President Obama may have set a new record for disingenuousness moments ago, when he asked where those who are objecting to AIG bonuses were several years ago when Wall Street was handing out larger bonuses, and claiming that they believed, not long ago, that the government should never get involved in the market.
First, there were lots of folks who believed that when a company pays its top executives a massive amount of money, disproportionate or contradicting those executives’ performance, then the shareholders should revolt.
Second, the fact that AIG has taken massive amounts of taxpayer dollars would appear to make this a different circumstance than your garden-variety massive bonus. If a company compensates lousy employees with millions, at least it’s their money. In this case, it’s our money.
Obama continues, saying the answer is to put “smart regulations in place.” Smart regulations require smart regulators; a big question in this crisis was whether anyone at Treasury was “minding the store,” so to speak. At this point, it appears no one in government bothered to object to the bonuses until it was too late. The president’s argument amounts to calling for additional power in the hands of those who dropped the ball on this matter.
Obama said that Geithner is making “all the right moves with a bad hand.”