The AIG Bonus Debacle: Channel Your Anger
If conference committee meetings were televised, members of the conference committee would be constrained to explain what they were doing and why. That would be a good thing.
Well, the conference committee was not televised, members of the conference committee were not constrained to explain what they were doing, and that was a bad thing.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson does as good a job as any of explaining what happened to an amendment to limit bonuses from companies that receive bailout money:
Concerns on the broader compensation issue were serious enough to ensure unanimous Senate passage of an amendment to the stimulus bill sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden that penalized bailout bonuses in excess of $100,000. But the Snowe-Wyden amendment disappeared into the misty bog of a House-Senate conference committee, only to be trumped by language that grandfathered in AIG’s retention bonuses. At first, this seemed to be an example of immaculate legislation — miraculously fatherless. After explicitly denying responsibility, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd eventually admitted to including the exception under pressure from the administration.
So Congress and the President explicitly permitted these bonus payouts, which they knew were coming, then went berserk with recriminations against AIG and the recipients of the bonuses when they figured out what they had done. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to tax these bonuses to the tune of 90%.
There’s a word more powerful than “hypocrisy” that describes this kind of galloping idiocy. I wish I knew what it was.
All we can do about it is smile that thin smile, accepting that we’ve been robbed fair and square, again.
Or maybe we can take a lesson. . . . Something like: Haste makes waste. Specifically, when Congress acts in haste, Congress wastes. Our money.
And it’s worth noting that right now Congress is laying the groundwork for fouling up the fiscal 2010 spending process. As I wrote here ten days ago, the first two deadlines in that process have already been missed. The endgame of missing deadlines is having to do everything in haste at the last minute. And we have some idea of what happens now, right?
Want to channel your anger in a positive way? Contact your Member of Congress and ask them to get the spending process back on schedule. They won’t barely know what you mean, because half of them probably don’t even know what it is. But you can send them a link to this post if they don’t understand.