03.31.2009 0

An “Outrageous” Double Standard

  • On: 04/09/2009 10:01:17
  • In: Economy
  • By Howie Rich

    utrage seems to be the “coin of the realm” in Washington D.C. these days – as long as it’s focused on the (former) private sector and not the government agencies and politicians overtaking it.

    Politicians who, it should be noted, are every bit as culpable in creating our current economic mess.

    The rules don’t apply to these “leaders,” though, even though they’ve been availing themselves of taxpayer-funded bonuses a lot longer than the Wall Street firms have.

    That’s why the curious silence in our nation’s capital this week is so noteworthy – particularly after the clamoring cacophony of recent weeks.

    Last month, you will recall, the proposed awarding of $165 million in bonuses to executives at bailout-backed American International Group (AIG) sparked mass political, media and public outrage.

    It was “corporate greed,” and President Obama leveraged it to the max, even though he voted in favor of a bailout with zero accountability (and his own Treasury Secretary signed off on the bonuses).

    Obama wasn’t alone.

    Dozens of D.C. politicians who had previously approved AIG’s bailout billions nonetheless shoved their way to head of the protest line, while New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo deftly used the issue to position himself as the runaway favorite to become the Empire State’s next governor.

    This month, however, the politicians aren’t clamoring – they’re cowing.

    And they’re being assisted in this game of “hide and seek” by the mainstream media – which has gone deathly quiet at the precise moment the outrage dial should have been cranked up to “eleven.”

    Some would argue that the mass media silence this month is due to “Barack the Bailout King” taking his smoke-and-mirrors tour (and the presidential press corps) on the road to Europe, but surely one or two lonely reporters stayed behind to mind the taxpayer store, didn’t they?

    Certainly there is additional compelling news to report beyond President Obama’s muffed “ceremonial kiss” with French First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

    For example, reporters like Brody Mullins and Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal, who uncovered last week that U.S. House members had doled out $9.1 million in bonuses to their staff members – on top of the $2.5 million in automatic pay raises that lawmakers gave themselves.

    According to their report, the average House aide got a 17% bonus.

    And while the combined $11.6 million (and counting) spent on legislative bonuses is small potatoes compared to the AIG bonuses, consider the story published last Saturday by James Hagerty, also of The Wall Street Journal, and a few other print outlets.

    According to Hagerty’s report, executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the twin government-owned mortgage behemoths whose risky lending helped spawn the recession – will be receiving $210 million in bonuses over an eighteen-month period.

    For those of you tracking the bailout trillions, that’s $45 million more than the AIG bonuses.
    In fact, Fannie and Freddie executives have already been awarded $51 million – not a bad take for two agencies whose Enron-style accounting has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the past year.

    Sadly, the investigative reporting of Brody, Radnofsky, Hagerty and others has gone virtually unnoticed.

    And it’s not just because Washington politicians don’t want their double-standard exposed, it’s because network and cable TV media have already moved past “bonus outrage” and decided to focus exclusively on whether First Lady Michelle Obama curtsied to the Queen or not.

    As a result, critical questions America’s Fourth Estate should be asking our leaders have been replaced by meaningless pomp and circumstance.

    Like what?

    For starters, when did America decide that rewarding government overreaching and incompetence was the best way to stimulate our economy?

    Also, why are certain bonuses worthy of outrage and others viewed as completely kosher?

    And most importantly, aren’t such illogical cash outlays an indictment of the whole interventionist approach to begin with? Shouldn’t we fire people who lead us into disaster, not give them taxpayer-funded raises?

    In a word, the whole thing is “outrageous.”

    Except Washington is conveniently out of “outrage” this month.

    The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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