The feeding frenzy over AIG’s bonuses has turned into theater of the absurd, capped by Senator Charles Grassley suggesting–not very seriously, one hopes–that AIG executives should consider committing suicide, Japanese fashion.
I’m not sure whether there is actually anything wrong with the AIG bonuses or not; if the facts are as described by the Washington Post, this may be a standard employee compensation issue, not an executive greed-fest. The real lesson is that the federal government has no business trying to run an insurance company. When the manner in which AIG pays its employees becomes a political food-fight, something is seriously wrong.
What makes this story so ridiculous, though, is the apparently sincere outrage expressed by politicians on both sides of the aisle at the idea that $165 million in taxpayers’ money may have been wasted. Oh, the irony! If only Congress could muster similar fury at its own waste of sums orders of magnitude greater.
To take just one obvious example, the earmarks in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill alone–forget about the waste that is shot through the whole $410 billion–added up to something like $8 billion. That’s almost 50 times the AIG bonuses. It would be impossible to calculate with any precision the amount of waste in the federal government’s $4 trillion budget, which works out to around $11 billion a day, but it’s safe to say that Congress wastes more than $165 million every morning before breakfast.
So it would be nice if Congress’ new-found concern with wasteful spending could be directed at its own appropriations.