According to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, 73 employees of AIG (American International Group) took home $1 million or more in bonuses last week. In total, the “too big to fail” insurer recently paid out $165 million in bonuses to its employees. According to the CEO of the company, Edward M. Liddy, they were contractually obligated to make the payments from the $170 billion they took from the American people in the form of a bailout. People, as you might imagine, are irate at thought of these detestable individuals, who almost brought our entire economic system crashing down, being rewarded in this fashion.
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley was speaking for many Americans when he shared his hope that AIG executives would accept responsibility for their actions and promptly kill themselves. According to the Washington Post, the company has hired guards to stand watch outside of the AIG Financial Products division in Connecticut. The death threats are apparently pouring in, and employees are fearing for their lives. One senior Financial Products manager is quoted as saying, “It’s going to blow up… I have a horrible, horrible, horrible feeling that this is going to end badly.”
President Obama, as you may know, has given the word to people in the Treasury Department that they should “pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses.” And, failing that, Representative Steve Israel has drafted a bill that would see their bonuses taxed at 100%. But I suppose it’s still possible that the bonuses will go through, and that the level of hostility directed at these folks will grow.
Things are likely to build this week, as the CEO of AIG goes in front of Congress tomorrow, and the folks at Service Employees International United (SEIU) and ACORN hold over 100 Take Back the Economy rallies on Thursday. One suspects the rallies will be peaceful, but if I were one of the 73 execs to take over $1 million in bonus pay from the pockets of struggling American families, I might be rethinking my decision right about now. After all, by Thursday, I’m pretty sure we’ll have names and addresses.
And, no, I don’t think we’re in any danger of lynch mobs forming… at least not yet. I am, however, curious as to how far along that continuum we are. “I hope they do the right thing and kill themselves” doesn’t seem to me to be all that far from “off with their heads.”