Commentary: Skip the demagoguery over the AIG bonuses

This editorial appeared in the (Tacoma) News-Tribune."

Congress appears to be tempering its feigned fury over the AIG bonuses reported a week and a half ago. That’s good, but let’s first give the public’s genuine fury its due.

AIG deserved the pillory for the way it passed out $165 million in “retention bonuses” to executives and employees in its financial products division – after receiving $182 billion in taxpayer bailout money. Among the recipients of that loot were some of the very wizards who helped engineer the worldwide financial crisis.

AIG’s theory, basically, was that it had to hang on to the inventors of the infamous “toxic assets” so they could cut the right wires on those infernally complex time bombs.

The $165 million may be budget dust in the scheme of things, but last week it became the symbol of everything responsible Americans rightly resent about the present predicament.

Many have seen their pay cut, their jobs disappear, their prospects of retirement fade and their home values decimated. They’ve long been aware of high-rolling executives who’ve been paid kingly fortunes – often while presiding over failing companies. Since last summer, they’ve seen how crooked loans, reckless profiteering, deliberately concealed risks and malefactors of great wealth have triggered the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

To read the complete editorial, visit The News-Tribune.