Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AIG Bashing

If there was any doubt about it, the appearance recently of AIG's new CEO before a Congressional committee demonstrated that, Americans in general, are, "mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more". It gave members of the House Financial Services Committee a chance to crow and distance themselves from a debacle for which their constituents are likely to hold them equally accountable. And why not? As we taxpayers are holding 80% of AIG.It's little comfort to anyone recently laid off, facing the prospect of being unemployed or agonizing over the loss of their life's savings, that Edward Liddy, AIG's new chairman, finds, "it's distasteful to have to make these payments", meaning, of course, the $165 million in bonuses paid out to more than 200 AIG executives. All of whom, by the way, had they been managing a major sports franchise, would have been fired mid-season. With AIG the logic seems to work in reverse. While the company says it is contractually obligated to pay the bonuses, it admits that to have denied them might have triggered a mass exodus of talented executives! Talent? And who would want those who proved they were neither the best nor the brightest but otherwise greedy enough to bring AIG to the brink of extinction. Even though it is unlikely Americans will get the revenge they feel entitled to, they are nonetheless determined to get an accounting of who got what and are likewise itching to know who knew what and when. Senate Finance Committee member, Chris Dodd, has nobly offered it was his decision to let the bonus payments go forward but only after being "pressured" by others. Let's hope it's someone who was truly culpable and not just a scapegoat paraded before the cameras to appeal to those wanting blood. It's a new era, says President Obama. Right now Americans are wondering how much longer before it begins.

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