Taxpayers should blame Congress

Published 9:59 am Thursday, March 19, 2009

Make no mistake about it, American taxpayers should be outraged by the recent announcements that bailed-out insurance giant AIG paid out $165 million in bonuses over the weekend.

While the greed of AIG is reprehensible, let’s make sure we are directing the blame at the right people: Our legislators and the former White House administration that committed $170 billion to this company, the largest amount of any single bailout.

This is one more in a string of public revelations that show our leaders in Washington, D.C. have asked far too few questions before simply signing the massive checks for the financial industry bailouts.

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Sure, Congress is outraged now, but where was this level of scrutiny and concern before the money was handed over?

The bailed-out banks were given little in the way of guidelines or ground rules for the tax dollars funneled into their businesses.

Most of these companies needed bailing out in the first place because of a pattern of poor decisions, excessive spending and downright greed. So now we are surprised that we are seeing more of the same?

Much of these bonuses are what has been called retention bonuses — ranging from a few thousand dollars to several million. The company agreed to make these payments last year, potentially before it received billions in taxpayer dollars.

Is it disgusting to see this now? Absolutely, but AIG officials say they are legally obligated to pay these bonuses. Congress says it will subpoena the names of those who received these funds, in an effort to recoup some of this money through taxes and other methods.

This sounds good in theory but just doesn’t seem right because it changes the rules halfway through the game and essentially punishes AIG employees for the failures of its leadership.

Our lawmakers may not be able to erase their mistake that may have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars but they should certainly work to make sure it never happens again.