Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do the Right Thing



Unlike a lot of people, I'm actually not furious with AIG about the decision to go ahead and pay its executives hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses - after the company received hundreds of BILLIONS in bailout money.

No, I am not furious. Astonished? Oh my - yes. Curious? YES. I try to imagine the meeting that took place amongst the top echelon of AIG execs, I try to imagine the moment when they decided to go ahead with the bonuses, how they justified it to themselves, to their Director of Public Relations who must certainly have begged them not to. In spite of my powerful imagination, I cannot visualize this meeting. I can't get inside the heads of the people who thought it would be a good idea, or "right." I do not understand in any way their version of the "truth." Do you?

After a hideous eight years under an evil puppet as president, when the rich got a lot richer and the poor got a lot poorer, here we are, not surprisingly in intense financial crisis and class wars, too. Who would have thought that in the U.S. there could ever be a class war? In spite of all the headaches and heartaches, this is definitely an interesting moment in American history.

Off with their heads? I wouldn't wheel out the guillotine if it were up to me, but I would definitely get these dudes into some serious psychotherapeutic counseling, asap - because a reality check is badly needed. Wow. Or do that thing they did in the film Trading Places, switch out the AIG execs with some poor people, freeze their bank accounts, etc. Show them how the other half lives.

Will Congress be able to convince these guys to forego their million dollar bonuses? We shall see.

38 comments:

Celestite said...

I'm just floored. I switch back and forth between hysterical giggling and general disgust.
There was some economic dweeb on NPR yesterday (unlike their usual informed and well spoken guests) who kept repeating over and over that you have to pay bonuses to keep good people.
I wanted to hear his definition of 'good people' and I also wondered that he hadn't heard that many of these people no longer worked for AIG.
Everybody seems to be off in their own reality.

Reya Mellicker said...

You have to pay bonuses to keep good people???????

OK, now I'm switching back and forth between hysterical giggling and general disgust - and utter disbelief.

Coffee Messiah said...

Regardless, those who are crying now in both houses have received $$$$ and plenty of it in their re-elections.

Astonished, mystified are the terms indeed.

After working a good many years in the hearst corp and leaving before the demise in SF (see Seattle PI recently) the trickle down theory, that it hurts the company to pay more to the employees, is plain bullshit.

Er, better leave it there, must go to my low paying job ; (

debra said...

I keep trying to find slots in my brain to put this, and I cannot find a place. Anywhere.

Reya Mellicker said...

But Coffee, the members of Congress have not been bailed out to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars. I'm not against people making money, but bonuses when they've utterly failed?

TILT!!

Lynne said...

I am thoroughly disgusted by the whole thing. I can see paying people a bonus for "a job well done" or in anticipation of a job being done well as in a carrot before a horse, but ONE MILLION $$ ? C'mon on, folks! That is just plain ridiculous.

For them to go ahead and pay the bonuses was pure insanity. Reality check indeed.

By the way, I like your new portrait and also the little sidebar with bits of Reya wisdom. Nice!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Lynne.

It's mind boggling, isn't it?

Just me said...

On the morning radio show I listen to, they pointed out that AIG had to be bailed out because it's executives DIDN'T do a good job. So they shouldn't even merit bonuses.

I don't know if this show made it, but I did watch one episode which did exactly what you suggest, only with individuals: http://www.fox.com/secretmillionaire/

runmotman said...

what's another few million dollars? Problem is, these bonuses were contracted...so they are obligated to pay out the money...
stupid thing is, there should NEVER be a contracted bonus...doesn't that defeat the purpose of a bonus? Stupid stupid people are in charge of our countries biggest assets.
By the way, you're not green anymore?

scarlethue said...

I liked that Secret Millionaire show!! We need more of those people, the kind that have money but know they're blessed, so instead of asking for bonuses they give back.

Reality check time, definitely. I can't imagine getting to a point where I've been so far removed from reality and from the needy that I've completely forgotten what it's like to struggle. Is it a matter of time spent as a rich person? How long does that take-- years? Or is it simply a part of someone's personality to be able to forget that kind of thing, to block the images of poor people or the stories of the unemployed out of your head?

I don't get it. I don't know how you forget and I don't know how you stop caring. I guess they got enough people that never cared in the first place in one room to come up with this bonehead decision.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, this is just too weird - but sad too.
To expect lots of money for messing up?
I mean if the company was wildly successful, perhaps bonuses are in order.... but out of my pathetic little teaching pension and the pockets of ordinary people who try to do the right thing.
Really the govt. should probably have just let the company go under. Isn't that the risk capitalists should take.
Hm.......lovely crocuses anyway!

Steve said...

LOVE the crocuses! One of my favorite flowers. :)

I talked to a coworker of mine who is an MBA about this issue -- she seems to believe that because these payments were contractually promised they should be honored. She said it would set a bad precedent for the government to step in and abrogate a business contract. Personally, I don't agree -- I think enough has materially changed that you could argue the contracts no longer have any validity. But talking to her was an interesting glimpse into the MBA mind.

The thing that kills me is that people got money not to leave -- even the ones who already left! Hello?!

Here's a look at how the biz types see it: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/business/17sorkin.html

Angela said...

Aren`t you in touch with the President`s website? Can`t you post this conversation, including the comments, on some real BIG BILLBOARD? By the way, Germany and other countries face the same crazy contracts. Maybe it just HAD to become this bad so everybody (well, except some...) had to wake up from their daydreams?

Butternut Squash said...

Keith Olbermann said last night that it was possible to rework the contracts of the GM union workers so why not the contracts of the AIG employees? Could it be that only the rich can afford the time and legal fees to fight for their contracts?

I see some heavy karma coming.

Reya Mellicker said...

Karmic payments are now past due. That all of this is coming out into the light is, I'm sure, all for the best. Bizarre though!

Runmotman - I'm still figuratively green, just no longer literally green. The look on my face in that avatar finally go on my last nerve. I look so startled. Now I look like I'm praying. Oh well!

sciencegirl said...

I don't think the fat cats giving themselves bonuses think for one second about what it looks like to us regular, bonusless, people. (I admit, I did get a merit bonus this year, of 600 euros. No extra zeros.) It just doesn't occur to them. It seems perfectly normal that they should get their millions at the end of the year. It's in the contract.
We don't inhabit the same world, and that is part of the problem. It makes me sick too! At least here in France, executive pay isn't as absurd as it is in the States.

Mrsupole said...

It just seems wrong somehow, I thought bonuses were supposed to be given for a job well done. If you dragged the company into the mud, how does this warrant a bonus. And yes I heard the contract thing, but still those bonuses should of been tied to how well the company did. So if they had done well, then we would not be bailing them out and they should be getting those bonuses, but they didn't and should NOT be getting those bonuses. Just something so wrong with the picture here. So, so wrong. I do hope they have the decency to return the bonus money back, but that is unlikely.

Things need to change in the business world. Excess should be out the door. Gone, gone, gone.

We need term limits so that the government officials who let this crap continually happen are also out the door and gone, gone, gone. What will change if they keep passing laws that let this crap keep happening. Term limits is the change we need. Power corrupts and we need to give the power back to the people.

God bless.

PS...love the beautiful picture of the flowers.

The Family Julz said...

Sigh. I agree with debra.

I love the flowers!

suezoos1 said...

What goes around comes around!! Love the sweet crocuses.

Bee said...

We were just having this conversation in my kitchen! Sig (The MBA husband) was trying to explain to me that this kind of bonus was a built-in bonus as opposed to a performance bonus . . . but still, if a company virtually bankrupts itself, surely such things become null and void? It was a massive MISTAKE for the government not to insist on the forgoing on bonuses before they signed off on a bail-out.

The UK gov't is talking about suing Sir Fred Goodwin -- who has become our poster child for NOT doing the right thing. I totally agree with you: I don't understand the mental attitude.

Reya Mellicker said...

I've been reading about Sir Fred. My goodness, all the cards are out on the table, aren't they?

5windsOfvenus said...

Being a spiritual person, the only way I know how to deal with such situations, events that affect the great whole; is simply to pray, pray to the universe or whatever god you believe in, pray to unified consciousness of man-kind that we individually start to understand what actions we can take that will serve the greater good... According to my universal free will; my spiritual vote is for people to make decisions that affect the greater good towards true sustainability, peace, loving kindness and compassion... Sheesh... cause I don't know of anything I can do physically that would shake some sense into these people....

5windsOfvenus said...

by the way; I really love your photography....

Mrsupole said...

Hi Reya,

I posted the info about In-N-Out Burgers in my comments for you. I hope this helps explain what they are. I am kinda surprised that you never heard of them, but Northern California does not have near as many as Southern California. Seriously I can smell them about 3 miles away. I am not sure why. I am like an In-N-Out hound dog or something. Might be because I once worked next door to one and every time our door opened the smell came in.

I am like you with the career of careers. I have never decided what I want to be when I grow up. Always unsettled it seems. But I like change and so change I would do. It gives us more experiences in life. Plus hubby was in the Army for 9 years and you are always moving every few years. Less than a year now and he will retire from the phone company. Then with this economy, he will have to find another job. Sigh.

Thank you for the visit.

kathi said...

I thought it interesting that you included a photo of the crocuses with your post. Seasons change and life goes on regardless of who is rich or poor. Perhaps an earthquake will rock the AIG world?
Let the chips fall where they need to...

Delwyn said...

Why should executives whose company loses 40m in the last financial quarter deserve a bonus? And it was tax payers money...

Mahatma Gandhi wrote of 7 social sins one of which was wealth without effort. I think that many of these executives are guilty of that sin.

Reya Mellicker said...

"Mistakes were made," says AIG Chairman Liddy, who asked execs to return at least half of their bonuses.

"Mistakes were made at AIG on a scale that few could have imagined possible," he told a Congressional hearing.

Lawmakers are also taking steps to recover the bonuses.

Mr Liddy also admitted that AIG was "too complex, too unwieldy and too opaque".


You can say that again!

Barry said...

I understand the cheques have already been cut.

Perhaps there should also be some judicious cuts at AIG, starting at the top.

If this is an example of the quality of their decision making, no wonder they were in such trouble.

Merle Sneed said...

These bonuses are just an visible reminder of the obscene amounts of money these people have figured out how to take for themselves.

For the past couple of decades they have taken more and more, leaving the average employee with less and less.

The "retention" argument is idiotic. I could have done a better job by burying the money in the backyard.

Ronda Laveen said...

I understand why they decided to pay the bonuses. I understand the leagality. But at the point we are at and their business is at, it seems morally wrong to spend money you don't have and had to borrow from a bunch of, mostly, poor people.

I'm with you and would have loved to have been a part of that meeting. You know they knew the brown stuff was going to hit the fan. Stinky!

Ronda Laveen said...

P.S. Love the color-texture thing going on in first pic.

Are those Crocus in the second pic? The colors look unreal. Like some sugar candy flowers.

Nice self-portrait.

A Cuban In London said...

Writing on The Guardian's Comment is Free last night one of the AIG exec tried to justiy the bonuses. I stopped reading by the second sentence. On second thoughts, the guillotine never did anyone any harm... did it? ;-)

By the way, I read Cortazar many years ago. I need to go back to him.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Pam said...

Hi Reya - all that conniving makes me feel so ill. I'll just concentrate on the beautiful flowers in your post. Corporate evil - I despise it, and have got to the stage in my life when nothing suprises me anymore. It's not apathy, it's despair. It does me no good, and know many feel the same.Greed is never good...but flowers, ah, they feed the soul!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks Ronda - they are crocus, fully opened at mid-day the other day.

Pam I think you're right - focus on the flowers.

deborah said...

these look like my crocus grouping which also include yellow and white
i love spring

love you more

Lover of Life said...

I really respect and voted for Obama but his choice in Geithner was not a good one. He has continued to protect Wall Street, just as Paulson did before him. Something is just not right about a Wall Street man trying to fix Wall Street right now. We need someone who is going to watch out for us as head of the Treasury. He should and probably did know about the bonuses - as the timing was gratuitous. Tell us AFTER the money was deposited into their accounts! How dumb do they really think we are?

John Hayes said...

It seems to me that the privileged will never figure out why the rules that should apply to what they see as the hoi polloi should also apply to them. Sorry for my pessimism. What I find most disturbing perhaps is that this whole mind-boggling spectacle over absurd amounts of money may well hurt Obama's efforts-- generally well-informed, I think-- to get us out of this mess.

ArtSparker said...

This is a salutory shock to the system, and potentially quite useful in that regard. I believe it's more inportant to change oversight regulations than to claw the funds back.