Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Afternoon rage

Even I retain the ability to be astonished at the gall of these people. K-Drum:
Now that's a lovely thought, isn't it? If they don't get their bonuses, these guys might not only leave AIG, but turn around and do their best to make things even worse. That's just speculation, of course. But would it surprise anyone if that started to happen?
First of all, it's got to be an open question whether these geniuses actually could make things any worse than they already are. I mean, AIGFP is a black hole sucking in anything that got too close, which unfortunately means a substantial fraction of the world's financial sector. You've created -- and set off -- a doomsday device like a comic-book villain, and the threat is that you might be able to do something even worse? Like what, rape a puppy?

Secondly, MattY:
We’ve somehow managed to construct something of a post-shame society, in which elites have convinced themselves that the rational agent model of human behavior is not just a useful modeling tool, but an ethical guidebook. There’s something to be said for the idea of a sense of honor and personal responsibility.
Uh, yes, there's something to be said for honour and personal responsibility. That these kinds of sentences even need to be written down shows how much we've forgotten -- or rather, how successful the Reagan-Gecko brainwashing campaign has been over the last generation and a half.

To go back to something I've written about before, it's astonishing how unwilling we've been to talk plainly about the national culture in the US. I tried to get at it when Alan Blinder wrote what I thought was a stunningly stupid op-ed, about how the professional class deserved the kinds of job protection and supports that neoliberal economists like Blinder are almost universally unwilling to grant to, say, industrial workers or the poor. We talk about who "deserves" assistance without ever acknowledging that what we're talking about is moral privilege. That's if we talk about it at all -- hundreds of billions of dollars are being handed out to financial giants without so much as pausing to reflect, because the consequences are alleged to be to dangerous.

Of course, whatever their faults autoworkers have 1) produced products that are vastly more successful on the marketplace than AIG, 2) with the need for less direct support from the government, and 3) with manageable impacts on the broader economy. (It's true that I think too many people own cars, but the economy isn't collapsing right now because of that... yet.)

We had this discussion during the 1980s, and we basically decided that unions were the devil, and that there was nothing they could do that was worthy of the respect we decided to lavish on the lords of finance. I'm wondering: how does that set of priorities look right now? By the time we're done, the lords of finance will probably have cost us something like a trillion dollars or more, putting them at #3 behind climate change and the Iraq War for most expensive clusterfuckups in history. I'd wager that there's nothing GM could possibly do, even if we asked them to, that could be that expensive.

(To state the perhaps-not-obvious: I've spent, and will spend, a lot of pixels criticizing GM for it's decisions over the years. But in our current dilemma they're practically angels.)

I'd feel a lot better about all of this if it was clear that the public discussion was moving towards punishing these fuckers for what they've done. Don't kid yourself -- in the end, we'll find out that these people knew exactly what they were doing. We will find the Enron tapes of this debacle. You know, the ones where they're recorded joking about robbing grandmothers blind and stealing from whole governments? Yeah. Those. I guarantee you that those recordings, emails, memos or whatever exist, and will come to light. This wasn't an "accident". It was premeditated felony, and so far the accused have the gall to demand we continue to pay them, or they'll steal even more from us.

To their credit, they picked their marks well: we're stupid enough to keep paying.


Anonymous said...

If they don't get their bonuses, these guys might not only leave AIG, but turn around and do their best to make things even worse.

Of course, that was probably written before this little nugget was revealed:


'Eleven of those who received “retention” bonuses of $1 million or more are no longer working at A.I.G., including one who received $4.6 million'

WTF? How can you call these things "retention" bonuses when they're being paid to people who have already left the company?

This whole "bonus culture" in the financial industry is a big unfunny joke. These are written into their compensation packages in such a way that even when they underperform, they still get a bonus. That's not a bonus, that's part of your salary.


Mike said...

so do I still sound crazy for not wanting one thin dime of taxpayer money to go to any of these folks? Not AIG, not GM, no Fannie or Fredie...let them die and take those scum sucking bastards with them.

We can do better after they are gone.