Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What do you really know about the AIG bonuses?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking, since the country has an abundance of people who get angry in Pavlovian fashion at whatever the charlatan du jour tells them to, and who successfully evade actual thinking on any subject whatsoever(the real critical thinking that isn't taught in schools anymore - it's been replaced by endless blather about feelings and such nonsense).

I would really love to see people take the tiniest bit of interest in actually understanding the economic and political happenings of late. Granted, you've all got a finite number of hours in every day, but can you really say that you can't take a half hour away from your drinking schedule to actually understand what you think you should be mad about?

Getting to some specific questions I'd like to see everyone answer to themselves:

1. About the bonuses paid to AIG employees. Do you understand that a "bonus" is just another name for variable compensation as paid to some people in the financial industry? Surely most of you know someone (a salesperson, or a business manager, or a restaurant server perhaps) who is paid in some way other than hourly or salaried. So why get mad about a bonus, per se?

But, you say, "They're being paid with my tax dollars!", and you're right. The ordinary wages and salaries of the employees are being paid with your tax dollars as well, so why not be angry about those as well? What's the difference between hundreds of thousands of dollars in "salary" and the same amount as a "bonus"? Can you answer these questions to yourself?

2. As to compensation in general. If your taxes are paying for a restaurant which has just spent $1000 on spoiled food, why are you worried about the $1 that they paid to the cook who does oil changes on the side and doesn't wash his hands at either job?

But then that's not the same, you'll assert. Some people deserve $100,000 a year but no CEO or commodity trader deserves $10 million! How about Oprah, or your favorite movie star, or athlete? Can you describe the typical workweek of Tom Cruise, or Albert Pujols, or Tiger Woods? How about the CEO or trader I've just mentioned? I know that I don't have the foggiest idea what any of those people's work consists of. If you don't know either, on what basis do you say that they're overpaid?

3. Government deficits. If I drink 10 beers in an hour, I'll be quite drunk. Does that mean I can't tell you that it's not a good idea for you to drink 30?

Getting much more serious, where do you think $1 trillion is going to come from to finance the deficit of this year alone? And how can the deficit become smaller between now and 2026, when the last of the 1946-1964 Baby Boom begins collecting Social Security? And are those separate withdrawals on your paycheck "Fed Income Tax" and "FICA" really not paying for some of the same things?

4. Perquisites. What are these corporations thinking, giving their executives access to a private jet? What similarities can you think of(assuming a Pittsburgh perspective here) between the 911th Airlift Wing's location at the PIT Airport, which is used by the U.S. President during visits to the area, and the Allegheny County airport? (Hint: think about what you DON'T have at either.) Answer the second question, and you've answered the first.
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