AIG – Always Into Giving

I highly doubt any of the thieves from AIG will ever be prosecuted. And Congress put on a pathetic, shameful display of pretending to be outraged over the retention bonuses AIG executives received after being bailed out by taxpayers – when many lawmakers knew all along about the bonuses!

AIG went from a respectable company to one that devised a “scheme that smacks of securities fraud” according to What Cooked the World’s Economy? It Wasn’t Your Overdue Mortgage – The Village Voice, 1-27-09. The article points out how AIG’s Financial Products unit wrote credit derivatives policies (insurance policies for investors) that AIG didn’t have the money to cover. And to get around those pesky American insurance reserve requirements AIG moved its Financial Products group to London.

And why won’t anyone from AIG go to jail? Two words: campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn., and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee) has accepted $281,038 from AIG in campaign money, the highest amount of any politician, from 1989 to 2008. No wonder Dodd lied, got embarrassed, then backtracked when he initially claimed he was not a member of the conference committee that wrote a provision to the economic stimulus bill allowing companies receiving taxpayer bailout money to pay retention bonuses. Not only was Dodd a member of the committee but he played a key role in allowing these shameful bonuses.

As for other politicians accepting campaign money from AIG the Center for Responsive Politics lists George W. Bush coming in second with a haul of $200,560. Number three is Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) with $111,875, while number four is President Barack Obama at $110,332. Right behind the president is Senator John McCain (R-AZ) with $99,249 of largesse.

Congress needs to put in place some serious lobbying and campaign contribution reforms. Legislation is bought on a daily basis at the local, State and Federal levels of our governing system. This is something the founding fathers did not intend and I’ve yet to see this sad fact of our system provided for anywhere in the Constitution.

One reason our economy crashed is because the financial industry wanted deregulation and got it – by spending over $300 million on a successful lobbying / campaign contribution effort to get rid of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (see Obama Urges Regulation in Wake of Housing Slump – NY Times 3-27-08).

Once the sensible, regulatory measures of Glass-Steagall were no longer law mortgage lenders and Wall Street – working in collusion – ran amok. For more on this see “How $350 Million Destroyed Our Economy.”

As for other problems we’re facing because of the corrupt nature of our system and campaign contributions, the list goes on:

We still don’t have comprehensive healthcare reform in this country because the health insurance companies make billions of dollars each year – and don’t want anything changed. So they contribute mightily to both political parties to do exactly nothing and Congress complies – by doing nothing!

We’re still hooked on oil and coal, while we’ve known for decades we need to get off of both. But Big Oil and Big Coal give lawmakers millions (if not billions!) of dollars of campaign contributions annually. As a result we still burn too much oil and coal and what does Congress do? Not only nothing about getting us off these harmful fossil fuels but lawmakers actually gave Big Oil a multi-billion dollar tax break during Bush’s first term as payback – while the oil companies were making record profits and gouging consumers at the pump!

We still have too many guns, including extremely deadly assault rifles, on the streets of our cities. In 1994 Congress banned assault rifles but it was a weak law that only lasted ten years. And once the GOP took over Congress and the great “Decider” was pretending to be a president the last thing they were going to do was anger their NRA donors by extending the ban (and in all fairness I’m certainly aware that plenty of Democrats also take campaign money from the NRA).

Mexican drug cartels are currently running amok in many Mexico-U.S. border cities, causing the Mexican Army to move into several areas. These murderous gangs are buying high-powered assault weapons from the thousands of U.S.-based gun dealers who’ve set up shop on the border. While I think the “right to bear arms” Constitutional argument is incredibly weak I seriously doubt it covers arming Mexican drug gangs (for more on this see “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels).

It’s time for Congress to stop acting on behalf of its campaign contributors and start working for the people of this country. And it is imperative that we figure out a way to get corporate money out of politics. 

Additional reading:

For a scathing, brilliant rebuttal to “Dear AIG, I quit!” NY Times op-ed 3-24-09 by former AIG Financial Products employee Jake DeSantis (who wants people to re-think their anger toward AIG) read Matt Taibbi’s AIG Exec Whines About Public Anger, and Now We’re Supposed to Pity Him? Yeah, Right – The Smirking Chimp 3-27-09.

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