When the AIG bonus story broke, I posted my reactions. Like everybody who wasn’t an AIG exec, I was pissed, and couldn’t believe their shamelessness, their audacity, their unquenchable greed for more money while average people were getting screwed, etc. Then I read Gary Younge’s article “Bonus Outrage: Class Struggle or Class Envy?” in the April 13 issue of The Nation, arguing that all the attention on AIG’s malfeasance let the real culprit for our economic crisis off the hook: capitalism. At a time when a discussion of the exploitation inherent to our economic system was slowly starting to take place in society, people started focusing on cussing out these extra-super-duper greedy execs. This was a distraction that took away from a more important conversation about capitalism that needs to happen.
But still, I couldn’t help but indulge my knee-jerk rage when I saw David Sirota’s post today on the under-the-radar story that the bonuses were actually almost four times the amount originally revealed–a grand total of $454 million! Almost half a billion! From a company who received $180 billion in taxpayer dollars from the bailout! This is ludicrous!
But you already knew that. Astounding corporate greed is not exactly newsworthy. And on any other day, I might have overlooked the story, remembering Gary Younge’s wisdom that focusing on AIG misses the real story. But shortly after hearing the new numbers, I also listened to this NPR story about the budget cuts Gov. Granholm had to make in Michigan’s budget for the second time this year, totaling around $300 million. A few crucially important areas are protected like health care for senior citizens and schools (although they certainly aren’t swimming in cash), but just about everything else is on the chopping block. And things would be a lot worse if our state wasn’t getting $1 billion from the federal recovery package (although, as the story points out, we’re already over a billion in the hole).
Devastating cuts for Michiganders, a half a billion as a slap on the back for those that helped send the economy down the toilet. Maybe we should be focusing on the bigger picture here, but it’s hard when Wall Street bandits give themselves taxpayer-funded bonuses larger than your state’s budget cuts and almost half the size of its deficit.