Looking be­yond the bo­gus bonus smoke­screen

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

“We will hunt you down!” thun­dered Colorado Demo­cratic Rep. Jared Po­lis dur­ing the AIG bonus dem­a­gogue-a-thon on the House floor March 19. “If they’re not go­ing to give [the bonuses] back, we’re go­ing to take them back,” growled Alabama Demo­cratic Rep. Ar­tur Davis, who vowed to re­cover the tax­pay­ers’ “ill-got­ten gains” from rogue cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives. House Repub­li­cans pressed the Democrats on who knew what and when re­gard­ing the AIG bonus pro­tec­tions in­cluded in Con­necti­cut Sen. Chris Dodd’s now in­fa­mous amend­ment to the stim­u­lus bill. Rep. Bar­ney Frank shrieked about the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cul­pa­bil­ity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi smugly pat­ted Democrats on the back for “pro­tect­ing the na­tional in­ter­est.”

I ask you now to turn away from the bo­gus bonus smoke­screen over $165 mil­lion in tax­payer-backed com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages for AIG em­ploy­ees. It is a pit­tance com­pared to the gar­gan­tuan spending spree hap­pen­ing right un­der our noses. The AIG bonus price tag amounts to one tenth of 1 per­cent of the to­tal AIG give­away ($85 bil­lion in Septem­ber, $37.8 bil­lion in Oc­to­ber; $40 bil­lion in Novem­ber; $30 bil­lion in early March), which took place with the assent of a Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion, a Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion and the con­gres­sional lead­er­ship of both par­ties.

Tax­pay­ers might be less skep­ti­cal of the bor­na­gain guardians of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity if th­ese evan­ge­lists were ac­tu­ally prac­tic­ing what they preached. While the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion now is­sues im­pas­sioned calls to stop re­ward­ing fail­ure, they moved March 19 to dump an­other $5 bil­lion into the fail­ing auto in­dus­try. That’s on top of the an­nounce­ment by the Fed­eral Re­serve to print $1 tril­lion to buy Trea­sury bonds and mort­gage se­cu­ri­ties sold by the gov­ern­ment — which no one else wants to buy.

Fi­nan­cial blog­ger Barry Ritholtz tal­lied up $8.5 tril­lion in bailout costs by De­cem­ber 2008 be­tween Fed­eral Re­serve, FDIC, Trea­sury and Fed­eral Hous­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tion res­cues (not in­clud­ing the $5.2 tril­lion in Fan­nie and Fred­die port­fo­lios that the U.S. tax­payer is now ex­plic­itly re­spon­si­ble for). Then there’s the (at least) $50 bil­lion pro­posed by Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Tim Gei­th­ner in Fe­bru­ary to bail out home own­ers and lenders who made bad home loan de­ci­sions, which would be just a small sliver of the $2.5 tril­lion he wants to spend on the next big bank­ing bailout, which would draw on the sec­ond $350 bil­lion of the TARP pack­age over which an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chicken Lit­tle law­mak­ers are hav­ing buyer’s re­morse.

Phew. We’re not done yet: As AIG-bash­ing law­mak­ers in­veighed against wasted tax­payer funds and lamented the lack of ac­count­abil­ity and rush to judg­ment that led to pas­sage of the porku­lus bill that mys­te­ri­ously pro­tected the bonuses, the Se­nate qui­etly passed a $10 bil­lion lands bill stuffed with earmarks and im­mu­nized from amend­ments. GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, fis­cal con­ser­va­tive loner, pointed out that none of the pro­vi­sions for spe­cial-in­ter­est pork projects — in­clud­ing $3.5 mil­lion in spending for a birth­day bash cel­e­brat­ing the city of St. Au­gus­tine, Fla. — was sub­ject to pub­lic hear­ings. That’s on top of the pork-stuffed $410 bil­lion spending bill passed three weeks ago.

Oh, and did I men­tion that the House passed a $6 bil­lion vol­un­teerism bill (the “GIVE Act”) on March 18 to pro­vide yet an­other pipe­line to left-wing ad­vo­cacy groups un­der the guise of en­cour­ag­ing na­tional ser­vice?

Also com­ing down the pike: the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “cap-and-trade” global warm­ing plan, which Hill staffers learned this week could cost close to $2 tril­lion (nearly three times the White House’s ini­tial es­ti­mate) and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s uni­ver­sal health care scheme, which health pol­icy ex­perts re­ported this week could cost about $1.5 tril­lion over the next decade.

It is no won­der that when Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den told lo­cal of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton last week that he was “se­ri­ous, ab­so­lutely se­ri­ous” about polic­ing waste­ful spending in Wash­ing­ton, he was met with the only ra­tio­nal re­sponse his au­di­ence could muster: laugh­ter.

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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