A look at what – and who – is pushing the future in new directions

The Reich-AIG Smackdown

aig-is-a-pig1Jon Stewart single-handedly revived Celebrity Death Match last week with his-much-talked-about, searing (and, oh so satisfying) rebuke of Jim Cramer’s lack of accountability — and that of his colleagues at CNBC — as a financial “entertainer.”

This week Robert Reich jumps in the ring, unloading a fresh can of whoop-ass on AIG and their astonishingly brazen-yet-craven defense of the $100M  executive-bonus (or is it ‘bogus’?) payout.

Reich counters AIG’s claim of legally-binding, preexisting agreements with refreshing common sense (full post here):

AIG’s arguments are absurd on their face. Had AIG gone into chapter 11 bankruptcy or been liquidated, as it would have without government aid, no bonuses would ever be paid (they would have had a lower priority under bankruptcy law that AIG’s debts to other creditors); indeed, AIG’s executives would have long ago been on the street. And any mention of the word “talent” in the same sentence as “AIG” or “credit default swaps” would be laughable if laughing weren’t already so expensive.

…This sordid story of government helplessness in the face of massive taxpayer commitments illustrates better than anything to date why the government should take over any institution that’s “too big to fail” and which has cost taxpayers dearly. Such institutions are no longer within the capitalist system because they are no longer accountable to the market. To whom should they be accountable? As long as taxpayers effectively own a large portion of them, they should be accountable to the government. But if our very own Secretary of the Treasury doesn’t even learn of the bonuses until months after AIG has decided to pay them, and cannot make stick his decision that they should not be paid, AIG is not even accountable to the government. That means AIG’s executives — using $170 billion of our money, so far — are accountable to no one. (emphasis mine)

It’s common knowledge that the handful of executives who take a $1/year salary (CEOs at Apple, Yahoo!, Google, Citigroup, Ford, among them) is little more than a PR move. The extraordinary wealth of these men (mega-millionaires to billionaires all) continues to grow through recalibrated bonus and stock option packages, all while appearing to martyr themselves for the health of the company.  Stunningly, the folks at AIG appear to have no pride (or its inverse, shame), and maintain an impenetrable sense of entitlement to extravagant parties and pay scales.  It’s crazy, it’s unconscionable — and worse — it’s deadly.

I stand by my earlier assertion that causes of the collapse of our financial system really aren’t complicated. Sure the financial instruments themselves may be, but the principles of the game are exceedingly straight-forward.

Article By: Cecily Sommers

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