Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Greed of A.I.G. Knows No Bounds

The serious economic crisis from which the country is still emerging, and which we might fall back into if we are not careful, is mostly due to the sickening greed, shortsightedness, and lack of decency by those who run the big financial corporations like A.I.G. Their foolishness in risking the money of their shareholders on dangerous speculations (it's an insult to call them "investments") in a real estate market they knew was falling apart might have given them short-term profits, but at the cost of strangling the American economy and ruining the lives of millions of American citizens.

To prevent the massive stupidity and greed of the investment bankers from causing the entire American economy to tank, the federal government stepped up and provided a massive bailout package, of which A.I.G. received about $170 billion. But despite the fact that the bank has yet to pay back the government the money (provided, lest it be forgotten, by the hardworking American taxpayer), A.I.G. continues to pay its executives obscene bonuses.

Today, A.I.G. has announced a new round of bonuses, totalling $100 million. Clearly, they have either learned nothing, or simply couldn't care less. Most likely it's the latter.

These Hamiltonian jackasses deserve no bonuses, since their mismanagement, greed, and lack of civic virtue helped bring on the financial crisis in the first place. Certainly they should not be paying such bonuses when they have yet to pay back what they owe to American taxpayers.

What A.I.G. and their ilk have done with the money of American citizens in the last decade is rather similar to another story of financial fraud from our history. During the Revolutionary War, patriotic citizens helped hund the war effort through the purchase of war bonds and many soldiers of the Continental Army received such bonds as their salary. After the war, the desperate financial straits of the government resulted in the bonds losing most of their value, so that a bond worth a dollar might have plunged to the level of fifteen cents or less.

When Alexander Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury, he made the decision that the bonds would be bought back by the government at par, rather than at their market value. But before the general public was aware of this, Hamilton revealed the plan to his cronies in New York, who proceeded to launch a nationwide effort to buy up as many war bonds as they possibly could while they were still at their reduced value. The result was that Hamilton's cronies made a financial killing, while the veterans, war widows, and patriotic citizens were tricked out of the money that was rightfully theirs. It was all perfectly legal, but that didn't change the fact that it was all sickening and immoral.

The executives of A.I.G. and their ilk at other Wall Street financial corporations are Hamilton's modern cronies and their actions are equally ruinous to the live of countless American citizens. Just as the country once broke up monopolies like Standard Oil, which were acting against the interest of ordinary Americans, we should now act to break up these big banks. If you're "too big to fail", then the system is out of joint and needs to be fixed.

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