Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leave the Kitchen Worker Alone

I almost threw my Blackberry off the Starbucks price board when I saw the following “Breaking News” email from the FT while waiting for my coffee – “Kitchen worker received AIG ‘retention bonus’”.

The two line article teaser then goes on to say that a kitchen assistant received $7,700 as part of AIGFP’s $168 million retention bonus program in March of this year. I’ve covered the issue of populist bonus bashing before and don’t intend to rehash it here, but the fact that this is front page news worthy of a “Breaking News” email is absurd.

Where are the articles asking about the other $159.8 BILLION that has been used to prop up AIG? How about $55 BILLION union gift, er, bailout of GM/Chrysler? Where are the articles highlighting the fact that all but a handful of problem banks have repaid all of their government money, including hefty dividends and interest payments, in less than a year?

Why does the media feel the need to vilify individuals who had nothing to do with the crisis or the bailout, especially someone like a kitchen assistant? This is a new low for the populist media, and while I would expect this from the New York Post, MSNBC or Fox News, I thought the FT would be above this sort of populist baiting.

The $7,700 bonus paid to the hard working kitchen assistant, whose worst sin might have been ordering the wrong lunch on occasion, equals exactly 0.000005% (5 one millionths of one percent) of the government bailout amount provided to AIG. In fact, the total amount of “retention bonus” program is only 0.1% (one tenth of one percent) of the total bailout amount.

Lastly, this is nothing more than crying over spilt milk. All bonus amounts were agreed and in legal binding contracts, making them next to impossible to take back without destroying the sanctity of contract law.

Shouldn’t we focus our attention and scrutiny on making sure taxpayers are reimbursed as much of the $160 BILLION dollars committed to AIG as possible, without getting hung up on what amounts to a couple of leaves in the vast forest of government bailouts?


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