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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 16, 2009 at 2:24 PM

AIG bonuses and living beyond means

Our “stimulating” economy

The value of work

In one more story of gloom regarding the American economy, we learn that seven executives of AIG are “entitled” to more than $3 million in bonuses that the company argues that it must uphold in order to “attract the best and the brightest talent” to their company [“AIG Bonuses: $165 million more,” Times, Nation Report, March 15]. This payment goes to those who wrote trillions of dollars of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed by subprime mortgages.

So let me get this straight: The U.S. government is continuing to help a company pay its top executives bonuses and “retention pay” for doing bad business?

What I am also trying to understand is what is the value of any one person, as bright and savvy as he or she may be, to be worth that amount of money in bonuses alone (not to mention base salary)? For what do we value the human capacity to work in a given day or week of time, in any job? And where does the business world, and ultimate our society, make the call that such work in the business/financial world be valued so much higher than work in education, health care, social work the arts?

— Cara Hazelbrook, Arlington

Two sets of rules

How does a company that has failed as abysmally as AIG owe any of it’s employees a bonus? Why should they be concerned about retaining upper management?

It is as [“The Daily Show’s”] Jon Stewart has so artfully revealed, we have two sets of rules in the United States: one tax rate for those with regular income, another rate for corporations and the very rich who legally use elaborate tax dodges; one set of rules for people who earn their modest bonuses, another for people whose enormous bonuses are completely detached from performance; one set of rules for people with modest investments and another for the shadowy banking industry, which uses our 401(k)s to fund the housing bubble and the stock market, which it turns out is really an enormous Ponzi scheme.

When the scheme inevitably failed, these same crooks have the audacity to demand to use millions of taxpayer dollars to pay “bonuses” to its upper management and to lobby against the interests of you and me, the taxpayers — all the while shoveling shame on people who are struggling to pay mortgages.

Much more of this behavior and this quiet, mild-mannered housewife and mother of two kids is going to be out in the streets protesting in front of financial companies.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Congress need to be much more forceful and put a stop to this. It’s time to call in the Justice Department and start investigating these shenanigans.

— Kelly Powers, Seattle

Curious assets

The first decade of the 21st century may well become known as the beginning of The Age Of Euphemisms. Consider what has happened to the word “asset.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “asset” as “… a valuable item that is owned …” During the past eight years, this has evolved to become “troubled assets” and, most recently, “toxic assets.”

I guess if we don’t call these “toxic assets” what they really are (derivative securities that have lost all or almost all of their value), the public doesn’t get the message. The money is gone. The taxpayer’s money, which is used to acquire “toxic assets” in order to get them off the bank’s balance sheets, will be gone as well.

As Alice said when she walked through the looking glass, “It gets curiouser and curiouser.”

— Harry B. Bosch, Silverdale

Lifestyles of the new economy

So, I am the state of Washington. I have had a good run at work and made a lot of money the past few years. My spending habits reflect my new income, so I commit to buying bigger and better stuff. Now, my job isn’t going so well. Unfortunately, I like all my new stuff. Not only do I not want to give anything back, I want to keep going out and spending money on stuff I enjoy. What are my options?

A. I can maintain my lifestyle by spending all of my savings that I put aside and just hope things are better in the future.

B. I can take a generous gift from my Uncle Sam, and spend all of his money, and still maintain the lifestyle I enjoy, or …

C. I know this sounds crazy, but maybe I could downsize my extravagant lifestyle and not spend so much money. Actually live within my means and not worry so much about a scary economy.

This should not be a complicated problem. The hard questions of where to cut are difficult to answer, but the big-picture solution should be obvious, even to our political leaders. We elected you to make hard decisions. Time to step up and earn your paychecks!

— Todd Ray, Auburn

Comments | More in Economy, Federal bailouts, Recession, Washington Legislature

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