Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama and the AIG bonuses


J.P. Morgan, 1923

Carla Marinucci, one of the San Francisco Chronicle's better reporters, reports on Obama's town-hall meeting in Costa Mesa CA yesterday in Obama calls AIG bonuses 'outrageous' 03/19/09. This quotation caught my eye:

The scandal, he said, is "a symptom of a much larger problem. And that is the system and culture that made them possible - a culture where people made enormous sums for taking irresponsible risks that have now put the whole economy at risk.'
Politicians are usually skilled at substituting rhetoric for substance. But how a leader frames issues also matters. And Obama here seems to be framing this issue as a broader than whether this particular (mostly nationalized) company AIG is using government bailout funds properly. He's also criticizing the sacred doctrines of the so-called "free market" that Republicans (and too many Democrats) worship.

Executive compensation has been an ongoing scandal for a long time. And it's not just restricted to companies momentarily in need of government bailouts. They are part of the set of arrangements that encourages CEOs and senior executives to plunder their companies and then take the money and run, while the employees, customers and suppliers are left to deal with the negative consequences. And that situation has been encouraged by the environment of low taxes for the wealthiest and massive deregulation that has been the hallmark of the Republican Party's policies and largely accepted by the Democratic Party, as well, if not in quite such a drastic version.

More like this, Obama! And block those AIG bonuses while you're at it.

Oh, and can you have someone take another look at how your White House Web site is managed? I hate to say it, but the last administration made it easier to find the text of Presidential public appearances. And can't any of our major newspapers be bothered to print the full text of an appearance like Obama's in Costa Mesa? I did find a text of his prepared statements at the New York Times, after some looking. But beyond that reprinting of a White House press release, I can't find a full text. (The current photo of Charles Manson, though, is all over the place.)

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