Taibbi Delivers The Smackdown

by dday

TAIBBI DELIVERS THE SMACKDOWN… Earlier this week, Jake DeSantis, an executive at the AIG Financial Products division, quit, and published his resignation letter in the New York Times. Matt Taibbi has the ultimate response.

DeSantis has a few major points. They include: 1) I had nothing to do with my boss Joe Cassano’s toxic credit default swaps portfolio, and only a handful of people in our unit did; 2) I didn’t even know anything about them; 3) I could have left AIG for a better job several times last year; 4) but I didn’t, staying out of a sense of duty to my poor, beleaguered firm, only to find out in the end that; 5) I would be betrayed by AIG senior management, who promised we would be rewarded for staying, but then went back on their word when they folded in highly cowardly fashion in the face of an angry and stupid populist mob.

I have a few responses to those points. They are 1) Bullshit; 2) bullshit; 3) bullshit, plus of course; 4) bullshit. Lastly, there is 5) Boo-Fucking-Hoo. You dog.

There’s the big piece of fiction, that DeSantis knew nothing about the exotic financial deals at his 377-person unit, but had to be retained (and compensated with a bonus) to unwind those very same exotic deals. Then there’s this other fiction that DeSantis and other Wall Street bonus babies could have gotten all kinds of other good offers from competing firms, even though half of Wall Street is out of work at the moment. But Taibbi focuses on the third argument:

But all of this is really secondary to the tone of DeSantis’ letter. He acts like he’s a victim because he didn’t get to keep his after-tax bonus of $742,006.40 in the middle of a global depression. And he really loses his fucking mind when he writes:

“None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.”

First of all, Jake, you asshole, no plumber in the world gets paid a $740,000 bonus, over and above his salary, just to keep plumbing. Second, try living on a plumber’s salary before you even think about comparing yourself to one; you’re inviting a pitchfork in the gut by even thinking along those lines. Third, Jake, if you were a plumber, and the electrician burned the house down — well, guess what? If you and that electrician worked for the same company, you actually wouldn’t get paid for that job.

Out in the real world, when your company burns a house down, you’re not getting paid by that client. It’s only on Wall Street, where the every-man-for-himself ethos is built into an insanely selfish and greed-addled compensation system, that people like you expect to get paid in a bubble — only there do people expect their performance bonuses no matter how much money the shareholders lose overall, no matter how many people get laid off after the hostile takeover, no matter how ill-considered the mortgages lent out by your division were.

That sense of entitlement has sparked the public anger. It’s part of a mindset that assumes the virtue of selfishness and striving for the most dollars as an end in itself. It leads to perversities like Goldman Sachs bailing out their own executives even while the company was being bailed out themselves. It leads to self-interest being valued over the public interest. And it’s led, in a very real sense, to the current crisis.