Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who Killed the Bonus Cap? Wyden Wants to Know

Oregon's own Sen. Ron Wyden is at the center of the hurricane of populist outrage over the millions in bonuses raked off by executives of

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 11:37 AM

Oregon's own Sen. Ron Wyden is at the center of the hurricane of populist outrage over the millions in bonuses raked off by executives of bailed-out AIG.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are trying to outdo each other in reviling executives of American International Group, who paid themselves $165 million in bonuses after AIG got billions of bailout bucks through the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Wyden told Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post that he and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine had written a provision in the stimulus bill that would have forced executives in bailed-out companies like AIG to cap their bonuses at $100,000; anything above that would have been taxed at 35%.

"According to Wyden, he 'spent hours on the Senate floor,' working to get the bipartisan amendment passed," Huffington writes. "He succeeded - not a single Senator voted against the provision. 'But,' says Wyden, 'it died in conference.'

"So who killed it? Wyden doesn't know."

But the DNA of the Obama administration has been found at the crime scene.

"I pulled out all the stops to convince the president's economic team that this amendment was vital to the White House for two reasons: 1) the president had spoken out against bonuses; 2) fury about bonuses would kneecap confidence in the president's entire economic policy," Huffington quoted Wyden as saying.

But nobody on Obama's economic team supported the bonus cap. "If the White House economic team had made it clear that this was important, this provision [that he and Snowe insterted] would never have been removed," Wyden said. "I don't believe the president has been well-served on the bonus issue by his economic team."

The whole sleazy episode has left Huffington and Wyden - not to mention millions of Americans, including this blogger - disgusted.

Huffington: "We live in a country where one of the 100 most powerful people in government, the co-sponsor of the amendment in question, has no clue how it got removed in the Senate-House conference committee - or if it was taken out of the legislation even before it made it into conference."

Wyden: "It is the ultimate indictment of what Washington has become. It's a place where, again and again, the public interest is deep-sixed behind closed doors and without any fingerprints."

The Eye: Is this "change we can believe in"? It sure as hell isn't the kind of change we thought we were voting for last November.

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