An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Well, I risk going against the popular tide here; becoming the proverbial curmudgeon at the water cooler. But what the hay:
Some friends were discussing the populist and politician drummed up horrors we've be hearing about with regard to AIG Executives collecting their bonuses from money we, the tax payers, gave the company. As I read two short posts two of them made, what they said seemed far more sober than the ongoing water cooler mob's calls for these execs heads on pikes. Our politicians riding the torrent doesn't help. Some of what I babble here I must credit to my fellow LOGgers.
Look, I get that we don't like these guys making truck loads of money to begin with and then additionally getting their bonuses after we all paid to save the company which they apparently could not. (Now, I won't even try and argue my belief that we should never have bailed them out to begin with. If you hate that these folks are getting all this bonus money instead of being fired for driving their company into the ground, might I suggest that the best way to teach a child a lesson is to let them fail sometimes?) Anyway, it's an easy task to drum up anger for rich people and for some reason this is especially true of executives. The truth is, bonuses such as these are the absolute norm in the industry and if you expect to attract talent to your executive leadership positions, your company will offer bonuses and pay absurdly high salaries. There is not an evil country club cabal making these decisions, rather it is a little thing called the free market. It is the same free market that earns a guy who can effectively throw balls through nets about a million times more than I make doing infectious disease research. Or the same market that emboldens an actor to say he NEEDS 30 million dollars for making one movie. It's the very same market that allows for Bono to make millions upon millions of dollars for singing pretty and writing thoughtful lines of verse. For some reason we are more forgiving of some rich people for being rich than others.
I suppose if we had to bail out a sports club (ahem...paying for their stadiums) we would perhaps garner a degree of hatred for the insane salary A-Rod gets? You know, we'd sit around at lunch eating our mac n'cheese while pontificating that, "Nobody is worth that much money! It's immoral!" But largely we don't.
The fact is, AIG is a mess. That's why they wiggled their way to the great teat of federal aid. And Mamma opened the green milky floodgates (which she didn't have to give)...apparently without preconditions - I suppose because we didn't bother reading the contract that gave AIG the money? Anyway, here we are kids, in essence shareholders of AIG, and as such we ought to want the company to succeed and to do so we should think long and hard before forcing lofty moral idealism upon it while its competitors maintain the game plan of contractual agreements with executives that include massive bonuses (largely regardless of performance - not unlike actors, ball players, or rock stars really.) Additionally not only do we now have the executives having to return the money that was contractually theirs to begin with, but they also have now become populist targets for all manner of frustrated and out of work people who are depserate for someone to blame - and as the press and pundits fan the fires, picture armed guards outside their offices. So, you tell me, when these guys and gals all resign (and they will), what sort of executive talent would seek to step into their old shoes to try and right that company? Who would dare go within a mile of a company under the thumb and microscopic eye of a government, a press, and a fired up populist mob in desperate need for scapegoats and who are all filled with a righteous indignation and mission to right all perceived economic wrongs? AIG is dead. Doomed. It cannot succeed except by being maintained by ongoing federal life support. If AIG were Terri Shiavo, the feds would have opted to starve her to death ages ago...and perhaps they have.
But we the common folk who are paying for all this can now rest easy knowing that some rich jerks are under the spotlight...a spotlight that ought to be pointed at those who stand behind it and are directing it elsewhere. This has all the makings of a "Reality" TV show...all the false drama of a reality TV "actress" asked by a TV executive to behave more bitchy toward her co-stars. We grow positively giddy with self-righteous indignation as we join in the fun of class warfare that is itself a game in which we are pawns. Think about all the noise being made about the insignificant amount of money being given to these AIG executives? You want to talk about disproportionate response? Assuming this money is being used unethically, it is but a minute fraction of our money that is absolutely wasted by our government...an insignificant fraction! It is less than 1/10 of 1% of the money we gave to AIG ALONE! Have we forgotten how precious little of that spending bill our congress just passed (without reading it) that was actually going to go toward anything that could remotely be considered economic stimulus? How much was just wasted pork for political pet projects and silly social engineering programs? By many miles my friends, bonuses paid to AIG executives will do more to help our economy than the 100x or more money that went to all manner of nonsense in that bill, and yet the former is supposed to have us gathering our torches and pitchforks? Heck, we should have already had them and have the capitol building surrounded ready to burn the monster out.
Don't join this hype. Congress just passed a 90% tax on AIG's bonuses (wasting more time and money and very likely violating the US Constitution by doing so) and we can rest easy knowing that AIG is now the RMS Titanic post iceberg roudezvous. The scapegoat is sacrificed and we can revel in the blood spilled. Cheer on the beheading of the wealthy...reign in their excesses...call them to account. But don't think about the politicians and for darned sure don't think about your own fiscal habits. When we hear our president talk about the need to change "a culture" that allows such excess, we must always be sure to think about executives on yachts. Never actresses on yachts. Never politicians on the board of Fannie Mae and dictating what to do with our money. Never somone on government aid who is still managing to buy iPODS. And never...NEVER...about our own hearts yearning for STUFF. It's always the other guy, and by golly we sure got them good this time, dinna we? Haha!
This whole affair has been a cheap carnival ride. A distraction.
I never get too hot over "athletes" who makee too much money because I never do anything whatever to help pay them. Nothing, not a dime. I don't buy tickets or buy shirts or hats or beer. If suckers want to do that, or buy tickets to any of the trash Hollywood produces, go ahead, but then you lose the right to complain about the high pay. I am enraged when the government decides (even despite specific elections to the contrary!) to fund a stadium with taxes, or bail out a giant corporation with overpriced executives. Just enraged. In response to this outrage, how about giving honest citizens 3% mortgages?
I was reading an interesting account of the govt's response to the Great Depression. REgardless of the mythology, Hoover did all this stimulus, credit loosening, rate lowering, asset-buying stuff, too. The only thing Roosevelt added was to turn the whole thing into a class warfare: blame it all on the rich. Some things do not change.
I think the same market that provides for overly paid rock stars and athletes also provides for "over-priced executives."
We never should have bailed them out anymore than we should buy stadiums for ball teams. Oddly enough, we don't seem to provide for ball teams and then picket outside A-Rod's house because he get's paid too much while we build their playground.
I say phooey on it all...we are riding our way down an ugly slope into an uglier mess. As Steve notes...we may NOT have ended up in a depression, but we could well be on our way now if we follow that same path.
Hey, JamesoftheNorthwest, I enjoyed your comments and agree to a great extent. I'd like to make a trip West and have a cup of coffee with you. Will have to put if off for a few more months, but I'll be there!
My addition to the current blogs has been sparce as I have been reading quite a bit in the past few months. Trying to get an arm around the economic issues, and understand the Federal Reserve System, and its relation to the total picture. Wow, if we could just get those that are in Public Service to read the rules, the history of the rules, and what has happened in the past, we would be miles, and billions, ahead.
The short take is that we have been here before, and it wasn't just the "Great Depression", it was 1973, 1986, 1993, as well as in the 1860's. Lots of people knew where we were headed long before last December, and yet - here we are. Some of the books on this subject are a bit dry (hardly exciting, except that the parallels are almost exact), but the facts and information are there for all to read. They are not just a 30 second sound bites, and will take a bit of thinking to gain the importance of what the many authors are stating, but it's not rocket science. Hey, if Mr. Tim Geithner, as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, knew this stuff, you and I can surely understand it too. My big push is for the US citizenry to first understand that the Federal Reserve is not 'government', but pretty much 'private/quasi-government', meaning that the Congress doesn't control the Fed. Many don't know this basic fact. Therein is the start of the great deception that is being constructed: Let the 'knowledgeable' fix the problem. Knowledgeable being the elite, academia, congress, and those in control of power. If you look at the scores of paper, and the voices heard daily, supporting one position or another, it is evident that they haven't a clue! And that is the basic dilemma regarding the solution - you can try something, but you will not know if it will work until you try it, and it may take longer than expected for the fix to take hold. Then again, it may make things worse, or have no effect at all.
One thing that history shows consistantly in this regard: The amount of money that is thrown at the problem doesn't insure its success. Sometimes a success happens, and no one knows why. Maybe someone bought the last flower at a certain flower shop, and that started the economy on the right road. Who knew!
Anyway, glad to see things are going well, and someone is still supporting the act of thinking.
PS: Your last message to me stated that you didn't know from where we knew each other - but I was the cowboy at your wedding - pilot - father of your wifes best friend - need more clues?
So what do we do? Perhaps the real conspiracy isn't that this kind of thing has happened before and will happen again, but that the end result will be yet another mass of people so disenfranchised and cynical that they reject everything. I mean, why stop at the corporate big wigs, bankers and politicians? Why listen to or believe your priest or bishop or pastor because after all, aren't they all just the same as the ones who got us into this mess? They may not be taking taxpayer dough and buying new jets, but give 'em time and they'll turn out to be thieves, drunks, pedophiles, or worse. In other words, I'm a cynical old crank under the best conditions and all of this mess has made those tendencies even worse, and I'm not happy about it. I mean, I want to trust my priest, but I don't recall ever seeing any information about an outside firm auditing the church's books and he does seem to travel a lot. . . Anyway, you can see what happens, at least in a suspicious mind like mine and I don't like where it takes me...
On a slightly separate tack, NOW everyone can see what a house of cards the national and world economies were built on, but I'm sorry, for everyone who was saying there was a problem, there were dozens and dozens who said keep the pedal to the metal. How many of us pulled out 401Ks out of the market last year, or two years ago? I did an informal poll in the lockerroom at the YMCA and the answer was zip, nada, no one. The only person I know who pulled out of the market in time was my father-in-law, and the reasons he pulled out had nothing to do with the financial crisis, so he did the right thing based on the wrong reasons. I guess it is better to be lucky. The bottom line is that behavior for the vast majority of people didn't change until things started to crash. That's the lesson here. For all the naysayers, there were a lot of very smart people who could have stepped forward and stopped what was happening but they did not. Reminds me of all the experts who say how inevitable WWII was, but when you look at what was being written at the time, and even bond rates set by the Bank of England on the eve of the German invasion of Poland, it's clear that WWII wasn't expected as we'd like to believe.
Cheers everyone. Do something positive and plant a vegetable garden. I got peas and spinach in this weekend...
I struggle against cynicism...but with regard to the government, I curb it not.
In terms of seeing this whole mess coming: Peter Schiff seemingly NAILED it. Check this out and marvel at the extent to which he is painted to be a curmudgeonly crackpot.
HUCK! Yes...Susan guessed your identity awhile ago via some cross posting you did. I had no idea until then!
I'm reading Amity Shlaes' "The Forgotten Man" and quite enjoyed it. It's a history I knew very little about. The very idea that Hoover/FDR actually made things worse is rather the opposite from what we were taught - but I can sure see that possibility now.