.
March 22nd, 2009
07:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #62: Far from the just plain mad crowd

Reporter's Note: The President of the United States wants suggestions on how to run the nation. I, a citizen of the United States, write a letter every day in hopes of being helpful. You can’t say I’m not trying.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Here’s something I don’t get. Politicians are always saying that Americans should pull together. We should be more bipartisan. We should unite to promote understanding, acceptance, and implementation of the President’s plans.

Mind you, there is a caveat here: I’m talking about the party in charge at any given moment. They are the ones who say this, and of course they would. If everyone gets behind the ruling party’s leaders, it’s easier to lead. The party out of power? You don’t often hear them rattling on that way.

But back to my point. We’re always told to join forces, all strive toward the same goals; but as soon we do, if it makes Washington nervous, we’re accused of being a senseless mob. People from the Lexus and loafer set start lobbing around the word “populism” as if it’s something they found molding at the bottom of the pool.

Take the continuing uproar over these AIG bonus bucks. I fully understand that the public outcry casts a shadow of torches and pitchforks, and it is fair to say we may not look our best as a culture when we are carving a big slice of revenge off of some greedy guy’s posterior. Even if he deserves it. But it strains patience, for Washington to be tsk tsk’ing the incivility of regular people right now, when those regular people are struggling just to keep afloat on much less per decade than just one of these infamous bonus checks. That’s uncivil.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that even these bonus collectors have families and might fear for their safety if this gets anymore out of hand. But what about the safety of the millions of other families who right now are terrified over losing their jobs, their houses, their kids’ college funds, and more because of what the bonus crowd did? I know the money gang keeps saying it’s not their fault, but that’s like walking out of a room full of oily rags, matches, and monkeys and saying, “Well, it wasn’t on fire when I left!”

I thought I had a solution: Give them the checks. Staple them at noon next Saturday to a post in the middle of Central Park. No one will release anyone’s name. No one who is afraid of “the mob” has to come get it. But then it occurred to me: Washington isn’t afraid of the “mob” for the sake of these rich guys.

Washington is afraid for itself. Voters knew the money guys wanted the money. That’s what makes them money guys. What we didn’t know is that the very leaders, Democratic and Republican, who promised that our tax dollars would not go for this kind of payout would be so inept at fulfilling that promise.

Frankly, I think those are the folks who the mob is really after.

There. Now I feel better.

Hope all is well with you and yours, and that the family has a great weekend. Chat on Monday?

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, go here.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Peter

    AIG did exactly what they were suppose to do, rip us all off. That is their goal. Take all the money out of our country, enslave us then microchip. I say get rid of them and lets make our own banks. They are criminals. The bonuses they got were given by the International Bankers and people who run the world like JP Morgan and Rockefeller. They did what they were paid to do. The problem is that our demise is their success. Lets roll America...

    March 23, 2009 at 9:41 am |
  2. KIm

    AIG gave the bonus money back and that was the right thing to do. Let's move on to the next issue and stay out of the, quick sand political grid lock. Unite to promote understanding works and let's find a place to compromise on all the conflict and opinion. "You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes,ya just might find,ya get what you need." Oh yeah bipartisan! Think it's cool Mrs.Obama is out there planting a victory garden with a bunch of young people. Anything green and "Whoo","Whoo" ! Is Secretary of State Tim Geithner's office stabalized and all on the same page ? Does he have enough support ? I'm for Obama's economic plan and what are we waiting on ? Santa Clause to drop those recovery stimulus checks under the Christmas tree ? Set the tone and pace Obama but can everyone keep up with him ?

    March 22, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  3. rjjrdq

    The President of the United States wants suggestions on how to run the nation.

    You don't actually believe that do you?

    March 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  4. mary Frost

    I think we, the public are directing our anger over the bonuses towards the WRONG PEOPLE. The people responsible for pushing the stimulus bill through without allowing it to be read are the people we all should be mad at. Do not let yourself be sidetracked into directing your anger at the wrong people.

    March 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  5. keith

    What is stoping the owners of AIG from demanding the company be split apart. Isn't some of this crisis based on the fact that AIG had too large a market share, besides a lack of ethics?

    Keith

    March 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  6. mary Frost

    Mr. President, Seems like the outraged that people are feeling over the bonus payout, should be aimed at the people responsible for allowing it to happen, not the people that received the bonuses. If someone gave me a million dollar bonus I would take it–HOW ABOUT YOU???

    March 22, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  7. mary Frost

    President Obama-I have this question for you: I heard you say that you were outraged that the bonuses were paid out by AIG–then WHY DID YOU SIGN the bailout that SAID THAT THEY WERE TO BE PAID OUT????

    March 22, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  8. Carl the small business owner.

    I think another thing to think about is AIG and insurance premiums.

    It costs me a small fortune to insure my business and to see how a company has earned and burned through so much cash it makes me take a second look at my premiums.

    If I could do without insurance I would. Especially now that I see the pyramid scheme and how much those at the top make in bonuses.

    That in itself looks criminal.

    If you take a look I would bet the same thing is happening in the health care industry. A bunch of fat cats at the top.

    Its time to expose all of this and for the Middle class to take back control of our country. We don't need the rich and elite dictating how we will live. Or how much we can have once they take theirs.

    March 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  9. Carl the small business owner.

    Taxing these guys as a whole after the fact is irresponsible and not American.

    Not every person that received a bonus is a loser or contributed to the failure of AIG. To put them all into one basket and beat them senseless is absolutely wrong.

    The bonueses should have been looked at before the money was handed out. Bad bad bad on the new administrations part. Some of these people probably have the bonus coming, but to punish them all as a whole is not right. Sure some of them are idiots, losers and should be caned' but not all of them. To do so will not foster future growth and promote excellence. This is a horrible thing to watch. Punish the whole group? Come now we're better than this. We look like privates in boot camp without vision, forethought and insight on how to run a business or promote growth. Why aren't you covering this angle?

    It also appears as if they were so excited to spend the money they forgot to look at the strings, liabilities and future exposure. sheesh man get a clue

    Isn't this the same mentality that got most of Americans into financial trouble? Acting without thinking without sound research and a full understanding all the facts. Ugh this is going to be a long winter lasting all of four years.

    What is Obama going to do once he can't spend any more money? Go into withdrawls?

    March 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Elize

    I am outraged at the AIG bonus payout. Mr President – For heaven sake think about all the people who looked forward changes in Washington. Now that you are in power, we want to see changes we voted for – the rich is still getting richer and the hard working poor, poorer. I don't agree that the horse is already out the barn and the AIG bonus cannot be rescinded – YES IT CAN. Smart people like Barney Frank and others have some good suggestions. Consider how the average working Joe feels about the situation. Like most of the people I know, this year, I got NO salary increase, NO bonus (usually under $10K) and had to take a 10% tax cut because the real estate development company I work for is suffering. I have had to tell a $30,000/year employee (with a child) that I have to reduce her pay by 10%. In addition, as a hardworking, sacrificing American, I saved the maximum allowed in the 401K plan in stocks that the Wall Street so-called genius' recommended. Well even that is practically all gone. Those folks are incompetent. They deserve neither retention nor performance bonuses. The ordinary Joe would have lost his job never mind get a bonus These are unprecedented times for sure – hard work and honesty is not rewarded – but FRAUD, THEFT AND GREED are. I am at odds with the values I am instilling in my children.

    Mr President – Do something – you are the most powerful man in the World – exercise good judgement.

    March 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  11. Isabel

    Be opposition and to criticize is much easier to be situation, having to unify the people and solve problems.

    March 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  12. kathryn arevalo

    bravo! Well said! I even put down my pitchfork for a second there so engrossed was i. 🙂

    March 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  13. Christine

    I hope AIG do get taxed 90%. AIG certainly did not ask for our permission when they were ripping everyone off
    with their misuse and misconduct. Taxing AIG would be the ethical thing to do for us hard working American citizens to recoop our money back again. So what if there was a loophole, we put the loop hole back on them again!

    March 22, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  14. Marc Allan

    I agree! Put the checks in the middle of Central Park.

    March 22, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  15. Steve Santamaria

    I'm curious why no one has asked this simple question. If AIG had failed and been allowed to go under, would any of the AIG bonus recipients been paid a single dollar of bonus money? I surmise not. It's absurd that they are being paid a bonus from the government bailout funds, much less keep their jobs given their inability to keep a company in good health.

    March 22, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  16. Marcus Edwards

    I'm confused, are we talking about the same Washington which has said, "I understand the American people's anger, I'm angry too." No one is demonizing AIG outrage, in fact everyone seems to be galvanizing it (you too Tom). Yeah the pols are trying to cover their backsides, but you don't do that by accusing Americans of being a senseless mob. You do that by joining it. Back to the drawing board Tom and give us a letter that broadens the discussion, and accurately next time.

    March 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  17. suri

    I think that cnn should focus more on how obama seems to be running away from washington as soon as there is a problem, If he were a ceo of a company he would have to be in the office solving the problem and traveling all over the country trying to sell himself.

    March 22, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  18. Dennis Bettger

    I live in Minnesota our goverment officals are talking about increasing the alcohol in the gas an additional 5%. We all know the people that sell gas will just increase the gas price to make up for the 5% gas they lost that was replaced by alcohol. So, that gas prices will go up. The MN Ag. Offical says we can't live under foreign oil countries, but he did'nt say what he was going to use to make the alcohol. I know what he wants corn! CORN is what makes food costs going up. If one state does it, the rest of the states will too. Starve the people for something that is known not to be helping that much anyway!

    March 22, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  19. Preston Russ

    Let's be a little more clear. The American taxpayer is outraged about the bonuses. You get a bonus for succeeding not for failing. The President, Timmy Giethner and Congress had a choice and they all chose to give the bonuses. The outrage should be against Obama, Giethner, Chris Dodd and all the people that voted for this outrageous PORK bill without reading and understanding what was included in this bill.

    How many lies will be accept from this administration? And will the national news media continue to cover up the lies and the incompetence?

    March 22, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  20. Dennis Bettger

    AIG is so large a company that if it goes bankrupt it will wreck the economy. Then it should be broken up into smaller business, that will never ever have a chance to do to get to this size to do this to the economy. Treat it like Ma Bell or AT&T.

    March 22, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  21. Robyn

    Very interesting. I don't agree on some points, but still.

    March 22, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  22. skyepeg

    Bravo Tom. You are right on here!!

    March 22, 2009 at 7:56 am |