Democrats Not Ceding Populist Mantle To Republicans

David Sirota is correct, of course the right is trying to "outflank Democrats with a populist economic message and tar-and-feather Democrats for their ties to Wall Street." One need only look at the rightwing media trope of the day about Sen. Chris Dodd supposedly using the stimulus package to exempt bonuses agreed to prior to Feb. 11th from limitations. The false story first ran on Fox Business then was picked up by Michelle Malkin, Drudge and Limbaugh, all without any proof or sourcing beyond the Fox Business report. Media Matters debunks it all HERE.

But try as the Republicans might, Democrats are ceding nothing. Nancy Pelosi released this statement today on the measures House Democrats are pursuing to recoup the AIG bonus payments:

The House committees are considering several actions to recoup taxpayer dollars, such as:

· Authorizing the U.S. Attorney General to recover prior and future excessive compensation payments made by companies, such as AIG, that received federal financial assistance;

· Prohibiting abuse of retention bonuses by companies receiving capital infusions from Treasury; and

· Recouping a substantial portion of the bonuses through special taxation legislation.

In addition, Harry Reid sent the a letter signed by 11 Senate Democrats to AIG Chairman Edward Liddy threatening action if they don't voluntarily renegotiate contracts:

If these contracts are not renegotiated immediately, we will take action to make American taxpayers whole by recouping all of the bonuses that AIG has paid out to its financial products unit, which, by all accounts, is primarily responsible for the near-failure of the company and the devastating impact on the global financial markets. [...]

We insist that you immediately renegotiate these contracts in order to recoup these payments and make the American taxpayer whole. We stand ready to take the difficult, but necessary step of working to enact legislation that would allow the government to recoup these bonus payments, perhaps by imposing a steep tax-- as high as 91 percent--that will have the effect of recovering nearly all of the bonuses that have been paid out since AIG turned to taxpayers for help.

Sen. Jeff Merkley was among the signatories to that letter and released this statement (via e-mail):

Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley today demanded American International Group (AIG) immediately renegotiate bonuses for employees or face legislation from Congress that would recoup the funds through taxation.  In comments at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, he also called for robust regulation of the credit default swaps that led AIG and our financial markets to the brink of ruin.

"The individuals who are receiving these bonuses were the very same ones who trafficked in financial machinations that drove AIG into the ground.  It is unfathomable to me and many Oregonians that they should be rewarded for leading their company to disaster," said Merkley.  "I will do everything I can to make sure these executives are not rewarded for abetting the financial crisis at the very moment thousands of Oregonians are losing their homes, jobs and retirement savings."

Sen. Claire McCaskill has been tweeting up a storm about AIG and wrote this on her new blog at Tumblr:

Legislation wil be introduced in the next 48 hours or so that will tax these companies and the bonus recipients. The tax will be aimed at executives at companies that have recieved significant taxpayer assistance through the TARP funds and will recover almost all of these funds for taxpayers.  The Finance Committee is drafting the legislation with the assistance of a number of Senators.

I feel better. We are taking action. It's time we right this wrong on behalf of hard working Americans everywhere.

So far these are mere words (and a sternly worded letter) but assuming the promised action follows Republicans will fail at casting themselves as the true populists. Especially now that they're the ones defending AIG's bonuses.

Tags: AIG, bonuses, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi (all tags)



Re: Democrats Not Ceding Populist Mantle

Excellent to see. Hope it carries through; the republicans will vote against it.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-03-17 04:45PM | 0 recs
This could explode

It's looking bad for Obama on this AIG thing, because I'm seeing that the Obama campaign took in 100k of donations from AIG and its corporate friends.  

by bluedoginga 2009-03-17 05:01PM | 0 recs

the reason nobody pays attention to the blogsphere anymore

by DTOzone 2009-03-17 05:15PM | 0 recs
Rubberstamping GOP-like policies seems normal

The US is a very conservative country, and people here have been trained to expect very little from government.

People need to stop spending and start saving every penny they earn.

We are being taken for a ride.

by architek 2009-03-17 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Rubberstamping GOP-like policies seems normal

Your post is ironic given the circumstances.

by bruh3 2009-03-17 06:44PM | 0 recs
This from someone

who wants single payer universal healthcare. Hey, genius, if the US is a very conservative country, then forget your little healthcare dream.

by DTOzone 2009-03-17 07:13PM | 0 recs
Re: This could explode

Provide proof that this is a factor or stop trying to play games.

by bruh3 2009-03-17 05:20PM | 0 recs
Is this really a story?

I can't believe I am posting on this empty story, but Media Matters drives me crazy.  Read the article: industries/finance/dodd-cracks-aig---ti me

What should we be focusing on instead of this bullshit rat race after $160 million?  

AIG's Bonus Distraction -bonus-aig-business-washington-aig.html

...According to AIG, they were advised that not only are they obligated to pay by March 15, but if they try to ignore the contracts, the penalty is paying double. AIG says the Connecticut Wage Act, as well as employment laws in France, Japan, the U.K. and Hong Kong, could give employees legal recourse to quit and sue.

Some of the incentives are quite large--seven employees are set to receive $3 million or more, AIG says. Most are more modest; the smallest incentives are only $1,000. Going forward, AIG Financial Product's top 25 executives have agreed to take $1 salaries for the rest of 2009. AIG says they are mostly unwinding their operation now, and their losses (and hence taxpayer losses) would be even greater if they lost the employees, some of whom have detailed knowledge of AIG's most complex financial agreements. Paying these guys to stay, unfortunately, may prove more cost effective than paying the company's lawyers to fight them.

More important, the bonus issue is distracting from a bigger mess: the $44 billion in taxpayer funds AIG paid out to make good on payments due other financial firms. That sum includes $7 billion to Barclays (nyse: BCS - news - people ), $6.4 billion to Deutsche Bank (nyse: DB - news - people ), $4.9 billion to BNP Paribas (other-otc: BNPQY.PK - news - people ), $3.3 billion to HSBC (nyse: HBC - news - people ), among others. Many of those payments went, without restriction, to the coffers of the same Wall Street banks who paid out $20 billion in bonuses in 2008.

Don't expect a change anytime soon, though. In the White House's daily press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked continually about bonuses and not once about payments to foreign banks and hedge funds. A Treasury official told Forbes Monday afternoon that the government would add provisions to $30 billion in new bailout funding that would require repaying taxpayers for the bonuses, and said several repayment arrangements were being considered. Payouts for the other firms? No word on that so far. ...

I have to agree that both parties are foolishly playing with populism.  We shouldn't be parroting the politicians in Washington bitching over small beans when there is such larger issues at stake.

by Classical Liberal 2009-03-17 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Is this really a story?

It's funny just a few weeks ago you were 'for what Americans" want, and yet the definition of the majority is populism since it's all about what the average guy wants. Now, that this language of Americans want is not in your favor. You want to move to other ground. I can understand. Since your idealogy is not really concerned with the American people in the first place.

by bruh3 2009-03-17 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Is this really a story?

No this story is about Washington pretending they are watching out for us by spending time and money going after a business they bailed out instead of dealing with what they have control over: the budgets they put together.

This is a bullshit story and it is a bullshit response in the legislature.  Someone needs to stand up and say it.  Look if we are worried about how AIG is paying there employees why don't we look at billions AIG has spent to other banks and Wallstreet firms.

This is only Washington feeling push back on their spending practices and making a scapegoat out of wall steet.  Every day politicians are making the bonuses a story, it isn't the people pushing the politicians on this one.  

Only a sheep believes that people that disagree with them are not concerned with the American people.  Expand your mind a little.


by Classical Liberal 2009-03-18 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Not Ceding Populist

These are the note face of our party. Obama is. I hope you are right, but I think it's a mistake to think that anything the Congress can do will have the same narrative impact as Obama's actions. I hope that he will not ceed this territory.

by bruh3 2009-03-17 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Not Ceding Populist

Unfortunately, Obama's delegated his credibility on this one.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-03-17 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Not Ceding Populist

Obama seems to adapt quickly so I am hoping against hope that he will start to listen to the reality that people have been trying to convey to him since he got into office.

I believe part of the problem is that he remains in the mindset of how he campaigned to get into office versus fully accepting what he inherited.

He ran in 2008 as a uniter, but the times call for an FDR type figure who is more concerned with keep the country out of the abyss than how he makes that happen. That means business as usual types like Geithner (who in a Clinton era would have been annoyance, but not dangerous) either need to go or be brought into line with reality.

I wish people would start to push to pack the Treasury with underlyings who are from the progressive side, and that those people along with progressives in the administration can take over regarding having Obama's ear.

by bruh3 2009-03-17 05:25PM | 0 recs


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