Rich Jerk Watch

Watch Wall Streeters take champagne showers with mom and dad's retirement funds.
Watch Wall Streeters take champagne showers with mom and dad's retirement funds.

Everyone is pretty much up in arms for AIG execs getting $165 million in bonuses after a $170 billion public bailout. The money is ostensibly to retain talent at the troubled company, but isn't this some of the same talent that put the insurance giant in a multi-trillion-dollar hole? Maybe they need a few cheaper second-stringers to pull them out. Last week also saw confessed thief Bernard Madoff marched off to jail in handcuffs to cheers, but legal larceny is still the biggest game in town.

The AIG bonuses are particularly galling to me since I've been wrangling with an AIG subsidiary to help my mother get access to her annuity for assisted-living expenses. Multiple calls, forms sent and resent, long waits on the telephone, lost documents. The process has dragged on for months. So AIG execs get huge bonuses for not jumping ship in the Great Recession after crashing their company onto the rocks, but my 93-year-old mother gets the runaround trying to extract her own money to pay for things like medication so she won't go completely blind.

You think these people don't know they are screwing us over? They've looted money from the suckers who invested in their IRAs, 401Ks and pension funds, then they soaked us again as we taxpayers enabled their bad behavior by giving them more cash to spend. Check out this New York Times story about hard partying Wall Streeters who will pay thousands of dollars for Bacchanalian brunches at places like Bagatelle and Merkato 55 where a jeroboam of champagne to shower the guests is a mere $2,500. These people are literally pissing our money away with glee. Some acknowledged that these excesses would look bad. Others said that back during the stock market collapse in the fall, such partying would have been curtailed, but there's no need now:

A 29-year-old man who works for a large investment management firm and was at Bagatelle's brunch one recent Saturday and at Merkato 55's the next, put it another way: "If you'd asked me in October, I'd say it'd be a different situation, and I don'ꀙt think I'd be here. Then the government gave us $10 billion."

So we're not simply bailing out huge banks and insurance companies, we're bailing out the warped values of their overpaid employees who are eager to spend the money they're stealing from us in VIP clubs. Maybe he's not an AIG guy, but he's still a bailout welfare queen. How does it feel to be paying a $20,000 tab for some Wall Street jerk's techno-party brunch? Outrage doesn't even begin to describe it.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.