Populist Outrage Over AIG Bonuses Scaring Private Investors Away From Buying Toxic Assets

from the backlash... dept

Before anyone gets that upset, I'll say that I'm pretty much in exact agreement with Adam Davidson from NPR's Planet Money when it comes to how to feel about the AIG bonuses that were big in the news last week. It's definitely disgusting and troubling to see the money handed out that way, but it's really a tiny sum in the big scheme of things, and there are a lot bigger and more important things that the government should be focused on. Besides, the populist anger is really misplaced -- often directed at the current management or the recipients of those bonuses, rather than those who put in place the contracts that made those bonuses required. But, the very fact that Congress spent so much time on it highlights something we warned about earlier this year: as soon as the government steps in to help a business, it's going to greatly hamstring what that company can do, since its every move will be extra-scrutinized and critiqued. That will certainly limit what many companies are willing to do.

And we're seeing that right now. With the administration spending the weekend trying to convince private firms to buy up a bunch of the "toxic assets" out there, many are (reasonably) worried that they might face AIG-bonus-style backlash. It makes them a lot less willing to act, exactly at a time when we need private firms to step up and clean up the mess.

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  1. icon
    JohnForDummies (profile), 23 Mar 2009 @ 5:43am

    In the grand scheme of things, $165M is hardly a dent in the $170B that was given to AIG.

    int molehill = 165,000,000;
    int mountain = 170,000,000,000;

    if(molehill != mountain)
    molehill = mountain;

    Like a magician, we're being distracted by one hand, while the left hand is doing all the 'work'. "Now for my next trick, I'm going to make ANOTHER TRILLION DOLLARS disappear."

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