Hyp­o­crit­i­cal in­dig­na­tion over AIG bailouts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

All the world’s a stage, wrote Shake­speare, and in the world of Wash­ing­ton, the cur­tains have opened on the most elab­o­rate farce of the year. Wel­come, tax­pay­ers, to the Kabuki The­ater of AIG Out­rage — where D.C.’s histri­onic en­ablers of tax­payer-funded cor­po­rate bailouts com­pete for Best Per­for­mance of Hyp­o­crit­i­cal In­dig­na­tion.

Over the week­end, cloaked in their finest pop­ulist cos­tumes, the Belt­way’s hair-sprayed and pow­dered politi­cians and White House aides took to the air­waves to in­veigh against $165 mil­lion in em­ployee re­ten­tion pay­ments made by the gov­ern­ment-backed in­sur­ance gi­ant. Those ben­nies were re­port­edly part of a larger $450 mil­lion round of bonuses. Af­ter sub­poe­naing AIG, New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral An­drew Cuomo in­formed Congress that 73 em­ploy­ees in the very divi­sion re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nan­cial melt­down re­ceived bonuses of $1 mil­lion or more — 11 of whom left the com­pany af­ter get­ting the cash to re­tain them.

The checks were mailed on March 13, but the March 15 bonus dead­line had been on the Capi­tol Hill radar screen since De­cem­ber — when Mary­land Demo­cratic Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings re­leased a let­ter to AIG CEO Ed­ward Liddy that noted: “Without tax­payer in­ter­ven­tion, AIG would have ceased to ex­ist and, to be blunt, all of its em­ploy­ees would have lost their jobs. Against this back­ground — and given the mas­sive lay­offs oc­cur­ring at other ma­jor fi­nan­cial en­ti­ties, such as Citibank — the Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers have a right to know why se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at AIG, who are frankly lucky to still have jobs, need to re­ceive ad­di­tional bonus pay­ments of any kind to re­tain them at AIG.”

But it wasn’t un­til two weeks ago that the hap­less court jester of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Tim Gei­th­ner, scram­bled to rein in the pay­ments. Mr. Liddy ba­si­cally told him to buzz off. Gei­th­ner, the pri­mary ar­chi­tect of the orig­i­nal $85 bil­lion AIG bailout last fall, “re­luc­tantly” ap­proved the bonuses any­way. And now his out­raged boss has or­dered him to scour ev­ery le­gal nook and cranny pos­si­ble to get the money back.

Spare me Pres­i­dent Obama’s fin­ger wag. He’s “out­raged”? Meh. Two weeks ago, Team Obama forked over an­other $30 bil­lion for the bas­ket-case com­pany af­ter it re­ported $61.7 bil­lion in fourth-quar­ter losses. That’s on top of the first $85 bil­lion round and the sec­ond $38 bil­lion round un­der Bush — both of which Mr. Obama sup- ported. (Mr. Obama, by the way, col­lected more than $101,000 in AIG cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions.) Don’t talk to me about how the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion op­poses re­ward­ing fail­ure.

And don’t talk to me about all the politi­cians stam­ped­ing to tax AIG’s bonuses. Demo­cratic Sen. Chris Dodd, the cor­po­rate crony who is the largest re­cip­i­ent of AIG do­na­tions, is now lead­ing the charge to tax the re­ten­tion pay­ments in or­der to re­coup the $450 mil­lion the com­pany is pay­ing to em­ploy­ees in its fi­nan­cial prod­ucts unit.

But Mr. Dodd, it turns out, was for pro­tect­ing AIG’s bonuses be­fore he was against them.

Fox Busi­ness re­porter Rich Ed­son pointed out that dur­ing the Se­nate porku­lus ne­go­ti­a­tions last month, Mr. Dodd suc­cess­fully in­serted a teeny-tiny amend­ment that pro­vided for an “‘ex­cep­tion for con­trac­tu­ally ob­li­gated bonuses agreed on be­fore Feb. 11, 2009,’ which ex­empts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and oth­ers are seek­ing to tax.” Pay no at­ten­tion to what his left hand was do­ing. Mr. Dodd’s right fist is pound­ing might­ily, might­ily for the sake of the tax­pay­ers.

The hyp­o­crit­i­cal in­dig­na­tion on the Hill is bi­par­ti­san. On his Twit­ter page last night, GOP Sen. John McCain huffed: “If we hadn’t bailed out AIG = no bonuses for greedy ex­ecs.” Well, if the GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date had held fast to his op­po­si­tion to such doomed cor­po­rate bailouts in the first place, maybe bailout-palooza wouldn’t have spi­raled into the gazil­lion­dol­lar mess it in­evitably be­came. Mr. McCain as­serted in a Twit­ter in­ter­view with ABC’s Ge­orge Stephanopou­los Tues­day morn­ing that he “would have never bailed out AIG.”

But on Sept. 18, 2008, Mr. McCain per­formed a 24-hour flip-flop and aban­doned his prin­ci­pled op­po­si­tion to the $85 bil­lion AIG bailout, lament­ing that the “gov­ern­ment was forced” to do it. Soon af­ter, Mr. McCain joined Mr. Obama in sup­port­ing the $25 bil­lion auto bailout, the first $350 bil­lion bank­ing bailout (TARP I) and his own mas­sive $300 bil­lion mort­gage bailout.

If Wash­ing­ton’s new­found op­po­nents of re­ward­ing fail­ure want to do tax­pay­ers a fa­vor, how about giv­ing back their au­to­matic pay raises? How about re­turn­ing all their AIG do­na­tions? How about tak­ing back all the bailout money to all the failed en­ter­prises, from Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac to AIG, the au­tomak­ers and the big banks? Barry? Harry? Nancy? John? Chris? Bueller? Bueller?

Exit stage left. The cur­tain falls.

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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