our system works. Laws still mean something.
I think the chorus of congressmen chlamoring for heads to roll has gotten so loud because they don't want anyone to ask how this happened. Essentially they are trying to tell us that AIG and these executives are to blame for everything that has gone wrong. AIG is to blame for your lost job, or your lost home and you should be mad at them. Congress doesn't want us to start asking why and how, because this is as much their fault as anyone's.
I for one am tired of it. Both parties have behaved badly in this scene and I have no respect for anyone in Washington claiming outrage over this.