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March 18, 2009 - Dan Voigt
The current economic situation in the nation, albeit the globe, has certainly generated a lot of media coverage telling us of the unpleasantness. There haven’t been a lot of “feel good” stories of late about the tough times, instead, there seem to be more and more incidents of complete disregard for what is “right” and “just,” Perhaps the biggest example of this is the recent revelation that officials of AIG Insurance are awarding bonuses of $1 million to company executives, even in light of the fact that AIG has received $170 billion of federal money to keep the firm afloat. When I first heard the news stories on the radio, my first thought was unprintable. My rational side then responded, “How can that be?” There’s a lot of people around the country who are asking the same thing. How can that be? In their defense, AIG uses the excuse that the raises are “contractually required”. That sounds like high-priced, corporate legalese for “because we want to and we don’t care what you think.” Unfortunately, the average citizen like you and I can’t do a blessed thing about this travesty except grumble and complain. But, out of this whole sordid mess, there was an interesting side development. On Monday, Iowa’s U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley let AIG have it. In comments on WMT Radio in Cedar Rapids, Senator Grassley called on AIG’s leaders to do the honorable thing – “to do like the Japanese would do, taking a deep bow, apologizing, and then committing suicide.” Oh my! I can understand what the Senator was driving at, but I think he was a bit too animated in his thinking. Suggesting that someone commit suicide is not the best idea, and obviously, the Senator is now receiving criticism for his remarks. He has apologized and tried to clarify what he meant, but in my mind, I think he said something that a lot of folks have thought and perhaps more importantly, he may have gotten the attention of some of these high rollers and maybe has them thinking a little bit about their actions. We are bombarded by the reports that the giant banks are spending their federal bailout funds on trips for executives. The automakers are crying that they need billions or they will be out of business, and yet, chief executives have the gall to comment that the U.S. government isn’t going to tell them how to run a company, because they know more than the government does. Add in AIG, and all I see is an attitude of “Oh, give me the taxpayer’s money and the heck with them.” Let’s see, that kind of attitude reminds me of stories of the French Revolution, particularly something about those in power suggesting that the masses eat cake… So is there an answer to all of this? One would certainly hope so. Whether it will be an easy answer or quick, the odds aren’t so good. But, past history of our country has shown that the people can face adversity and rebound into a stronger and more unified country. But, for that to happen, the business sector also has to be willing to sacrifice along with the general public. Excesses in business, industry and government that continue on, unchecked, will only foster distrust and reluctance to support those entities. Like any taxpayer, I don’t mind so much when my taxes go for a worthwhile purpose, such as education or job creation, but when my hard-earned taxes go to buy some executive a $15 cigar for his enjoyment, that’s another matter. – by Dan Voigt
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