[caption id="attachment_3354" align="alignright" width="317" caption="AIG loves giving it away!"][/caption]
Let me be clear: I am a lover, not a fighter. But it's headlines like "AIG Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Billion Bailout" that make me want to open fire on the floor of the Stock Exchange. I am not alone, I know it. I can read the internets. The company many perceive to be at the heart of last year's economic collapse is now planning to pay out nearly $165 million in bailout money for bonuses which will go to the Top 50 executives of the failed company. Why? Lawyers say contractual obligations. This is exactly the sort of shit that makes having the 2nd Amendment seem totally worthwhile.
This AIG idiocy comes after a week of back-and-forth fire breathing between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer over how financial reporters were cheerleaders (some say enablers) for exactly this type of greed and corruption and in many ways enabled the system to over-inflate and then crash. Their bickering culminated in quite possibly the most raw TV interview since Frost/Nixon (Day 4, of course...the first 3 Days of the Frost/Nixon interviews are unbearable) and in the post-show wrapup, Jon Stewart became a populist hero.
Jon Stewart is the populist face of the backlash against greed and corruption. Celebrity Jon Stewart. Not the President of the United States of Hope and Change. Not the Magical Unicorn of Ending Politics As We Know It, but a satirist-slash-comedian on cable TV who was only supposed to be our savior during the last administration. Not good.
The Sept 2008 Bailout vote was confusing, frustrating and reactionary all at the same time. While Americans scratched their heads post vote, the economy got worse, the election happened, and we all felt a little euphoric (distracted) again. Then O-dude puts forth a strong cast of characters to replace the Bush Assclown Administration and things are looking pretty hopeful again. Oopsie. Then Stimulus Version 1.0 comes along, more jobs are shed, the Dow plummets, credit is still frozen. The Republicans get a little baby toe hold in some messaging briefly around the stimulus and then they are quickly sent back to their room. Things were looking ok for Obama as he geared up for his big round of Version 2.0 of bank influx, possible stimulus, small business support and health care reform.
Then Oopsie 2.0. AIG goes and fucks up the plan with their douche-iness. Despite the roller coaster, Obama is really in a box now: He voted in favor of a bailout that allowed this kind of stupid bullshit to occur. No restrictions, no strings on that Bailout. In fact, the critics predicted exactly this situation last September. Warnings unheeded. So while the news that AIG is going to shell out $165 million of your hard-earned-slash-weaker-than-the-peso tax dollars to their undeserving executives ain't necessarily surprising, it is maddening.
If you believe that there is a populist backlash a-brewin', then you probably would want to get ahead of said backlash and become a face of that movement, like Jon Stewart. And that's exactly what Obama attempted to do yesterday with his strong language blasting the AIG payouts. Specifically, he called on his Treasury Secretary to "pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayer whole". Pretty good start. But it's no John Stewart "I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a fucking game."
So, if Obama is going to become the (re)new(ed) face of populism (again), he's going to have to come up with a helluva lot more than just strong language. There is a real anger out there and he needs to get in front. Fast.
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