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March 18th, 2009
10:27 AM ET

Dear President Obama #58: The grasping hand of greed

Reporter's Note: The President once again this week solicited advice from anyone who thinks he or she might have a better idea on how to run the government. And once again, I am pushing on in my quest to write a letter a day to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.getty.obama.3.16.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Do you remember the story of the monkey trap? A man hollows out a coconut, and cuts two holes in the side. Through one hole he threads a piece of rope to secure the coconut to a tree. Through the other hole, he slips a piece of hard candy, just small enough to fit.

“But how will this catch the monkey?” a little boy asks. “Just watch,” says the man. Along comes a monkey, which pokes its hand into the coconut. With a tight grip on the candy, the monkey’s fist is too large to be pulled free. And yet the animal is so intent on keeping its prize, it stays there struggling while the man and boy simply walk up and grab it by the scruff of the neck.

I have no idea if such traps actually exist, or for that matter what I would do with a monkey if I caught one; especially considering that under this scenario, presumably the monkey would then forevermore have a coconut hanging from his wrist.

“Hey, Tom, nice monkey. What’s with the coconut?”

“Hard to explain. Want some candy?”

Still, I am thinking about the story because I believe these AIG guys trying to hold onto their bonuses (despite the fact that the government had to bail out their company) are also effectively being trapped by their own greed.

I understand that they’d like to keep the money; just like, oh say, taxpayers would have liked to have kept their money too. I understand that they think they were promised something and that it is only right now for it to be delivered; just like, oh say, many Americans were effectively promised that the government was keeping an eye on the financial world to keep such shenanigans under control. And we’ve seen how that worked out.

It’s not like these guys are going to be poor, and yet they are willing to risk provoking all sorts of retribution before they’ll back away from the money. They’re acting like guys who have effectively beaten some midnight poker game through a clever scam, but who insist on hanging around trying to snatch a few thousand more even as the leg breakers are walking in the door. What is the sense in it?

I think sometimes greed is a type of sickness. Like the flu only not as messy. Greed for money. Greed for power. Greed for fame. It gets inside of people and takes over. And once you let it seize you so thoroughly, it changes you. Unbridled greed has the power to ruin families, mow down decency, turn honest men into cheats, and destroy nations.

So good luck in dealing with this AIG mess, but perhaps more importantly good luck in dealing with this virus of greed that seems to somehow have spread throughout the land; threatening, like the experiments on Dr. Moreau’s little island, to make monkeys of us all.

Still working up in New York, but I’m always on cell, so call if you get a minute. Not a worry if you can’t, but still it would be nice to chat.

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, go here.

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Larry (Democrat)

    The President has publicly stated he would review the Stimulus bill " line by line....and eliminate waste".......the public is waiting.
    So the bucks stops with the President and he recently stated he bears the "responsibility" so again when is he going to line by line eliminate the waste. Enough rhetoric show theAmerican voters some action.

    March 19, 2009 at 7:22 am |
  2. Tom Lorenz

    Dear Mr President,

    Why does this administration reward and shovel $170 billion of taxpayer money to a company and executives who've failed. This situation should completely expose the ineptness of Congress and the administration to run any business or service. You do not need to experiment with our money and reinvent the wheel. There already are perfectly useable tools to deal with these types of failing corporations. It is to allow the use of bankruptcy laws which automatically would have renegotiated contracts thereby reducing restrict or eliminate bonuses!
    These failing companies and executives need to be allowed to be weeded out with bankruptcy tools and leave the taxpayers off the hook. Secretary Geithner created the policy of giving billions of taxpayer dollars to failing companies and he needs to be fired! How stupid do people have to be before they are let go? The Obama administrations policy of taxpayer bailouts for failures must stop. I'm not angry that the bonuses were paid, however am livid that this administration and congress is the enabler for this mess. Apparently the Obama administration policies are to continue to speed on this insane washed out road of bailout and waste of our hard earned money. Stupid is as stupid does.

    March 19, 2009 at 5:25 am |
  3. Mina

    AIG is one of the companys that is responsible for this economic mess. Why did the government take our money and give it to AIG without any regulation? There needs to be a committee that looks over how money from the bailout was spent. I want to know what else the President will do to help home owners. This all started with the mortgage industry why not end with it as well. We all know the housing boom lead to this economic meltdown. The loan officers are just like a used car salesperson. I am so angry I have to vent my story. Here is my story, I bought my home back in 2003, had good credit, but was told by my loan officer that I can only qualify for interest only and variable rates. Then, he stated I can refinance to a lower rate in two years to a fixed loan. Wanting a home, I fell for it and signed the document with loans from Aidan Financial. My loan was then sold three months later to Accredited Home Loan, then it went to Indymac Bank, in 2005 it went to Option One Mortgage, and now it is with American Home Servicing Inc. I had tried to do a loan modifiction with Indymac Bank, then it switched to Option One. I had to resubmit a new loan modification with Option One, they were not willing to help out. I went from one department to the next trying to reach the right people to help me. I was advised to seek help from a Hope program thru the government, but they were not helpful at all. I then, paid Forem Financial $3200 to help me with the loan modification. By this time American Home Mortgage Services was my lender and they refused to help me save my home. Forem Financial did not do anything different, I paid them for nothing. These companies that are dong loan modifications are a joke. I had tried to do a short sale, but the company that was doing the short sale on my property was not upfront. They are shrewd and conniving, never to be trusted again to do what was right. They guaranteed it would work out, but each time they went out on their words and the story changes constantly. I consulted a lawyer and now my home is in foreclosure, I was forced to file for bankruptcy. I have family members that are willing to buy my house back, but the lender refuse to sell it back to us. We tried numerous times to work with them to save my home, but I guess it is hopeless. We got approved to purchase, but the lenders refused to let us use our own lender. They state family members who have a credit history of renting the home or with that address at my property cannot buy back the home. I was trying to save my home and not have to go through foreclosure, but it seems that the bank would rather get bailout money from the government, than care about the homeowners. There is something wrong here, don't you think so Mr. President? How about helping the homeowners that are left behind? Why are you using my money to bailout the banks if they are not willing to bail me out? My family lives in my property and they are getting evicted in 30 days. Thanks for the the help Mr. President, my hope is gone,.......... no we cannot!

    March 19, 2009 at 2:35 am |
  4. David

    Hey Mr Obama
    to start off would you please answer specific questions with specific answers? Thanx. Anyway would you care to explain why YOU are on the list of recipiants from A.I.G.? No rush of coarse I will let your tela-promt warm up...

    March 19, 2009 at 1:44 am |
  5. Robert, Washington State

    I am beginning to believe the “change” that President Obama was talking about on the campaign trail is the two cents I will have left from every dollar I earn.

    I need to figure out how to get on the other side of this “change” and get the ninety eight cents of what others have earned.

    I must admit I was one of those that got caught up in the fever of the great "change" that was being promised.

    However after the latest debacle of the AIG bonus scandal and the fact that this administration knew of these employment contracts before issuing the last bailout only tells me its business as usual.

    P.S.

    In some sublime perverted way it seems appropriate that one of President Obama's heroes is Lincoln, think we all are going to being collecting a lot of Lincoln's in the next few years.

    March 19, 2009 at 12:39 am |
  6. franco mancassola

    Dear Mr. President,

    You always said that you want to hear from us, the people requesting input so, here it is.

    It is the hope of all of us that the stimulus program will work and it will stabilize our wobbly economy. But in order to make sure that the objectives are achieved and the money given by the government is not squandered away as it has up to now, I respectfully would like to put forward some ideas.

    If the government gives a blank check to banks with the objective to stabilize and rescue the housing market, there is a strong possibility that the banks will sit on it, invent thousands of excuses as to the difficulties of getting the rescue program going, the executives will find the way to reward themselves handsomely etc. And I dare to say that the taxpayers will never see their money back. We have seen it before. Greed is almost unstoppable and unconquerable.

    Since the government is going to spend the money anyway, why not buy directly from the banks the mortgages of those American citizens that are in real need? The criteria should be relatively simple to establish because the banks and financial institutions have accurate records of the borrowers, the property address, the balance owed, down payment and payments made, the borrowers job, their income, etc. The IRS has their tax record. Then the banks will be out of the picture, the government (tax payers) will be the creditor and will be certain that the money has been spent for what it was intended. The houses then becomes an asset of the government
    until the mortgage has been repaid.

    I am not suggesting that the government gifts the houses. What I am suggesting is a rescue plan that will allow bona-fide borrowers to keep the house until he/she are back on their feet and will repay the government maybe through a payment plan administered by the bank that were the original lenders (for a fee) or through their Income Tax Return. I am sure that the details can be worked out. But the benefits are readily visible. Millions of homeless will be prevented. Can you imagine millions of people roaming the streets of our cities with nowhere to go and no job? Then the government will have an even more serious problem on their hands.

    Another idea may be that, in the case of an impending foreclosure, the government steps in and negotiates with the lender to pay the principle each month of the mortgage. The lender (who is the one responsible for most of this mess anyway) defers the interest payment by adding it to the life of the loan. There would obviously be a specific amount of time allocated to the borrower – as soon as the economy improves and they can get back in the position of paying the mortgage themselves then the government steps out.

    As far as saving and creating jobs, it is clear that most of the present managements are incapable of running their own companies. The dismal results speak volume of their ability and skills. Again, although their resignation will be in order, I am not suggesting that the government should replace management and run these companies. But how could the Government safeguard the taxpayer’s money and make sure that it is used wisely? In any corporation, major shareholders are entitled to appoint their representative on the Board of Directors. May I suggest that the Government, as the future major shareholder in many of these corporations do the same and appoints representatives to the Board of Directors of these companies that are receiving substantial amounts of money from the taxpayers? Then it will be able to monitor and prevent the shameful squandering of the past and the undeserved mega bonuses that many executives undeservedly awarded themselves.

    There are many capable and honest retired executives with in-depth business knowledge and
    I am sure, if asked would be honored to serve on the Board of these rescued companies. I would.

    March 19, 2009 at 12:39 am |
  7. Tina V from Salinas, Ca

    Dear Mr. President,
    It's been a rough past few days...Oooops my bad its been a rough year so far! I'm just curious are we (Americans) ever going to see the light or is it always going to be this dark and gray? My small business and my family are still waiting for a tiny tiny tiny relief from the government.. I guess my father was right The richer will get rich and the poorer will just get poor, or something like that. I just had a thought! The money that AIG received, we could of used that money to save lots of families from foreclosure like myself!
    Only a none (you can reach in my pocket) kind of person would have been able to figure that one out!! When you get a brake from your busy schedule, why don't you give me a call at my small business and when you do call and the phone has been disconnected that means I went OUT OF BUSINESS!!!
    Hey! Thanks for listening...

    March 19, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  8. sindy

    what about people with poor credit do they benefits on the good deal for morgage plan the obama have now

    March 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  9. Lisa Smith

    Dear Mr. President,

    I need to ask a question. AIG has received bail money from the government for loans they gave out to customers who have not paid them. My first question is are you getting a line by line amount that is being applied to the loans? Second question is after the bail out money is applied to the loans, not paid by customers, are the loans now property of the government, for them to collect on? Or does AIG along with some health care facilities and automobile companies going back and claiming the money, hence getting paid twice? I know that not all of the people who received loans or have unpaid med bills are not leaving their bills unpaid, so who gets the money that is being collected by some of these collection agencies?

    Lisa Smith

    March 18, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    @MaryB – 30% is awful – I agree with you the credit card companies should never be allowed to charge this much interest. I get the feeling though that they have decided this is an easy way to make more money so they hope you are late so they can ratchet up that interest rate. I'd suggest your son try to find someone else to loan him the money to pay off the credit card and then he can pay them at a decent rate of interest.

    Greed seems to have been the downfall of our economic system but it may also be our salvation. We are truly in a ditch and now that we are and we can't spend as much money or go, go, go all the time it gives us time to pause and spend time with our families and get to know our neighbors. We were fast becoming a nation where no one knew anyone else – Maybe its silly but since we can't control the economy we can look for a silver lining that we can control. There is usually one there someplace – you just have to keep digging and maybe on this recession use a bigger shovel.

    March 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  11. carolgibson

    First, they didn't do their job very well. Now they want our taxpayer dollars to pay them for sheer incompetence. No way!

    March 18, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  12. Sharon, LA, CA

    Tom, good one, Thanks.

    March 18, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  13. Erika in Los Angeles

    Hi Tom,

    Always enjoy your letters! I've been wondering though, what would you say to Pres. Obama if he DID happen to call one day? and if he ever does, will you let me know how it went??

    Thanks!

    March 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  14. mertz

    there is pure robbery going on, but atleast like mr. libby said, these guys who ran the company into the ground and cut the legs off the worlds financial market, these guys have done their jobs or assingments for the latter half of the 08 year to 09, and and and, they have wound down the risk of assets from the financial products part of the big monkey business that is American Incompetance and Greed Group from 2.7 TRILLION (which seems like a bazillion too much to me), to 1.9 trillion. so while we're all whining, people should keep that in mind...because really some of those monkey's at the headquarters of this monkey business, have committed legal and illegal crimes that i hope all come to light and are prosecuted in a court of law, because you know what all this worldwide sufferring is not FAIR. i'm sad that there's a lot of righteous anger coming from people in washignton who know the game and know how to play the game VERY WELL...so no, i don't believe you. infact i believe mr. libby's testimoney more, even if he wasn't correct with the dates.

    also it's breaking news because dana bash is breaking it, and she's saying that someone from the fed did say this because the obama admin feared countersuit from a largess company like aig, because these bonuses were contractural and SIGNED IN 2007 AND EFFECTIVE FOR 2008. people are sooooooo ______ here. like i'm saying this to all of you. mr. libby said that this money was already set to be payed, in their bonuses. this was written curtesy of aig lawmakers and following ohio state law in the contract that was written under the previous AIG guy...THE ONE WHO GOT FIRED/left to go in hiding or something. lol. chris dodd, the dems, the republicans, bush, obama, paulson, bernackie, geithner, and andrew cumo all look like flat footed fools. this is good drama!!!!

    March 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  15. Neo

    AIG is octo-mom in analogy. As long as she wanted to and had sufficient resources she could go to that one doctor, who would forgo policy and format just to fill his pockets while playing on her desires. Thing is, she really couldn't afford anything and eventually had to rely on tax money to get by. When the public found out about her, they protested and got upset. Just like we're doing with AIG. The gov't is the doctor. The doctor could have turned Octomom away just like the gov't could just say no to AIG. but there is something else that allows that mindset to prevail. I look at AIG and say they are mis managed but I look at the gov't and say they are stupid.

    March 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  16. laker

    Let's not be naive . The administration knew full well of the bonus plans al along and was hoping this would slip thru. AIG and others are hugh contributors. The press is starting to investigate these crimes and are finally doing there job.

    What about all of the jobs in the finance industry that are given to holders of H-1B visas. There are many americans that need these jobs.

    March 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Misty-Anne Koloski

    Tom:
    It sickens me to think of the money these folks have already pilfered from us, the American Taxpayers! I am currently unemployed and rely on my local Library for the internet to search for jobs in my area. I have already applied for over twenty positions, and would be happy to find a good job-let alone a massive bonus!

    Fairlee, Vermont

    March 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  18. Jim

    It is written- " WOE unto you who are rich you have recieved your concillation" May the Lord Blow upon their ill gotton gains & Humble them.

    March 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    OK, from 2009 on, all bonus monies will be taked 95% by the Federal Government. The states can have their share as well. This is not discriminatory, It is indeed a negotiation piece for salary...period!

    March 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  20. kristen

    @ Lilia , actually AC360 did just that last night on the show. Ali Velshi went through carefully the reasons why the administration thinks AIG can not fail. Check it out by downloading last nights episode! CNN has told the whole story quite often on different shows. But they can’t repeat the same info every night or those of us who watch nightly would get bored!

    Tom – love the letters. keep them coming. Shame on those AIG who let greed get the best of them.

    March 18, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  21. Mary B. Honan

    No Bail outs for us in my part of the country as we are under the mighty rule of the Government while their lands destroy and contaminated our homes and health from the wetlands that surround us. However, some people feel none of the stimulus should clean up wetlands. I have gone without heat and hot water in the height of winter because another furnace was destroyed; I have become sick from the contaminated water pouring into my home. I have seen my 87 year old neighbor looking ashen as he tries to push out the government lands filthy swamp water, He is a good man who served in world war 2- I have appealed to the Governor Patrick, the D.C.R. only to be told "Its nature and we need to learn to deal with it because of the strict laws protecting government land. We are all hard working people who pay our mortgage and taxes and this how we are forced to live. I doubt if this will get any attention or even any little help from the stimulus to clean up those government lands-

    March 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  22. Mari

    @ LILLA......... This morning reading the NY Times I found out that AIG's first bail-out was handed out in September of 2008, by Bush/Paulsen. AIG has received ............. $200 BILLION, of Tax-payer money.

    AIG gave out ......$33.6 million in bonuses......... to 418 employees, 52 which had already left.

    Many people have commented that the government should give us, the People the money. However, with SO many Americans in debt, with so many of us, not knowing how to budget and live within our means, the money would sadly be squandered.

    Great letter as always, Tom.

    March 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  23. Tarja, Finland

    Love to read your letters. Keep up the good work.
    And I think we don`t need sequel to the movie Wall Street. The movie is already here, in a form of AIG.

    March 18, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  24. Glenn Boatright

    Good Story, But do you remember the big phone co. our gov. said it was to big and they broke it up. Well if AIG is to big to fail then it is to big to exsit, so why din't our big guys in Washington find so way to broke them us like they did the phone co.???

    March 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  25. Glenn Boatright

    Fire! help! Wake up whoever is in charge here . The Gov. says that AIG is to big to fail, who let the fire get so big before calling our for help?? Remember the Big phone of the past when the gov said it was to big, they broke it up. Now is the time our use that kind of tool to broke up this and other big one that is to big to fail. I am a no body just an highshool edcation but I think I could have done more than what whoever is in charge has done to get this one worked. Please tell the people in charge to serve us the people not themselves. thanks and may God bless the USA.
    Glenn Winter Boatright

    March 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  26. Glenn Boatright

    Fire! help! Wake up whoever is in charge here . The Gov. says that AIG is to big to fail, who let the fire get so big before calling our for help?? Remember the Big phone of the past when the gov said it was to big, they broke it up. Now is the time our use that kind of tool to broke up this and other big one that is to big to fail. I am a no body just an highshool edcation but I think I could have done more than what whoever is in charge has done to get this one worked. Please tell the people in charge to serve us the people not themselves. thanks and may God bless the USA.
    Glenn Winter Boatright

    March 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  27. Robert

    I would like to point out that during the presidents speach he was asked about the $100 K he had recieved and he avoided answering this question by the reporter. He never even mentions anything about the money he received from AIG. Where does accountability start?

    March 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  28. Michael E. Lebo

    I think the IRS should ONLY audit any company that received "bailout" money and any person and their extended families who receiver more then $250 thousand from those companies for any form of compensation. Not just for this year, but the past three years and from now on until all the money is paid back. The fraud they will find will justify doing so. The IRS got Al Capone for tax evasion and he was not as greedy.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  29. Michael E. Lebo

    I think the IRS should ONLY audit any company that received "bailout" money and any person and their extended families who receiver more then $250 thousand from those companies for any form of compensation. Not just for this year, but the past three years and from now on until all the money is paid back. The fraud they will find will justify doing so. The IRS got Al Capone for tax evasion and he was not as greedy.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  30. joanna

    Michael from Virginia

    I beg to differ with you. We are not all infected with the 'greed gene". I am not sitting around thinking about how I can accululate more and more and more. In fact, I wish I had more money to donate to more causes. When I go shopping, I don't rack up a credit card in order to have more stuff. My goal in life isn't to have millions of dollars, fancy yachts, 4 mega homes, 10 luxury cars, etc. These CEO's don't ever think of anyone else but themselves and what they can get. They don't care who they step on to get it, either. That's greed, my friend.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  31. Brina

    Love it. I too am still confused as to why AIG was so big that they couldn't fail and we had to bail them out to begin with. I would love to see the names on the news of the big guys getting their bonus. Greed, not that I am a religious person, but it is one of the deadly sins.

    March 18, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  32. meenas17

    Monkey falling into the trap,is a very amusing story.
    True , Greed , capital letter for G, since it is an important quality that seals the fate of man, the destiny of economy, and the future of the nation.

    Once you succumb to greed, you are lost forever. It sucks you to the last and gobbles you with full power.
    You disappear.
    Then it is ruin and wreckage.

    March 18, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  33. Duarte M. Farias

    To the American people, today I really believe that ......
    "The Pride and integrity that is essential in running a business and this country has been sold out in favor of unbridled greed"

    dmfarias

    March 18, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  34. Al Duhan

    The bailouts were a fraud to start with. They did not have the American population and taxpayers agreeing. The $165M bonuses to AIG Members is an embezzlement from a Federal Owned Entity and should be treated as such. But this is just a distraction from the $170B bailout, because of the $170B given to AIG, only $20B has not been accounted for. Why aren’t they drilled about that. That is Grand Theft and the CEO‘s should be prosecuted. Al

    March 18, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  35. Terry, TX

    I am not angry at AIG….
    Republican Snowe had the legislation in to prevent it in the Pork Job Stimulus Bill….Democrat Dodds removed it and put in legislation to allow them to receive the bonuses…Remember that’s when the bill swelled from 800 pages to 1200 pages…and no one was allowed to read it….because it was a crisis, no time to read it, Obama’s desk by Friday….Pelosi in Italy Monday and Obama on vacation until Tuesday. Anyone who voted NO was called an oppositionist…I wouldn’t of signed it if I couldn’t read it.
    So whose fault is it? It's not greed ....it's incompetence.

    Now we are outraged…by the same people in the Democratic Run Congress who allowed it… What’s their response…we will sue….how… you wrote the legislation in…case lost. We will tax it all…. unconstitutional…. the government cannot tax any entity 100% or unreasonably in this country. Case lost.

    I know what you can do ..President Obama can show up on Jay Leno….that’s the Presidential thing to do.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  36. C.G. Patrick

    I love these letters. They are one of the highlights of my day. Can hardly wait until the next one.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  37. Kay

    Pay attention and gain understanding.

    wisdom is surpreme therefore get wisdom
    make level,path for feet and take only that are firm.
    do not swerve to right or the left

    keep your foot from evil.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  38. Lilia

    Dear CNN, as much as I am outrage about AIG, and their bonuses. Let me ask you: Can CNN run a stoy of about how this started, why AIG is to big to fail, why the GOv decided to rescue AIG, why, tell the whole story, no only bytes and pieces. Tell me the story of why AIG is important, tell me the story like I'M a 5 year old. If CNN cant ask the hard question a report the true. Then there is no reason for cable news. And please be fair and balance. I dont want to see those bobleheads bickering to each other anymore. Your "analyst" who cares. Tell the real stories, with real reporting, real investingating. No only reapeting the GOP talking points. Go to the root of the problem and tell me why is bad and why is good. Stop the bickering and do real reporting.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:27 am |
  39. Maria

    It is just mixing apple and oranges, clearly we were not in the same page for a while, yet someone misjudge the whole issue. Anyhow, it is not to late to fix the economy for the best of the nation and always only the concerned parties should be involved, representative may make it worse.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  40. Cindy

    Greed is the thing that runs this country I am afraid! Everyone wants to have more. more, more and are never satisfied nor do they enjoy what they have already. The people of AIG are no exception. Heck..look at congress..they gave themselves a raise during this whole downfall in our economy. If that isn't greed then I don't know what is!! This country is just in a sad state.

    Like it says in the Bible in 1st Timothy 6:10...For the love of money is the root of all evil! I guess we are truly seeing that now in these days in how people are stealing, killing and everything in between to get it.

    Cindy..Ga.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  41. xtina, chicago IL

    Obama received a $101,332 bonus from A.I.G. in the form of "political contributions" acc. to opensecrets.org. Isn't that something ac360 should report?

    March 18, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  42. Dulcie - Denver

    Tom,

    As always, your letter is thoughtful and amusing, reflecting your wonderful sense of humor.

    I understand the outrage about these bonuses and I totally agree with your assessment of the 'culture of greed' that has possessed the country. It's an insidious thing and in many ways is the root of all our problems. Greed wasn't limited to the big boys – greed exists on all economic levels. Sometimes it's kind of benign and sometimes it's more sinister, more conscious.

    However, I think that we all need to take a step back. Yes, it's outrageous and frustrating and essentially unfair to the American people. While we froth and rage over this most recent discovery of malfeasance, we take our eyes off the real issues. The American people as a whole are too easily distracted from the essential issues and both political parties capitalize on this tendency.

    While these bonuses do represent all that is wrong with the big financial conglomerates, it's more effective and productive to address the circumstances that made these offenses possible in the first place. I know it's hard to let go of the anger and outrage and it's tempting to simply rage on. But don't get mad, get even. It would be great if we could recoup those monies, but in the big scheme of things, it's a drop in the bucket. What we really need are public policies that fight this 'culture of greed'. Yes, innovation and productivity should be rewarded, but on an appropriate scale.

    March 18, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  43. Matthew Dzik

    Why not publicize the names of those at AIG who got bonuses after destroying the company, and investigate all of their deals to see if it wasn't a case of gross incompitence, but massive fraud and embezzlement?

    March 18, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  44. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Tom: We are all infected with the "greed gene," and when threatened, it begans to replicate and becomes undifferentiated, metastatic and resistant--that's human nature--Donal trump quoted--one can never be too "greedy."

    March 18, 2009 at 9:58 am |
  45. Mary Barnett

    2008 was the year of the Mortgage Meltdown. 2009 is going to be the year of the Credit Card Catastrophe. The same greed and lack of government regulation that catapulted the country into recession is going to deepen the recession due to banks preying on people who are already suffering.
    My son went without income for 4 months last summer. During the same time his wife gave birth to their first child. It was a complicated birth and the pregnancy covered two deductable periods for insurance. The end result was my son acquired $12,000 in credit card debt. He has made his payments on time and above the minimum. He missed one payment by one day because the bank's on-line banking system would not accept a credit card payment on the day it was due because this fell on a Sunday. On his very next credit card statement, his interest rate had gone to 30%. This is not an uncommon series of events. When did loan sharking and usery become acceptable practices in this country.? I went on-line at the Department of the Treasury's website and found that the bank can legally do this. How can people possibly pull out of debt if the banks keep bashing them over the head? The temptation is to just throw up your hands and walk away rather than to keep doing your very best to pay off debt!!!! Is anything being done about these horrible credit card practices?

    March 18, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  46. Vicki

    Three comments:

    During the campaign Joe Biden said Obama would be tested, everyone thought he was talking about terriorist sor North Korea, it has turned out to be the bankers.

    We are a nation of ecomonic alcholics--we have not hit bottom bad enough to step up to the fact that things have got to change. AIG bonuses are a good example of financial alcholics continuing to think that a few "drinks" is ok.

    And last

    AIG is a great learning moment-it is not enough to get the $165M repaid, it has to be that the bonuses are retracted for each individual otherwise it's a shell game and other bailout firms can follow the same game plan. What's the leason of returning 165M if you are getting another 30B installment?

    I have worked for start up firms with stock options that were resciended at the descretion of the board when the acquistion price would not cover the options-there are ways to forgo bonus payments too. Take them back and let the non-performers sue or quit if they want to. If there were no government money, how would they have been paid out?

    March 18, 2009 at 9:54 am |