The outrage now being expressed in Congress over the excessive bonuses paid to AIG executives — especially from Republicans — is an outrageous display of phony indignation.
When the federal bailout legislation was making its way through Congress last September there was some concern expressed by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on reining in executive pay and bonuses. It was Republican insistence on “no strings attached” and Democratic complicity in laissez faire use of public dollars that have brought us to this point.
Legitimate reservations that led Connecticut’s 2nd District Congressman, Joe Courtney, for example, to vote against the bill were set aside to allow the “rescue” to go forward. Courtney was the only member of the Connecticut delegation to vote no on a package that is coming back to bite us.
Saving Wall Street and such conglomerates as AIG trumped writing any oversight protection that would have prohibited this latest display of corporate greed (or should we call it welfare?). A blank check was given to George Bush and Henry Paulson to keep rewarding those who conducted business in ways that have contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
“And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving,” observed the NY Times’ Paul Krugman last September.
The passage of the bailout is eerily similar to the 2002 Congressional authorization on the Iraq War that, in retrospect, ignored the War Powers Act and was adopted under false pretenses. How many times have we heard legislators from both parties say if “I knew then what I know now I would have voted differently.”
We may be about to hear the same thing on the September bailout vote in Congress. The authorization of force in Iraq and the authorization of bailout money to financial giants showed a rush to judgment. Oversight by a lame duck and irresponsible White House and Congress was missing on both the Iraq vote and on a bailout that is creating anger and resentment across the country.