Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Bailout: The Real Message

In his letter to Treasury to justify bonuses paid to AIG employees, government appointed chairman Edward M. Liddy states:

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.”

How often in the past months have we heard the same rational to justify the status quo on Wall Street?

"The best and the brightest" - hardly? These are the same people who drove their company into the ground, who almost brought the economy to a standstill, and who operated with no moral compass whatsoever.

The real message of "the best and the brightest" is this: We have locked the door. We have thrown the key away. We are not letting you in to our culture of being grossly overpaid for marginal performance. It is Wall Street doing whatever it can to protect its turf.

I seriously doubt that there is anything special about those who work on Wall Street. I am sure they are of normal intellect and abilities just like the rest of us who work on Main Street. And with the carnage in the markets over the past year where few went unscathed, I have no problem making such an assertion. There were few standouts amongst "the best and the brightest".

There once was a time when "the best and the brightest" pursued a calling like medicine or teaching. There once was a time when "the best and the brightest" were not only recognized for their abilities but also for their passion and ideals. Having ideals is not something most Americans would associate with Wall Street, and AIG's move to reward its executives for driving their company into the ground is an insult to all Americans who are "the best and the brightest" everyday. Wall Street and AIG needs to get on board and make the sacrifices -like the American taxpayer- to help resolve the financial crisis and many problems facing our country.

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