Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Only in the "Commercial Republic" (tm David Brooks), pt. 1

(This is part one of what will be an ongoing series where I investigate statements and actions that would normally entail public shaming and/or mob violence and which seem to be possible only in a world of insulated elite superciliousness.)

Perhaps you noticed NY Times "Dealbook" columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin's "offensive and painful" defense of AIG bonuses:

"Imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start to abrogate contracts left and right."

"Here is the second, perhaps more sobering thought: A.I.G. built this bomb, and it may be the only outfit that really knows how to defuse it."

"You can bet that someone would scoop up the talent from A.I.G. and, quite possibly, put it to work — against taxpayers’ interests."

Ah, yes, the "sanctity of contracts," the destroyer/savior paradox, and the threat of talent flight. It's a tough world we live in. No one said it was fair. But while we have to live with these outrageous imbalances of power, privilege, and profits, we can at least do our best to help out those at the bottom of the ladder, right?

Here's what the hot young wunderkind said last November about the automaker bailouts, and the "gold-plated," "off-the-charts" union benefits:
Part of the problem is summed up by comments like this one in The Detroit Free Press, made by Kandy O’Neill, 39, an assembler at G.M.’s plant in Lake Orion, Mich., where she builds the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6. “I think we’ve given enough,” she said about the cuts to her salary and pension plan.

“Everybody wants to come down hard on the workers,” she said. “Nobody knows what we do inside there but the people who work there. It’s hard. It is not an easy job.”

When you read a line like that you might sympathize with her, but then you realize that nothing can be accomplished without bankruptcy. Ms. O’Neill: your company is asking the taxpayers — many of whom don’t have health care coverage — to pay your salary and health insurance.
You tell that parasite, Andrew!

In a statement that should elicit either laughter or tears, or both, Sorkin in his AIG column notes as an aside that "(The auto industry unions are facing a similar issue — but the big difference is that there is a negotiation; no one is unilaterally tearing up contracts.)"

Pity the poor AIG executives, who don't get the luxury of a negotiation! Are we to assume that but for their "renegotiations," signed at virtual gunpoint from a chorus of labor-busting big interests, the unions would have gotten a worse deal than they already did? Even with the strongest possible comparison scenario -- full union benefits vs. no AIG bonuses this year -- are we really supposed to think that financial executives would be overall worse off? Oh, but it's not about well-being, it's about the sanctity of the contract (which somehow always seems to redound to the benefit of the already better-off).

The world is full of people who would normally be tarred and feathered.

BONUS: Ruth Marcus drops some economic science on us:
But, you ask, what about autoworkers who are being squeezed to renegotiate their contracts? Those renegotiations mostly involve the future terms of employment, though, it is true, they also could affect retiree health benefits. If an autoworker doesn't want to show up on the assembly line under the terms of a new deal, he or she doesn't have to. That's different from telling AIG employees they're not getting the amount on which they agreed for work they've already performed.
Ha-HA! You silly people forget that in the land of free labor, you can always walk away, even when your contract was renogiated in a moment of crisis by manipulative elites and governmental pressure. Whereas the freedom fighters at AIG are just trying to secure their basic rights, by damn!


Blogger Robot said...

Reading this just makes me wish that Ed Fructher was a more habitual part of my life. If he thought you should "kill them all, Matt" back then, imagine what he would say now. Nuclear fucking holocaust, Matt.

1:31 PM  

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