The $1 million bonuses

March 17, 2009 1:16:43 PM PDT
For the record: I have nothing against people getting $1 million bonuses. And if 73 people get those $1 million bonuses, good for them.

And if the company paying those bonuses lost several gazillion dollars, but still felt the need to pay $165 million in bonus compensation so the executives wouldn't be lured away to another company craving to lose big bucks -- hey, it's their money.

When it becomes our business is when we're subsidizing the brainiacs who lost the money and who still insist on paying their fellow brainiacs outrageous bonuses.

I know, I know, it's in their contracts, as the company and the people who received the bonuses are quick to remind us.

Well, excuuuuuse me, to quote Steve Martin and to lean on our director Mark Fetner's observation: Didn't the workers at GM and Chrysler and every other big company that got bailed out by the taxpayers sit down and re-think their contracts?

Yes, I think they did. What can we do to ensure our peeps don't lose their jobs? That's what the unions and management did. And guess what? The workers offered "give backs" - even though they had contracts.

Unless the contracts are written in stone -- and I know some of these "executives" view themselves as Moses, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to -- then why not go to your workers and say, "hey, we're in trouble. You're owed the bonuses, but we want to delay them until we can become profitable. Capisce?

The public's frustration over the (so-far) going-nowhere bailouts - and it's probably more about frustrations over the recession itself - is growing. Today, some Congressional Democrats proposed levying a 100% tax on the bonuses.

After all, they reason, the taxpayers now own 80% of AIG - then why shouldn't they have some say over how the $170 billion in bailout money is spent?

But now we learn the twist in this story. According to ABC News' Jon Karl, the Senate last month approved an amendment to the stimulus bill to restrict bonuses over $100,000 for any company receiving federal bailout money.

But then the provision was stripped out during the negotiations involving House and Senate leaders and the White House.

So the outrage from Congress today seems, at least a bit, disingenuous. They knew about the bonuses, and their outrage was sparked only after the public backlash.

Ain't politics grand?

We'll have the latest on the AIG controversy, and the economy, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, investors in the Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff got a break of sorts today. The IRS says it will allow Madoff's victims to claim a tax deduction for the bulk of their losses. That's a fair ruling because the investors paid taxes on their gains -- or at least they were supposed to; so if in fact those gains turned out to be non existent, and they lost that money, there's no reason why they shouldn't get a refund on the taxes paid.

Unless, of course, they are keeping their gains; but that's an issue that has yet to be resolved.

Also at 11, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer has discovered a fascinating situation with the New York Yankees, who open the 2009 season in less than a month in a stadium largely financed thanks to taxpayers.

If you go to the Yankees website, and try to buy tickets to one particular game, you won't be able to.

Go ahead try it, I'll wait.


You can't do it.

I'd say "amazin'," but that's the nickname of the Mets.

Frustrating is the better way to put it.

Apparently, season ticket sales, with prices out-of-this-world more than last season for field level seats, are sluggish. There is -- the Yankees half-a-billion-dollar acquisition off-season spending spree notwithstanding -- a recession out there. And so the team is for some reason holding back single-game ticket sales. The only way to get in on the action is to enter a lottery for the right to buy single-game tickets.

I went to the Mets website today. And there on the front page it says that single-game tickets are now available. Maybe it's just coincidence.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.