Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG, Publisher's Clearinghouse Style

I like this idea from NPR science correspondent, Joe Palca for what to do about the AIG bonuses:

Here's what you do. Announce that the money will be handed out at a public function. Then, print the checks on those oversize posters like they do for the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, so you can see the name of the lucky winner and the amount they received from 100 yards away. Anyone who wants the money has to come up on stage and have his or her picture taken with an irate Timothy Geithner.

I'm guessing many would decide it wasn't worth it. And for those who do, well, at least they'll have provided us with a little entertainment.

I also don't buy the line from the NYT columnist Andrew Sorkin that we (the U.S. taxpayers) need to hold our noses and pay out these bonuses because upholding contracts is too important of a value to abandon, no matter how morally righteous it might feel, “If you think this economy is a mess now, imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start abrogating contracts left and right.” Of course, Sorkin goes on to say that the “auto industry unions are facing a similar issue — but the big difference is that there is a negotiation; no one is unilaterally tearing up contracts.” But, that is what happened; as a condition to get the bailout money to save their jobs, the UAW was required to give concessions — and the compensation that they had negotiated and agreed to was severely diminished. It seems that when Congress says “Everyone needs a haircut,” I guess for some that means a trim, and for others a complete shave.

And, speaking of unions, I had the same question as Josh Marshall at TPM, “Where's Labor?” I mean this seems form-fit to read into a narrative about corporate excess: while AIG is “contractually obligated” to pay these dipshits that ran the entire world economy into the ground, UAW workers were forced to concede a significant portion of their salaries, benefits, and pensions (which, are bound by the contractual obligation under federal labor law) before the Big Three could get a fraction of what AIG has received from the federal government. From what I could tell, the AFL-CIO blog has nothing and the Change to Win Connect blog has a completely convoluted post about signing a petition for the Employee Free Choice Act to stop AIG. Granted, EFCA would be a huge shot in the arm for labor and I think that it should pass, but this seems like the most clear-cut moral case that labor could make right now, and it is virtually silent on the issue or tries to fit it into a completely different pre-made frame.


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