Editor’s Notebook: AIG: Let’s be blind no more
We are college students, not financial experts. We figure we only have enough money to get by during school, so we seldom think about, or care about, what the rest of the country is doing with the money they have.
But people, listen. We have to start caring. What is going on with AIG right now? Buckle up, because it’s a discouraging tale.
It’s safe to say most of us were at least mildly uncomfortable when our new president and overwhelmingly Democratic Congress passed the most massive spending bill in the history of the nation, hurtling us in a matter of weeks into quadruple the deficit Bush managed in his eight-year tenure.
We were edgy when the banks and benefitting agencies resisted openness with the public about where the money was going and how it was being spent. That, however, pales in comparison to the mess blowing up in the news media the past few weeks.
American International Group, a major New York insurance company, awarded $165 million in bonuses to their top executives — an attractive chunk of the multi-billion bailout the feds gave AIG.
Aside from that gross misuse of federal dollars to pad the pockets of the already-wealthy, here comes the kicker: Democrats, the Fed, and Obama all steadily denied involvement, acting horrified AIG would do such a thing, when they are, in fact, the reason it happened.
According to a recent Time magazine article, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s staff discovered the bonus scandal on March 10 and alerted an outraged Washington. The next night, Geithner phoned AIG’s CEO to tell him the bonuses must be canceled.
Ironically, Geithner is the former chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, the agency responsible for negotiating AIG bailout dollars. Before his appointment, Geithner was already embroiled in scandal for unpaid income taxes amounting to $35,000.
Second on the list: Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd. Like Geithner, his initial reaction to the bonus scandal was shock and outrage. He suggested adding a 98 percent tax to the bonuses to redirect most of the money back into federal pockets (a move adopted in part by the House, days later).
Can we rewind to when Dodd eliminated the clause in the bailout package prohibiting bonuses and added his own to ensure AIG would receive them? And when Obama, himself recipient of more than $100K in AIG campaign dollars, knowingly signed the package into law, yet claimed ignorance of the clause?
What it comes down to is dishonesty, a dishearteningly consistent fact about the current administration… and Washington in general.
Discouragement may be putting it mildly, according to Cornerstone University senior media student Kemp Lyons.
“Who can we look up to when our leaders are shown to have so little character?” he said. “I’m not just talking the politicians; I’m talking the corporate leaders… everyone.”
Lauren Hines, a CU junior majoring in journalism, said the most frustrating aspect of the scandal is “the lack of willingness in Washington for anyone to take responsibility for this.
“Everyone just seems to be pointing the finger,” she said.
And with so much blame to go around and so few willing to share it, is it any wonder college students avoid the headlines?
If we don’t start paying attention now, though, we’ll be totally blindsided when stepping into the
world after graduation — a world where the messes made by others will fall into our laps.
Now is the time to open our eyes.