The Worst and the Wickedest

The Obama economic team, commentators and experts of every sort are scrambling to deal with the tide of public outrage over the million dollar bonuses announced by the government-subsidized and U.S.-owned A.I.G. for senior managers, including those who negotiated the high-risk deals that led to the company’s near-collapse. It is offensive enough that those who concocted these viral, losing deals should be even considered for bonuses. It is more deplorable still to hear that the A.I.G. CEO is  contending that retaining these same people is necessary to attract the best talent. However natively intelligent the A.I.G. team may be, they were too clever by half, committing to high-risk debts on which the insurance giant couldn’t make do. Add to that they are contumacious in their greed, expecting outsized rewards when the company is being bucked up by the U.S. taxpayer. Rather than being the best and the brightest in finance, they should be known forever as the worst and the wickedest.

Commentators talk as if the administration is in a double-bind. Allow A.I.G. to pay the bonuses and public support for the Obama banking reform and a new economic stimulus will collapse. Or, don’t pay the bonuses and expect lawsuits and a loss of market confidence. Balderdash. Board members and compensation specialists appeal to pre-existing contracts as mandating the awards. But the contracts should be broken, just as they are in any other bankrupt or near-bankrupt industry. These evil geniuses should have been fired long ago for their bad judgement. They still don’t get it and neither does top management. Business will not recover by catering to players who lack both conscience and commonsense. A new beginning requires a clean sweep. Let’s find a business leadership that knows its limits and knows the failed models will only open to an even bleaker future.

Advertisement

Though Obama team inherited the A.I.G. mess from the Bush administration and so they may have been blind-sided by this latest development, one fears, nonetheless, they were reluctant to address the question more forthrightly because they too share in the failed fiscal mentality. Reviving credit and renewing the economy requires an outlook about the public responsibility of business that they are just not prepared to embrace. That is a failing which may mean we all have to  pay a still higher price before things turn around.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018