Despite public outrage over AIG bonuses, Obama had a good week. He traveled across America expressing his own outrage over the bonuses. He was warmly greeted in Orange County, California—once a bastion of conservative Republicanism. Republican Governor Swarzenegger warmly embraced him and assured him that California supported the stimulus plan. Obama appeared on the Tonight Show displaying his quick wit with the show’s host Jay Leno.
Leno raised the issue of congress threatening to tax the bonuses at 90%. “As a American,” he said that he was distressed that Congress could use the tax laws to punish a particular group. Obama responded that he understood the anger. Significantly, he did not endorse Congress’s response.
Nor did Obama mention that Congress voted for these bonuses when it passed the bailout or whether he or congress was aware of this clause in the Bill. Senator Cris Dodd (D-Conn) had appeared outraged at the bonus and told CNN that he was unaware of such an amendment. Later he told CNN that he didn’t write the clause, and later he admitted adding the clause at the insistance of Treasury Secretary Geithner.
One gets the feeling that the bailout resembles the panic that got us into the Iraq war. No one is answering questions about the perceived “melt down.” The public is asked to believe the same people that stood by and defended the practices that caused the crisis.
Congressperson Barney Frank (D-Mass) appears outraged at AIG and threatened to subpoena AIG bonus recipients, but for many years he applauded the practices of Fannie and Freddie. As early as 2002, criticisms of these practices appeared in the financial press.
The bonus represents only the tip of an iceberg that is gathering public rage over throwing money at the bad banks and speculators. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009 and a 9.3 trillion for the decade. Such deficits are unsustainable.
Obama passed the stimulus package with the help of the Blue Dogs—”fiscally conservative” Democrats from regions that usually vote Republican. Obama gave them a “pay-as-you-go” promise in return for their support. Without their help the Republican would have enjoyed a monumental victory.
Democracy cannot exist as a one party system. Dialog, resolution, and synthesis, are necessary to build consensus. The republicans have become irrelevant. Their support of the Bush Administration makes any fiscal criticism they make pure hypocrisy. The Republican denied global warming apparently believing that the earth would come to an end anyway during Armageddon.
The Blue Dogs are caucusing and starting to function as the loyal opposition. Their web page supports green technology. Obama will need them. Usually, the party in power losses seats during the mid-term elections. If the Blue Dogs can hold their seats and even take over seats now held by Republicans, Obama can continue his programs to build a green world.
Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/Tonight Show/NBC