Shut up. Just…shut up.
You remember 2008, right? The economy was a mess, the Obama/McCain campaign was in full swing, and, ummm, the economy was a mess.
Oh, and we’re still dealing with it – the messy economy.
In order to fix the catastrophe the federal government decided to bail out a handful of financial institutions considered “too big to fail.”
You remember that, right?
It was thought that if those institutions –which lost liquidity due to gambles on investments in the housing market- failed, the rest of the economy would perish, plunging us into a depression. Remember?
So the feds ponied up hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up those institutions.
And how did they repay the federal government? How did they repay those of us whose taxes funded that bailout?
A week after AIG received $85 billion from the government a handful of AIG executives went on a “retreat”, presumably to do roll up their sleeves and figure out a way to fix the mess. Where, you ask? Great question. Perhaps some non-descript hotel in the middle of some pit like, say, Houston? Nahhh. These guys spent half a million dollars (including $23,000 in spa charges) at the St. Regis Resort in California.
St. Regis Monarch Beach. An ad on their website tells potential guests to, “Go Ahead, Indulge.” Non-descript,this place ain’t.
Why is this making news today?
Robert Benmosche is the current head of AIG. Our boy Bob is in a bit of hot water because of recent comments he made to The Wall Street Journal. Ol’ Bobby decried the criticism of Wall Street executive bonus structure, saying such criticism “…was intended to stir public anger, to get everyone out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South (decades ago).”
Yup, Benmosche equated the uproar over those bonuses to lynch mobs which terrorized African Americans in the South back in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
Benmosche has since apologized (“It was a poor choice of words” – gee, ya think?), and hopes to withstand the criticism he’s now receiving for the comments. The upsetting aspect of all of this – in my opinion – is that, despite his recognition of the inelegant way in which he phrased it, many on Wall Street feel their actions are justified. The bonus structure, they say, is an integral part of recruiting successful executives. It’s necessary, they contend.
I can only imagine the cost-cutting directives being dictated by those executives to lower-level employees…even as those executives enjoy the perks of upper level management. I’m reminded of a meeting at my television station in Mobile, Alabama almost twenty years ago. The station – family owned for decades – had just been sold to a large broadcast group. Executives with the new group arrived to welcome us into the fold, and to warn of impending cuts. “We’re going to have to do more with less,” they told us. “It’s a time to tighten our belts and cut the fat.” They assured us that we wouldn’t be alone – those executives were also dealing with cuts in a business that was changing dramatically. “No waste for us,” they assured us, explaining that they, too, were going to bear the financial burden. A few hours after our meeting, I was on a plane headed to a job interview in a larger market. As I boarded, I walked through First Class toward my seat in
steerage economy class and noticed a few familiar faces. It was the executives from the new company, the same executives who warned of impending budget cuts and demanded a call for austerity.
These hypocrites were –no lie- sipping champagne.
“The rich,” Fitzgerald wrote, “are different from you and me.”
Going out with a bang
The Sox march to the playoffs continued last night with an impressive 15-5 win over Colorado. Rockies long-time slugger Todd Helton is calling it a career this season, after having spent 17 years with the club. Yesterday marked his final home game and after an emotional ceremony (the Rockies gave him a horse as a retirement gift. A freakin’ horse!), he homered in his first at-bat. Pretty cool, right? Well not quite as cool as the incident that took place fifty-three years ago this weekend. Ted Williams –in his final at bat- homered at Fenway. Talk about a flair for the dramatic….
The greatest hitter that ever lived.
….and as any Sox fan knows, Teddy Ballgame refused to doff his cap as the Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. Here’s the film:
And here’s John Updike’s classic piece: