Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Atlas Shrugging?

Jake DeSantis has resigned from AIG, publishing his resignation letter in the NYT. His statement is not as uncompromising as it might have been, but he does reject any notion that he should feel guilty for the money he earned at AIG. He is nonetheless donating all of the money he should have received under his contract to those who have been hurt by the economic downturn, and he is daring Congress to retroactively tax the money away from the the recipients of his charity. That may be a misguided attempt to protect his coworkers by making the taxation of those earnings politically impossible. I don't think it will help, though, because there's nothing to stop Congress from simply inserting a clause to exempt charitable donations from the tax. In fact, it would make it much easier on Congress if they could say that they forced the folks at AIG to donate their money to charity, rather than confiscating it for the government. I would rather have seen the managers band together and fight any attempt to strip them of their compensation, but given the mood of the nation I can't really blame them for keeping their heads down.

To be clear: AIG has no right to one dime of taxpayer money. Having given them the money, though, the government has no right to deny them the right to use it to meet a contractural obligation to pay their employees. Any voter who accepts the bailouts while getting livid over the bonuses has swallowed the elephant and choked on a gnat, and the politicians who are making an issue of the bonuses are trying to redirect taxpayer anger from its proper target (them) to a scapegoat (businessmen).

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