AIG SUCCEEDS IN BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER…. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) appeared on the “Today” show this morning and took some time to talk about AIG’s bonuses-for-failure problem. “[S]ince the federal government … now essentially owns that company, maybe it’s time to fire some people,” Frank said. “We can’t keep them from getting the bonuses, but we can keep some of them from continuing in their jobs.”
Around the same time, on “Good Morning America,” Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who doesn’t agree with Barney Frank on almost any issue, said he’d like to see Congress intervene. “We ought to explore everything that we can through the government to make sure that this money is not wasted,” Shelby said. “These people brought this on themselves. Now you’re rewarding failure. A lot of these people should be fired, not awarded bonuses. This is horrible. It’s outrageous.”
And today, President Obama addressed the AIG matter at a White House event on small businesses.
“[B]efore I talk about the new steps we’re taking to get credit flowing to small businesses across our country, I want to comment on the news about executive bonuses at AIG.
“This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay. How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?
“In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury. I’ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.
“I want everybody to be clear that Sec. Geithner has been on the case. He’s been working to resolve this matter with the new CEO, Edward Liddy, who came on board after the contracts that led to these bonuses were agreed to last year.
“But I think Mr. Liddy and certainly everybody involve needs to understand that this isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.
“All across the country, there are people who are working hard and meet their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multi-million dollar bonuses. We’ve got a bunch of small business people here struggling just to keep their credit lines open. They are going without pay…. In some cases, they are mortgaging their homes, doing a whole host of things just in order to keep things afloat. All they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules. That is an ethic we must demand.”
Kudos to AIG for having the wherewithal to bring together disparate political elements, joined together in common revulsion.