NO BOILED CARROTS / BY MAUREEN DOWD
Dateline: March 18, 2009
OP-ED COLUMNIST / New York Times
Barack Obama even needs a teleprompter to get mad.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the president spoke a bit of Gaelic, dyed the White House fountains green and talked about his distant relatives in the tiny Irish town of Moneygall, aptly named since money and gall are the two topics now consuming him.
But Mr. Obama is still having trouble summoning a suitable flash of Irish temper at the gall of the corrupt money magicians who continue to make our greenbacks disappear into their bottomless well. He’s got to lop off some heads.
As he watches the fury of ordinary Americans bubble up at those who continue to plunder our economy, he should keep in mind one of my dad’s favorite Gaelic sayings: “Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot.”
His lofty team of economic rivals is looking more like a team of small forwards and shooting guards. At the White House on Monday, the president read reporters some tough talk from the teleprompter about the chuckleheads at A.I.G., accusing them of “recklessness and greed.”
But it was his own boiled carrots who acted shocked at bonuses that they should have known were coming, and should have dismantled before handing A.I.G. another $30 billion two weeks ago. It is bad enough that the billions are being laundered through A.I.G. to the likes of bailout double-dippers Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America, not to mention foreign banks.
Mr. Obama belatedly tried to stop the tumbrels that began rolling toward the Potomac after Larry Summers went on Sunday talk shows to assert that there was nothing the administration could do about the blood-sucking insurance monstrosity’s venal payout.
Summers, who inspires lusty dreams of A.I.G. tormentor Eliot Spitzer, asserted that the government “cannot just abrogate” contracts with financial vampires. It seems as though it would be pretty easy to upend a bonus contract that must read something like: “If you ruin the world economy, we’ll pay you an extra million.”
As Andrew Cuomo pointed out on Tuesday, 11 of the A.I.G. executives who received retention bonuses of $1 million or more — including one who received $4.6 million — were not even retained. They’re no longer working at A.I.G. Bonuses were paid to 52 people who have left the company.
At first, on the nutty bonuses, Team Obama thought it could get away with the same absurd argument used to justify the nearly $8 billion in unnecessary earmarks it allowed Congress to jam into this year’s overdue spending bill: It was written last year; we’re just signing off on it; we’ll do better in the future.
What President Obama should have said to the blood-sucking bums at A.I.G., many of them foreigners who were working at the louche London unit, was quite simple: “We stopped the checks. They’re immoral. If you want Americans’ hard-earned cash as a reward for burning up their jobs, homes and savings, sue me.”
He also should have saved a dollar a year and fired Ed Liddy. There must have been ways to avoid rewarding the perpetrators of our financial crisis and Liddy seems to have seriously explored none of them.
Barney Frank told reporters: “I think the time has come to exercise our ownership rights … and then say as owner, ‘No, I’m not paying you the bonus. You didn’t perform. You didn’t live up to this contract.’ ”
Cuomo, who seems far more intent on transparency than Mr. Obama, and Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary who reluctantly signed off on the bonuses, issued subpoenas for the names of the bonus babies. Cuomo started an investigation of whether the payments were fraudulent because the company knew it did not have the funds to cover them.
The president needs to brush back the arrogant, greedy creeps who kneecapped capitalism, rather than cosseting Wall Street for fear of looking like an avatar of socialism.
Geithner, who comes from the cozy Wall Street club, and Liddy believe it’s best to stabilize the company and keep on board the same people who invented the risky financial tactics so they can unwind their own rotten spool.
Isn’t that like giving bonuses to the arsonists who started a fire because they alone know what kind of accelerants they used to start it?
“Their mythology starts with the false premise that these are irreplaceable geniuses,” says Cuomo.
Boiling mad that A.I.G. made more than 73 millionaires in the unit that felled the firm, Cuomo called the company’s counsel on Monday to demand that she stop payment on the checks. Cuomo was informed that the money had already been direct-deposited in the accounts of the derivative scoundrels with the push of a button.
Maureen Dowd spreads incisive political comment and mischief from the oped pages of the NYTimes.