The more things change, the more they stay the same

Oh boy, this is not how the first 100 days were supposed to go…not at all.  America’s hopping mad about those damned bonuses that AIG executives got.  It’s unbelievable that they got $165,000,000 out of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.  Yes, i know, people are up in arms over $165,000,000 but seem relatively unconcerned about the $170,000,000,000.  While the former number is in Powerball territory, put it in perspective by lopping six zeroes off the end of both numbers.  We’re upset about the equivalent of $165 even as the real theft of $170,000 rolls right along.  Then again, this is a nation that goes crazy about $4/gl gasoline and basically just ignores that we’ve descended into Klaus Barbie morality.

The real problem is that there’s an uniformed populist mob gathering, and they’re looking for heads to roll.  So far, the administration has done a good job of being on both sides.  So far appears to be over.

After expressing surprise that such a thing could happen, Mr. Obama took the tough road and promised retribution.  Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the Wyden-Snowe amendment would have prevented this situation entirely.  It taxed bonuses above $100,000 at 35%.  Now, that’s not exactly “capping” a bonus; nor is it particularly tough on the recipient.  It’s certainly not the Inquisition style retribution that appears to be gaining popularity.

It even passed the Senate, and then – according to Sen. Wyden – “died in conference.”  We have whodunnit number one. The replacement for that was the Dodd Amendment which, according to the esteemed Senator got modified before being passed.  In his CNN interview, Senator Dodd reminds us that if not for his courage and valiance as one of the Capital Crusaders, there would have been no limit on compensation at all.  And he makes it clear, as only a self-serving politician can, that his beloved amendment was modified at the request of the administration.

That was today.  Yesterday he “had no idea” how the change happened.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  He proceeds with a flurry of words that mean precisely nothing.  It’s as if he’s got some super-secret Q gadget for politicians that allows them to spew a verbal oil slick.  When pressed for stating that he did, in fact, agree to modify the language, Senator Dodd again evokes the legislative calamity of his amendment dying all-together…with a well-placed aside of “in my view”.  In other words, he doesn’t know that it would have died in conference but he’s willing to threaten us with the outcome of possible histories becoming possible futures.

And then ole Wolfie pulls a rabbit out of John Stewart’s hat, confronting Dodd with videotape of him lying…or suggesting that he’s lying now…or just generally reinforcing the belief that politicians are liars.  Dodd, by repeating his story six more times in less than a minute, doesn’t help the cause of disproving the belief.  What he presents as compelling evidence of his good intentions and general innocence comes across as mere damage control.  It sounds mostly like he’s stuck with a political hot potato and trying desperately to toss it away.

Which is when Blitzer asks him a real question.  After umpteen times through his shtick, Dodd’s is asked if someone at Treasury – presumably Geithner – approached him about changing the amendment.  “I didn’t say who did it,” is the best response Dodd can come up with on such short notice.  Pressed further, Dodd blames it on “the staffs”; he doesn’t even know all of their names, and he did not really know what was being changed and what wasn’t.

Dodd, while passable at obfuscating his own involvement, fails pretty miserably at doing the same for others.  He does not object to Blitzer’s assertion that someone from Treasury asked for the changes.  And i think that we can assume that the decision was not made “at the staff level”.  So whodunnit?  That’s what the mob wants to know.  Who at Treasury would have asked for those changes.

Well now, i’m no Sherlock Holmes, but even i can figure this one out…only because there is only one appointed employee at Treasury.  If Dodd was hoping to throw the mob off the trail, he’s either incompetent or maneuvering to see Geithner out the door and embarrass the administration over the only appointment that they’ve managed to make at Treasury.  On the other hand, Dodd never exactly confirmed that it came from Treasury.  Considering the general sliminess of Obama’s economic appointments, it could be any one of them.  Larry Summers comes to mind.  Most likely, it was all of them.

But it doesn’t really matter, not politically anyway, because whoever asked for it was appointed by Obama.  If the captain thinks that any of the rats will stay aboard and go down with the ship, then he’s a fool.  The buck will get passed directly onto the desk that Harry Truman sat behind, because whoever it was serves at the pleasure of the president.  Moreover, Mr. Obama made a lot of noise about the “change coming from him”.

He’s in trouble.  He will not, of course, do what’s right and sack the lot of them.  Nor will he do what would be best for the nation in the grand scheme and govern as a one-term president, doing what’s right rather than what might win him reelection.  But that’s asking a lot from a politician; they tend to have difficulty differentiating between their personal fortune and the good of the nation.  Given that, we can expect to see a great deal of power politics as a result of the AIG bonuses.

Nothing destroys hope like politics.


~ by Lex on March 19, 2009.

One Response to “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

  1. Politics goes endlessly on and in, while businessmen keep tending to their tasks at hand, pleasing nobody but themselves.

    Good, thought provoking article


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