When the AIG bonus story broke, I was right there with everyone else, cursing up a storm.
Here they are, millionaires getting government bailouts. And instead of doing something useful with this public largess, they pocket the cash.
Of course, I knew in the back of my mind that there was more to the story. I hate that. Nothing ruins a nice populist rage like common sense.
So then, I read the following letter from one of those bonus-ees.
I’ll sum up: When AIG went into the toilet, all the people that were responsible fled, leaving one helluva mess to clean up. Guys like Jake DeSantis stayed behind, in profitable divisions, and started scrubbing.
The bonuses were why they did it. Most took $1 in salary, expecting to pay the bills with the end-of-the-year bonus. Now they find themselves demonized and threatened for doing their jobs.
To his credit, he’s not keeping the bonus. He plans to donate it to some charity. Amazingly, he claims he has enough money on his own that he doesn’t need it.
But you can’t imagine a guy like this — or anybody, for that matter — to work for free.
So that makes me wonder about a lot of different things about the story. Like, why isn’t everybody just as upset that most of the bailout money is being invested internationally? That U.S. taxpayer money is being used to help other economies?
And how should the bailout money be used, after all?
I hate to think that the current anger could be generational. The older culprits escaped with the money but the middle-aged GenXers are being expected to clean up the mess and take the blame.