There's a lot of anger out in America over the AIG bonuses, if you have been paying attention. This is not a blip on the screen; it's serious, and people are seriously pissed off about it.
That's not surprising. Talking heads tell us that it's not all that big a deal in the long run, but they miss the symbolism of it all. Wall Streeters say they're getting afraid to get back in the market because we are watching them now, but that just tells us how cheap their tin ear is when it comes to this.
On a political level they should tread very carefully. They have been taking the Randian approach to their lives and don't care about society -- just about making money for themselves. For years they promoted the idea that John Q. Public should be investing his hard-earned money on Wall Street so he could have a nice retirement -- and just as blithely assured us that deregulation would just make more money for us all, rather than putting everything at risk, as is now manifestly the case. The public feels it has been suckered by Wall Street elites -- whose "Who, us?" response is not helping.
As Digby states quite clearly:
They didn't believe they were being immoral. And we can blame our chain-smoking, Dexi-popping, overstimulated cougar philosopher Ayn Rand for taking one of the seven deadly sins and calling it a moral system.
The moral purpose of a man’s life is the achievement of his own happiness. This does not mean that he is indifferent to all men, that human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he doaes not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental—as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence—and that values, not disasters, are the goal, the first concern and the motive power of his life. The Virtue of Selfishness --- Ayn Rand.
Alan Greenspan admitted that for forty years he had believed Wall Street actually operated that way --- and that that meant that they were incapable of making decisions that would endanger the entire system. After all, they were rational beings doing the most exalted work one can do --- make money for themselves. Each one of the people involved in the CDS scheme were rationally making money for themselves and fulfilling their duty to themselves to make as much money as they could. They were being entirely rational and, therefore, extremely virtuous.
Now there is confusion among the masters of the universe. They don't understand why they should not continue to be rewarded today for their virtuous behavior. It feels as if their whole moral system is askew, they are being unfairly condemned, the "parasites" are taking over. It is not their livelihoods or their reputations or their industry that is under threat. It's their religion. That's why they are fighting so hard.
They are fighting back without a hint of apprehension that America has had enough of them. It is shocking that they would be this frakkin' stupid, but they are. And Digby then asks:
Speaking of geniuses, why in the world can't these people get that they are making things worse and just STFU? It's nuts.
Because they can't stop it. They have to be weaned off it like drugs. They can't kick the habit of milking the system for all it's worth without giving a damn about you and me. Since Bush came into office, executive salaries have gone through the roof while the average American suffers.
MS. BURNETT: The average executive in this country of a publicly traded company, not just Wall Street, makes 400 times the average worker. And that has been a dramatic shift over the past two decades. That is something that is causing some of the anger here. In a sense it's been building, and this is the moment where it breaks.
Ya think? And these f*&kers flaunt it in our faces.
The House moved on that anger. Scott Lemieux writes:
Using taxation to claw back benefits may or may not be good public policy. But it is plainly within the constitutional authority of Congress as it has been understood for many decades.
Congress does serve the people, right? Americans don't mind people making money, boatloads of it, but not when it has threatened the infrastructure of the country. They did this willingly. The talking heads tell us that the bonuses weren't all that big a deal in the long run, but they miss the symbolism of it all.
The heads say that Wall Steeters are getting afraid to get back in the market because we are watching them now. Too bad. Let them throw their hissy fit. Wall Street better wake up because the anger many Americans feel will not dissipate anytime soon.