According to the New York Times, American International Group (AIG)–to whom the largest amount of bailout money from the Federal Reserve (read: US taxpayers) has been given–is forging ahead with plans to dish out $165 million in bonuses. These rewards come on the heels of an additional $121 million in bonuses in the last few weeks. This means that once the current round of rewards has been dished out, a company whose stupefyingly greedy actions are at the heart of the economic collapse will have taken $170 billion from the American people to keep themselves afloat, then turned around and given themselves $286 million as a slap on the back for a job well done.
We’re used to seeing astounding levels of gluttony and complete callousness towards the average American by big shots from corporations like AIG. But this is enough to take one’s breath away. Not that they actually need a real reason, since there is so little government control of their actions despite the bailout, but what exactly are these folks being rewarded for? How can any rational person argue that these filthy rich financiers have done anything that deserves praise, much less hundreds of millions in bonuses, given their actions and their disastrous consequences? The audacity required to continue to line these folks’ pockets is absolutely astounding.
And the company has jumped to defend itself, claiming they are legally obligated to pay these bonuses, according to the article. Execs and employees were promised them last year. This response points to some of the core problems of our bailing out these fools: AIG would not be left standing today if $180 billion of US taxpayers’ money hadn’t been given to them with almost no strings attached, yet when the government asks them (in much nicer words than the average American citizen would) to maybe hold off on the bonuses this year–given, you know, skyrocketing unemployment and foreclosures and suicides and stuff–they flat-out refuse. If the American people had real democratic control of these banks (which they should, given it’s taxpayers who are financing them), we could tell AIG, contractual obligations be damned. You’re lucky we’re not carting you off to jail–there’s no way we’re letting you make out with a quarter billion in bonuses. But because these measures haven’t been put into place, we’ll continue to see business as usual: executives frolicking all the way to the bank while the economy burns and the world suffers.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing we can do. The NYT article reads:
“The payment of so much money at a company at the heart of the financial collapse that sent the broader economy into a tailspin almost certainly will fuel a popular backlash against the government’s efforts to prop up Wall Street.”
Indeed it should, and hopefully it will. We must pressure the Obama administration to stop this bold-faced looting of public coffers filled by hard-working taxpayers. We can’t let these crooks continue to get away with murder while the rest of us get screwed.
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