Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Dog and Pony Show: Washington Goes WWF on AIG Largess

In this corner, weighing in at $170 billion in taxpayer revenue, reporting a 3rd quarter profit of $6 million in 2008 (just before the market meltdown) and $1.6 trillion in losses : the Master of Disaster, the Don of Derivatives, the Jihad on Jobs, the Harbinger of Recession, the Bonus Bitch, and the Credit-default Swap felt 'round the World, American Insurance Group!

AND IN THIS CORNER, weighing in with an annual taxpayer budget of $2.7 billion with pay increases on the way, with wins for multinational corporations, foreign countries, the executive branch and, of course, themselves, having been hoodwinked by Hank Paulson, punked by Karl Rove and made into George Bush's bitch: the Counterfeit Chorus, the Feckless Faction, the Guardian of the Greedy, the Corporate Courtesan, the Strumpet of the Stinking-rich and the Rubberiest of all Rubber Stamps, the United States Congress!

Let the WWF Smackdown begin.

Not. Ed Liddy refused to reveal the names of the employees who took bonuses, due to some threatening mail, including a piece he read aloud, indicating that the writer wanted to garrote bonus recipients with a piano string. I could try to explain to Mr. Liddy and his kind, that the reason horse thieves were hanged, rather than simply receiving long sentences, was because horses in the old West, weren't simply draft/transportation animals, they were livelihood; if your horse was stolen or damaged, you might not be able to provide for your family. That didn't mean selling one of a dozen houses or missing an annual trip to Europe, it meant starvation. He, the members of Congress and the media probably wouldn't know what it means to live paycheck to paycheck (in Liddy's case, another year, another dollar), then to get the news that the cycle you depended on has been broken. Your expenses will continue, but your paychecks will not.

The media has started making fun of the outrage shown by Congress to the insurance giant. Funny that they never mention the reason that it all sounds so disingenuous: Congress will be getting yet another raise this year while the taxpayers that support them continue to lose their jobs and homes.

Bernanke knew about the bonuses, but did nothing to block them. Geithner shrugged his shoulders, accepting the argument that the contracts that agreed to the bonuses--under the auspices that 2007's profits were something other than creative accounting--could in no wise be abrogated.

I'm sure this comes as disappointing news to the UAW.

But the hearing was nothing more than a dog and pony show. As with the situation that led to the financial meltdown, it doesn't take a genius to sniff this one out. Anyone who could look at the price of homes in poor and/or working class neighborhoods could see that we were in for trouble: it simply didn't add up. Here are the facts"

  • AIG has funneled tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to Goldman Sachs, Deutche Bank, others
  • Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and current Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner were both once employed by Goldman Sachs
  • Goldman Sachs and AIG were substantial contributors to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Before some nut job starts frothing at the mouth about a Jewish banking conspiracy, I should point out that the only implication I'm trying to make is that Goldman Sachs' fingerprints are all over the crime scene. Watching Congress and the Obama Administration bungle through the financial meltdown would be like watching Car 54, where are you? or Keystone Cops, if it weren't so obvious that they're ignoring all of the clues left behind by the criminals.

GEITHNER: "A contract? Gawrsh! Did they pinky swear on it and everything?" (shrugging) "Well, shucks. It looks like there isn't nothin' we can do, then." (turning to AIG) "Would you super-nice fellers who were so greedy a year ago that you didn't give a crap one way or 'nother that you might destroy the world economy, mind giving them there retention bonuses back? No?" (turning to audience) "Gawrsh. Guess there's nothin' we can do, then."

We needed Elliot Ness and we got Frank Nitti. Obama made a mistake by tapping yet another Goldman Sachs alum to run the Treasury. He walked into a wall, dislodged the scaffolding above him and wound up covered in paint with a bucket over his head. Once makes for good theater. But there reaches a point, after a dozen or so prat falls that you shut it off, because it's obvious they're mugging for the cameras.

We need FDR, not Charlie Chaplin, and for Obama to be taken seriously, he's going to have to fire Geithner before another series of prat falls obviates what we already suspect. We need a Congress that walks the walk instead of just talking the talk. And we need a media that follows evidence instead of trying to quell public outrage with eye-rolling and cynicism. But that's not going to happen as long as we wait around for someone else to do our work.

Obama was right about one thing: we are the change we've been waiting for.