National Opinions

AIG bonuses a disgrace

Like Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day,” U.S. taxpayers seem caught in an endless cycle of frustration over the $750 billion federal rescue of the financial system.

It’s as if we wake up every morning to an outrage by bailed-out companies, which are dutifully reported and denounced by politicians. Then it happens again. And again.

The latest is insurance giant American International Group paying obscene bonuses to its executives. Keep in mind that AIG lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 and has received $170 billion in taxpayer dollars — so far — to stay afloat.

For this job well done, AIG execs are in line for $450 million in bonuses, which will go to the geniuses who work in the unit that brought us credit-default swaps. President Obama told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “pursue every legal avenue” to block the latest bonus installment — $165 million for executives at a unit that nearly sunk the company and helped bring the nation’s economy to its knees. We should all wish him luck.

Of course, if not for the federal bailout of AIG, the company would have gone bankrupt. Then the contracts calling for the bonuses would have been nullified, and the executives who wrecked the company would have lost their jobs.

But no good deed seems to go unpunished for taxpayers where the financial rescue is concerned. For the sake of taxpayers, the Obama administration needs to start waving a bigger stick around bailed-out companies.

Their fate up to now calls to mind the title of another one of Bill Murray’s movies: Scrooged.

— Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale