AIG has become the fall-guy for this severe worldwide recession. The financial-products division has become the fall guy for AIG. The employees of the financial-products division who received retention bonuses are the fall guys for the financial-products division. There are four groups of people who should give a sincere thanks to these people.
First, every other organization that’s responsible for the recession should thank them for taking the heat, at least temporarily, off their organization.
Second, members of Congress should thank them. Now every member who can manage to get their face in front of a TV camera can say how outraged they are. They may have no clue what the issues are, but they know being outraged about this is good politics. It also serves to distract from other matters at hand which would require some difficult political choices they have made, e.g., all the pork and earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill they responsible for. Additionally it gives them a chance to point fingers at each other for blame. And of course everybody gets to pile on Secretary Geithner, even though Geithner is less culpable than Congress or Fed Chief Ben Bernanke.
Third, members of the press should thank them. Rather than performing any in-depth investigative reporting on what this is and how it came to happen, they find it far easier to interview those same outraged members of Congress, or some small town waitress who can’t understand why her tax dollars are going to people who got us into this mess, or someone who lost their job and wants to know why they are not being helped, etc., etc., etc.
Fourth, the pundits should thank them. This is fresh meat for those who traffic in innuendo.
The $165 million in bonuses is chump change in the scope of the AIG bailout. None of the groups listed above have a clue what’s at issue with the AIG conundrum, but bonuses to failed employees of a failed corporation is a symbolic issue all can latch onto.
This doesn’t mean I’m letting AIG off the hook. However AIG CEO Edward Liddy is a contrite and brilliant individual. If anybody can fix AIG, he can. And since we are all 80% shareholders in AIG, I’d prefer members of Congress who are using the mess for their own political gain, opt to figure out how they can help. I’d like a return on my investment.