Flash to Congress: You, our esteemed representatives, are not supposed to be the ones brandishing the pitchforks. In fact, the scariest times are those cases where public outrage sparks you enough so that you go into one of your periodic lemming-like frenzies, becoming in the process a spectacle providing nothing so much as comic relief.
Beyond this, the comic relief was the solution that the House came up with and for which it voted overwhelmingly-tax those bonuses at the rate of 90%. I can’t be the only one, and I know I’m not, who finds this so ridiculous and cartoonish that it has trimmed even the already scant respect I have for Congress by a few more degrees.
I will admit that I too was outraged when the news of the bonuses broke in the New York Times and crashed on the steps of Capitol Hill in the days after. But I have to say I was even more disheartened by what came in its wake.
The circus that followed is symptomatic of what ails this country. So many people, and that includes politicians, would rather be swept away by a diversion than deal with what we need to do to get back on track. In this, the public is ably abetted by the mainstream media, which is only too happy to go chasing after the easy stories if they’ll raise ratings or sell more copies.
These diversions often revolve around either a scapegoat or someone being unduly idolized. No doubt about it, AIG has become the scapegoat for the financial mess we’re in. In particular, the financial products unit is seen as the crucible of the ongoing debacle, so when the retention bonuses came to light and so many, if not all, of them were for employees of the financial products unit, well, it was, as they say, a perfect storm. Of diversion.