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AIG Ruins Obama's St. Patrick's Day
2009/03/18 00:24

AIG Ruins Obama's St. Patrick's Day

By Ben Pershing
If President Obama doesn't appear to be enjoying his green beer at the various St. Patrick's Day celebrations he will attend today, there is a simple explanation -- blame AIG.

The furor over $165 million in bonuses paid out to employees of the insurance giant, which is being kept afloat by government funds, has quickly subsumed every other news story this week and seems to have caught the Obama administration off guard. The result has been a flurry of letter-writing and threats. Congressional Democrats wrote to Tim Geithner, demanding he do something about this. Obama also called on Geithner, demanding he do something about this. Hill Republicans want Geither to present a bailout "exit strategy" (and noted that they asked the same thing of Henry Paulson). There was talk of firings, hearings, new laws and new subpoenas. Members of Congress haven't quite stormed AIG's headquarters with pitchforks yet, but it may not be far off.

What are the chances that the government can actually force these bonuses to be paid back? Apparently, not so good. And after so many hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on various bailouts over the last six months, why did this $165 million spark such particular outrage? It could just be that populist anger, which has been building steadily, reached a tipping point. Whatever the cause, the Obama administration is now scrambling to make sure that it doesn't get blamed for the bonuses, and that the public focuses its anger on AIG, and not the government officials who are supposed to be monitoring the company's every move.