I took my youngest child on a spring break trip to Washington. While there, the AIG bonus news was breaking (and breaking, and breaking) on every news outlet. She told me she was annoyed – more by the constant coverage than by the bonuses.
My thoughts on the mess are mixed.
First, why is everyone acting surprised that people want more money?Huge bonuses, some in the multi-million dollar range, sound attractive to me. They obviously sound attractive to people in congress who continually vote themselves raises and, when out of office, become lobbyists paid millions to get their former colleagues to do favors for their employers. I am not shocked that there is the appearance of greed on Wall Street. I am shocked that more people don’t see it elsewhere.
Second, I am unimpressed with the elite, with the “best and the brightest.” We fill our major financial institutions with the “best and the brightest.” We put them in congress and the White House. We make them CEOs. Too many are overly impressed with themselves and too interested in forwarding their own interests. Sure, they’re smarter than the rest of us and so know what is best for us, but even then their execution isn’t what I’d expect.
Third, I have inadequate information on the mechanism of the AIG bonuses. What is it people are being rewarded for? Having a pulse? Working for AIG? Making money for the company? Only losing 2 billion instead of 3? The issue of retention has been mentioned. Are we trying to keep the guys who killed AIG corralled in one spot lest they inflict similar damage elsewhere? Or are they the realy good guys who might jump ship to go to a more successful company?
Fourth, do people who work for these companies have a social conscience? Sure, they probably vote for the correct political party and give token amounts to the correct charities, but is Mammon the chief of their pantheon? Do they ever think, “I could do this and make piles of money for myself and my company, but it’d destroy the lives of some and impoverish others, so I’m not going to do it – even though it is completely legal.”
Finally, is anyone in power willing to tell the truth – about their own actions, not just those sinful other guys? I precious few in either the business or political class willing to tell the truth. Instead, they’re prancing around defending their own righteousness and wisdom. I guess that at least those who like to see bipartisanship can rejoice that both parties are failing at the same time.