Everybody's angry about AIG. The people are seething. The politicians are demanding a payback. Even Edward Liddy, AIG's chairman and CEO, says the bonuses are "distasteful."
Well, while you and me and most of the rest of America are mad as hell and not wanting to give it anymore, the bonusees are scowling all the way to the bank, proving once again that if you want to rob somebody the pen is mightier than the sword--or the gun for that matter. Bernie Madoff didn't even say "stick 'em up" as he hauled off a cool $50 billion. Nor did the AIG muckety mucks wield any weapons as they stuck us up for 173 billion in bail out bucks before slipping $165 million of our money to their executives for a job disastrously done.
This is a classic example of how the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.
Let's roll away from Wall Street and head to Motown. A tenth of the bailout money AIG got went to the folks that actually make something. In return for the $17 billion GM and Chrysler got, the auto worker's union and its members are being strong-armed into chucking their contractual agreements with the Big Two while chinning and grinning to show their gratitude that they will still had lower paying jobs.
Mind you, the UAW and its members had done nothing wrong. They built the cars that the car corporations designed. The GM and Chrysler CEO's, who had been stuck on stupid when they first came to the nation's capitol in their private jets, wised up, making commercial airlines their transportation of choice and choosing to pay themselves a buck a year.
Meanwhile at AIG, there was the $440,000 conference last October at the St. Regis resort at Monarch Beach. That little extravagance turned out to be a pittance compared to the latest revelation that at least 73 employees from AIG's London-based Financial Products unit--the division that sold the derivatives that are responsible for the insurance giant's threatening collapse--got bonuses of $1 million or better each. Eleven of those London employees were received the so-called retention bonuses have already flown the coop.
Big time pay for a big time F-up. How would you like to have a job like that?
As the argument goes, we have to pay the bonuses because they have a contract and there's this magical, mysterious obligation to honor that legal agreement. Why there was no reason to honor the United Auto Workers contract remains a greater mystery--or maybe not.
We know how it works: white collar crime pays. Blue collar labor gets paid not so much.
Cyber Columnist Monroe Anderson is an award-winning journalist who penned op-ed columns for both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. You can read his blog at http://www.monroeanderson.typepad.com/