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AM I GREEDY?

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 4:37 p.m.
AM I GREEDY?

The question making the rounds is, what does AIG stand for, other than American International Group? Am I greedy? For millions of taxpayers, the answer is a resounding "Yes," and, moreover, according to these responents, the recipients of the company's bonuses should be forced to return the money.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) has proposed that the AIG executives and employees be taxed at the rate of 100 percent.

"Like most Americans," she said in a press release, "I was outraged to learn over the weekend that AIG is paying out $165 million in bonus compensation. And while I applaud the efforts of President Obama and Secretary Geithner to use every method available under the law to reduce or eliminate these bonuses--we in Congress make laws."

And one of the laws she proposed to retrieve taxpayers' money is to attach the "maximum possible rate" of taxation to the bonuses. "Taxpayer funds were provided to AIG and other major financial institutions with the understanding that they would be spent wisely," she said. "Taxpayers should not be on the hook for lavish bonuses for AIG executives or any other company in which the government owns a majority stake."

That majority stake, at least 80 percent of AIG, in fact, belongs to taxpayers. "If they don't return the money, then we will come and get it," said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

There appears to be a growing consensus that Congress will pass a bill to tax the bonuses; however, the issue is, will such a law meet the legal challenge? Executives at AIG insist that the bonuses had to be paid since the employees receiving them were under contract, and to violate those contracts, they said, would have prompted a welter of legal entanglements. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has threatened to release the names of the more than 70 employees who have received $1 million or more in bonuses, though the impact of such a move is questionable from a monetary standpoint.

As expected, the Obama administration is taking hits from all corners, and taxpayers want to know when the administration knew that the bonuses were earmarked for employees. "How do they justify this out- rage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?" asked Obama.

The bonuses represent less than 1 percent of the money doled out to employees. More troubling are the large amounts given to partners, who have finally been revealed. Goldman Sachs, the largest single recipient, hauled away $12.9 billion; Merrill Lynch received $6.8 billion; Bank of America $5.2 billion; and Citigroup $2.3 billion. Several European banks raked in nearly $59 billion. "Another $30 billion was added to the AIG bailout pot this month and must be accounted for as soon as it is spent," a New York Times editorial declared. "That leaves $32 billion unaccounted for. Where did it go?"