Postcard From the Hanging

I just read another piece trying to drum up some potential candidates for a good old fashioned lynching. I’m talking about the AIG bonuses, of course. The piece I just read was by Bob Barr, a prosecutorial kind of guy who is ferreting out a culprit. He’s one of the guys who prosecuted Clinton for lying about sex. If he prevails we'll all be in jail, because we're all pretty much alike at ground level.

Take the rich and the poor for example. You’d think they don’t have anything in common, but they do. The welfare cheat with a sixty dollar suit has a lot in common with the corporate executive making millions in bonus money. They both know you better be careful whose money you pick up, because you might end up as the taxpayer's bitch.

The people who look after the taxpayers money don’t like welfare cheats and they don’t like rich guys who con the honest working man out of his wages. Since the image is a kind of free floating projection, they always need somebody to hang it on, so to speak. The people who actually need hanging are too powerful to touch, so stunt doubles are called in to do the actual gallows scene. Or they could try a lottery, with odd man out.

What Barr and other prosecutors -- that is to say, leaders of the mob -- are saying is basically, in the immortal words of Eli Wallach, “We ain't got no badges; we don't need no badges; we don't have to show you no stinking badges."

The people they want to hang are the ones who looked at the contracts and said, ‘Contract law is under the jurisdiction of the court. What was contracted for and what was the performance on the contract?”

The cracker barrel story is: “There are some executives at AIG who contrived this hedge fund that brought down the company, and we had to put out hundreds of billions to save them, and now they’re taking huge bonuses to try and undo the mess they made."

It’s a good story around the cracker barrel but it’s nothing special. That’s how business has been going. George Bush big oil and his major backer was Enron. Cheney was Halliburton. Rumsfeld was pharmaceuticals. Rice was Exxon. Regulatory agencies were gutted like natives with stone axes. It’s like Joseph Campbell said, if you want to see where the power is, look at who has the tallest buildings.

If we want to blame somebody for those bonuses, let’s go directly to the person who wrote the contract and follow up the chain of command. The decision to pay them because they were contractually valid debt was correct if there was performance by the other parties.

Outrage is a different issue.

RIght now the American public is like some rube who just hit town and got conned by the old bait and switch gimmick. He's down at the police station yelling, "I'm a taxpayer. I pay your salary, sergeant."

“Can you describe the suspect?”

“Yea, he was a white guy in an expensive suit. I think it was Brooks Brothers but it could have been Armani."

“Did he have any distinguishing characteristics? Moles, scars, birthmarks?”

“He could have been foreign. Maybe from Connecticut.”

Maybe Barr and the rest of the prosecutors and those who are behind them with the pitchforks and torches have to have their hanging to appease their old gods and make the earth fertile for spring planting. But it’s almost Easter anyway, so they could try doing a ritual instead. Who knows; if they understand why they do it, it might work this time.

Posted: Wed - March 25, 2009 at 03:12 PM