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Bus tours of the rich and infamous
March 22, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Bus tours of the houses of AIG executives, who are mostly not home or hiding behind security.

One A.I.G. executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared the consequences of identifying himself, said many workers felt demonized and betrayed. “It is as bad if not worse than McCarthyism,” he said.
posted by 445supermag (44 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the more inside NYT link:
A.I.G. employees are not the only ones seeking protection: An executive at Merrill Lynch, where bonuses have also come under fire, said that some employees had asked whether the firm would cover the cost of private security for them.
posted by 445supermag at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2009


Meanwhile:
Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., recipients of more than $100 billion in U.S. rescue funds, criticized congressional proposals to tax Wall Street bonuses.
posted by 445supermag at 1:31 PM on March 22, 2009


Who's paying for these bus trips?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Although there are many insightful things being said on the unwisdom of mob rule, and the ineffectiveness/un-Constitutionality of taxing away these bonuses (I don' t know enough law to have an opinion about that), it is kind of refreshing to see Americans give a crap about how their tax money is spent, even when it doesn't involve Teh Sex or Teh Gays. Or Jesus.

And yes, the idea of Wall Street's captains and kings cowering behind their designer window treatments while being jeered at by angry broke retirees does give me a tiny, satisfying, schadenfreud-y thrill.
posted by emjaybee at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2009 [18 favorites]


I thought it was funny that there were more press there than protesters.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sigh. This, too, plays right into the hands of these people.
posted by limeonaire at 1:41 PM on March 22, 2009


Sigh. This, too, plays right into the hands of these people.
posted by limeonaire at 1:41 PM on March 22 [+] [!]


If the first link wasn't clipped (add ht to the front), you could have seen that the bus tour was organized by ACORN, not a big ally of Fox News.
posted by 445supermag at 1:52 PM on March 22, 2009


Who's paying for these bus trips?

I'd like to. Got a paypal link?
posted by ryanrs at 1:54 PM on March 22, 2009


Hell yeah Working Families Party! Those people are badasses. Carrot-and-stick mentality toward politicians - where the carrot = "you don't get hit with the stick."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:56 PM on March 22, 2009


Keeping AIG on the dole is the only thing that permits the executives to maintain their bonuses at all. If you really want them gone, the only currently legal means (as far as I understand it) is for AIG to go bankrupt and have a bankruptcy judge renegotiate the contracts.

This is meaningless theater.
posted by boo_radley at 1:59 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A bus tour of banking executives. I agree with emjaybee, but I gotta say, the whole thing seems sort of bourgeois, the bus tours and the execs. That's not a word I use often. But it is just desserts. We're ripe for a bit of class warfare. Politically, it's pretty nasty, but this is what happens when we let a few people run off with most of our money.

And fuck Glenn Beck anyway. He's just a bootlicker, and he's only stirring up the very marginalized elements of the right wing. I'd be more concerned if the sentiment were more widespread, but it's really not.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:01 PM on March 22, 2009


"If you really want them gone, the only currently legal means (as far as I understand it) is for AIG to go bankrupt and have a bankruptcy judge renegotiate the contracts."

Not necessarily. A lot of pressure can force the hand of the parties involved to renegotiate the contracts. This is exactly what happened with the UAW and GM/Ford.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2009


“It is as bad if not worse than McCarthyism,” he said.

What a fucking maroon.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:07 PM on March 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


AIG execs should be happy its just bus tours.

There is a demand, and someone is filling it with tours. Isn't that the glory of Capitalism?

“It is as bad if not worse than McCarthyism,” he said.

Errr, wasn't the whole point of McCarthy was the use of the Government VS some people that were (or were not) Communists?

How does bus trips come at all close to that? Guess in the same way the US of A follows capitol-ism.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2009


Do rotten tomatoes for throwing at the houses cost extra?
posted by chillmost at 2:11 PM on March 22, 2009


Although there are many insightful things being said on the unwisdom of mob rule, and the ineffectiveness/un-Constitutionality of taxing away these bonuses... it is kind of refreshing to see Americans give a crap about how their tax money is spent, even when it doesn't involve Teh Sex or Teh Gays. Or Jesus.

Maybe they should have given a crap when their elected representatives -- who are even now successfully diverting blame from themselves thanks to this comparatively tiny issue of bonuses -- were giving away said tax money money with no strings attached.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:28 PM on March 22, 2009


Sigh. This, too, plays right into the hands of these people.

It just goes to show, you can't be too careful.
posted by hippybear at 2:30 PM on March 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


AIG Bailout: Where $173 billion Went
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 2:36 PM on March 22, 2009


There ain't no justice like mob justice.
posted by Flashman at 2:39 PM on March 22, 2009


Bus tours? And they're comparing it to McCarthyism? Don't these idiots realize how unbelievably, incoceivably lucky to live in a time when the mobs aren't burning estates, raising hell, and cutting off heads but instead organizing bus tours? Someone mail these people a French history textbook, or better yet, a Roman one.
posted by Ndwright at 2:41 PM on March 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure who I resent more -- pandering politicians, failing financial firms or peasants with pitchforks.
posted by Slothrup at 2:43 PM on March 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


If the first link wasn't clipped (add ht to the front), you could have seen that the bus tour was organized by ACORN, not a big ally of Fox News.

It doesn't matter who that particular bus tour is organized by. It's that one of the consequences of this may be leading people to clamor for mob justice and revolution, which is exactly what Republican demagogues seem to want. I just wanted to point that out. I'm not saying that ACORN wants that, or that we shouldn't seek transparency and accountability from these finance executives, or that we shouldn't put pressure on those in charge to effect change. I'm just saying that we should consider whose interests we're helping or hurting by sowing the seeds of discontent.

I'm personally outraged by the actions of executives at AIG, Goldman, etc.—but by spreading my outrage, I may well be playing into the hands of those who don't have my best interests at heart.

Transparency—and knowing who did this to us—is great. Feeling outraged at those people is great, because it means we're interested and we care. But if we're not careful, those feelings may well be used against us.
posted by limeonaire at 3:07 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found the bus tours a bit much, but it sounds like they were going to the homes of execs who had given back the money to thank them, which is... interesting.

By the way, you know the current AIG CEO, the one who's supposedly only making $1 a year in salary, well he's actually a former Goldman employee, and as we know Goldman got like $12 billion in payouts from AIG's credit default swaps, money they wouldn't have gotten if AIG had gone bankrupt.

So it seems like this guy isn't working for either the best interests of the country or the best interests of AIG shareholders (taxpayers being the biggest shareholder), but rather his former employer. If the treasury department had let AIG fail, it could have used TARP money directly to help out AIGs counterparties, we could have gotten equity in companies that have some value for it, rather then worthless shares of AIG.

The counterparty issue, far more then the bonus issue is the real scandal. But of course the bonus thing is also a pretty big problem.
posted by delmoi at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2009


"If the treasury department had let AIG fail, it could have used TARP money directly to help out AIGs counterparties, we could have gotten equity in companies that have some value for it, rather then worthless shares of AIG. "

As far as I understand, the concern was that nobody could possibly do DIP financing for such a bankruptcy, and that the failure would have been a huge shock to the system as a whole, forcing a lot of unwinding much faster than people were prepared to deal with it. Probably would take down quite a few companies with it. Not that I think we did this the right way, but I can see where we got into this trap. We should have done the Swedish thing and just put the failing banks in receivership. I don't know why that became so toxic politically, except some people probably thought they could have their cake and eat it, too.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:20 PM on March 22, 2009


One way or the other we're going to get the anarchy we deserve. The system applied liberal welfare state practises to the financial markets, and is now surprised that, unlike the unilateral success these policies have been in society, they don't seem to be working out too well.
posted by fistynuts at 3:42 PM on March 22, 2009


I'm personally outraged by the actions of executives at AIG, Goldman, etc.—but by spreading my outrage, I may well be playing into the hands of those who don't have my best interests at heart.

I'm going to posit that the people spreading this panicky oh-no!-the-peasants-are-revolting, witch-hunt worse than McCarthyism, scary dangerous mob justice line over nothing more than a proposed tax or clawback on bailout recipients and a couple of bus tours do not have my best interests at heart.
posted by enn at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The system applied liberal welfare state practises to the financial markets"

Broadly, it's application of Keynesian economic theory.

But it would have been interesting to see all those complaining, free-market bankers outright refuse the money and go down with the ship, because dammit the free market principle is more important than anything else, even their own hides! Yeah, it's like soldiers finding religion in a foxhole.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:55 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't these idiots realize how unbelievably, inconceivably lucky to live in a time when the mobs aren't burning estates, raising hell, and cutting off heads but instead organizing bus tours?

As are we all....

Myself, I reserve my anger and outrage for serious offenses. I mean, it's good television, watching the execs answer a bunch of glowering congressmen against a background of orange shirted protesters (who let them in, by the way?), but really it's a bunch of magic show misdirection from the bigger problems. Well, Goddam, just look at the millions that the AIGs are taking, but pay no attention to the trillions, trillions of dollars that the Feds are tossing into the national toilet. (And you just know that the AIG bonus money is going to be penny pitching change compared to the billions of fraud, waste, rip-off, etc. that will inevitably be ripped off from the stimulus bills.)

Fleas on a dog, this is.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:04 PM on March 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


But of course the bonus thing is also a pretty big problem.

IMO, if their present salaries aren't a problem, then their bonuses aren't either.

In Japan I got paid half my salary in annual pre-determined bonuses, too, so I'm familiar with the situation.

The "optics" of getting bonuses with taxpayer money are bad of course.
posted by mrt at 4:35 PM on March 22, 2009


but by spreading my outrage, I may well be playing into the hands of those who don't have my best interests at heart.

I found this discussion on Obama presenting a "killed virus" outrage to be one of the more intelligent items I've read this year.
posted by mrt at 4:38 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


That AIG anonymous executive who spoke about "McCarthyism" shows with the misuse of that word one small reason why AIG is in the mess they are in.
posted by gen at 4:58 PM on March 22, 2009


...mob justice and revolution, which is exactly what Republican demagogues seem to want.

Even if they're the ones up against the wall when the revolution comes? They are not out in front of this outrage--liberals are. The Republicans don't have a "populist" base, but a racist and/or religious and/or kooky one. Not that there aren't plenty of those, but right now, they are mostly defending the suits, not howling for their blood.

The problem is, they can't find a way, yet, to credibly blame Obama/the Dems for the mess, and furthermore, they have no solutions to offer that are remotely plausible to anyone not a diehard. They are trying to shift blame, but can't come up with a coherent narrative that works. This might change, but for the moment, they're sidelined and sputtering.

/not defending mob justice, liberal or otherwise.
posted by emjaybee at 6:01 PM on March 22, 2009


This is Class Warfare...finally.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:10 PM on March 22, 2009


The Republicans don't have a "populist" base ... they are mostly defending the suits, not howling for their blood.

The former is not true, this stuff goes back to William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold with the salt-of-the-earth farmers getting victimized by the Big Eastern Banking Establishment. The politics are so obvious here I'm surprised I haven't seen this parallel raised before.

There are fringes of the Republican apparat who are attempting rear-guard defenses of free-market crony capitalism on principle, but these are half-hearted.

This is not Republican vs. Democrat, but conservative vs. liberal. The conservative mouths like Limbaugh and Malkin want Obama Best & Brightest to fail here & now and all this Big Government effort to collapse into rubble before the next election cycle, whereafter true scotsman Goldwater/Ford/Reagan-style "Government is not the solution, Government is the problem" rock-ribbed conservatism can rise again.
posted by mrt at 6:15 PM on March 22, 2009


The interesting thing is that the anger of Americans got deflected from minorities, illegals--all those lowlifes who were making life miserable for US and now it is the hedge fund dudes and AIG people who are the target of wrath...As Tom Joad says at the end of Grapes of Wrath: look for me, maw, I will be out there somewhere, riding on a bus to heckle the rich dudes. that will larn 'em.
posted by Postroad at 6:16 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


...mob justice and revolution, which is exactly what Republican demagogues seem to want.

The Right's ability to capitalize on people's sense of grievance must not be underestimated.
posted by homunculus at 6:54 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found this discussion on Obama presenting a "killed virus" outrage to be one of the more intelligent items I've read this year.

Another variation on the "Obama is playing 11 dimensional chess" meme that keeps popping up whenever Obama seems like he's in trouble. Obama fared well in various campaign controversies because they weren't really controversies Or because he was able to deal with them in a straight forward, non-dishonest way and he didn't freak out. Apparently that was just too much to ask from the competing politicians.

Also, the idea that we could just "get our rage on" about AIG and then not get upset with more outrageous behavior later on doesn't make much sense. The "Catharsis" idea is wrong. Anger only begets more anger. So people getting upset about the AIG bonuses will only make people quicker to anger later on.

On the other hand, popular outrage about bonuses will make it easier to pass legislation designed to limit wallstreet compensation later on. I mean, half the republicans in the house voted for a 90% tax. Who would have imagined that just three months ago?
posted by delmoi at 7:48 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


homunculus, that's exactly what I was thinking of drawing a parallel to. But I didn't have the evidence to back it up. Thanks for the link.
posted by limeonaire at 8:51 PM on March 22, 2009


...and as we know Goldman got like $12 billion in payouts from AIG's credit default swaps, money they wouldn't have gotten if AIG had gone bankrupt.

The Real AIG Scandal, Continued
! -- "The transfer of $12.9 billion from AIG to Goldman looks fishier and fishier."
posted by ericb at 10:18 PM on March 22, 2009


This is Class Warfare...finally.

The class warfare has been going on for a while. Tax "reform", bankruptcy "reform", etc., etc. Why is it only class warfare when people fight back? Was it just class burglary? Class embezzlement? Class grifting?
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on March 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


And they're comparing it to McCarthyism? Don't these idiots realize how unbelievably, incoceivably lucky to live in a time when the mobs aren't burning estates, raising hell, and cutting off heads but instead organizing bus tours?

Not so far, anyway. And I'll bet they don't change their minds later. Still seems like a useful tool if someone unstable does decide to take angry direct action, doesn't it? I suspect that, if the American Coalition of Life Activists had been smart enough to think of the need for plausible deniability with a cover story, they'd also have been disseminating (abortion doctor) addresses in "bus tour" rather than "web page" form.
posted by roystgnr at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2009


mrt has it about right. It's more a question of format and appearance. Would there be this much outrage if the money had not been "bonus" but simply flat salary?

The actual payout comes to a little over 1/10 of one percent of the bailout money. Not the sort of statistic that roils the blood.

(Of course it would have been a whole lot more honorable for the recipients to turn the money down, but really, that's expecting way too much of human nature. Like expecting congress to turn the light inwards and 'fess up to their own fumbles. We appear to have purged shame from American culture.)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:04 AM on March 23, 2009


This clearly is a public relations disaster on AIG's part. Maybe they aren't used to being a public company. A public company would have seen what was coming and would have been able to handle it.

AIG was required by contract to give the bonuses. They should have required their return as a condition of further employment (explaining to their employees that this is for their own protection and that if the company survives they should be able to more than make up for it). Then they should have had a press release stating the contractual requirement, but that all bonuses were being returned.

I've read that a number of the AIG executives offered to return the bonuses, though AIG hasn't been public about this, for some insane reason. Instead, their public statements are along the line of 'being blown out of proportion', 'the public doesn't understand'.

That they didn't see this coming, and that they didn't react once it started happening and apparently still haven't learned their lesson and reacted better to this is just astounding to me.
posted by eye of newt at 5:49 PM on March 23, 2009


By public, I mean a company that sells to the general public.
posted by eye of newt at 5:50 PM on March 23, 2009


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