The enormity of the amount of money being tossed about during the current economic crisis creates figures that most Americans, including some alleged masterminds, can’t begin to comprehend.
In the news of late have been stories about the exorbitant bonuses that have been allowed by firms even as they begged for federal bailouts. For example, employees of American International Group’s Financial Products division have received $165 million in bonuses. As is being pointed out, quite properly, that is a lot of money to go to people who have presided over failure of a firm.
But how much is it, really, in terms of things most of us can more easily understand? The McClatchy-Tribune Information Services broke it down for us members of the “common herd.” Those MCT figures:
“ …$165 million could buy 8,076 Ford Mustangs or 7,417 new Chevrolet Camaros, according to prices on the Web site Edmunds.com.
“For the environmentally minded, it could buy 7,500 Toyota Priuses.
“With baseball season just around the corner, $165 million could buy a pretty good ball team. That much money would have covered the payroll of each major league baseball team last season except the New York Yankees.
“The $165 million could cover some noble goals of federal spending, too. It represents roughly three-quarters of the $211 million that the Obama administration proposes to spend on researching autism. It’s also more than twice the $73 million that the administration wants to spend on improving health care in rural areas.”
Bear in mind that, in this case, we’re talking “millions,” nothing like the “billions” that are being routed, we hope, into channels that will break the back of the burgeoning recession.
One billion dollars is a thousand million. The $165 million bonus figure is a small fraction of such an amount. And AIG is not the only government-propped agency involved in the growing bonus scandal.
Little wonder so many Americans are furious about these payments. There was a time when a statement like the one attributed to the late Sen. Everett Dirksen that “a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money” drew at least a modest chuckle.
Nobody’s laughing anymore. People are angry, and they are going to get increasingly irate about laxity in dealing with people who have contributed to our economic crisis and any reluctance by those key positions to do something drastic to repair the enormous damage.
When $165 million is considered by some analysts as “a drop in the bucket,” it’s time for harsh penalties and strong punishment for those who brought about such a mess.