How outraged are you over AIG giving bonuses to employees after accepting bailout money? Do you agree with Iowa Senator Grassley that the AIG executives should either resign or commit suicide? Or do you agree with me that our illustrious elected officials should sit down and shut up?
Let's set aside for the moment the fact that AIG, like many other similar companies, factors such bonuses into employee compensation contracts making them obligatory payouts rather than discretionary gifts, meaning that those handing over all that government money should have easily foreseen that some of it would be spent in this fashion. Let's also disregard the glaring fact that we should not have begun bailing out private companies in the first place.
Let's just consider some of the numbers. AIG has received about $170 billion dollars in federal money, $165 million of which has been used to pay these so-called bonuses. Barack Obama received $5.3 million for transition operations. There is a very interesting article about how this money was spent at Politico.com which you can read here. Among other worthy expenditures, $15,000 was spent for Blackberry services, $5000 for document shredding, $126,000 for a charter jet to transport the Obamas to their Hawaii vacation, and $7000 for installing and removing protective window film in the transition offices. Then, of course, there's the Economic Stimulus Bill. The final price tag on that was in the neighborhood of $800 billion. The discretionary portion of that total is a staggering $308 billion. Discretionary meaning, in this case, blatantly unnecessary. I'm not sure how our economy is stimulated by $600 million for new cars for the federal government or $200 million to design and furnish the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. (More info on what the stimulus money is being used for can be found at US News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal.)
At this point, I'm having a very hard time accepting all the senators and representatives stepping in front of television cameras to claim some type of moral high ground. After all, the last I heard, they were not planning to forego a raise they intend to vote in for themselves. What about all of the benefits they enjoy, from healthcare to generous pension plans? Will they be giving those back to the taxpayers who fund them? Do not insult my intelligence by handing out money to companies who have shown an inability to succeed, then pretend outrage when they use the money the way they always have. It is a flimsy smokescreen designed to distract the public from the true incompetence on continual display within the walls of the Capitol.
If the irresponsible expenditure of taxpayer dollars is the criteria, than I would suggest Senator Grassley redirect his comments to his colleagues.