By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
March 18, 2009 – President Obama is calling for more effective ways to deal with troubled companies like insurer AIG, after learning the company spent millions of tax-payer dollars on bonuses for the folks who created toxic assets and the need for the bailout.
Before departing Wednesday for two days in California, the president told reporters gathered on the South Lawn, “So my economic team is going to be consulting with the Hill. We’re going to be moving that on a fast track. This is part of the broader package of financial regulatory steps that we’re going to be taking that ensures that going forward in the future we’re not going to find ourselves in these kinds of terrible positions again.”
AIG has come under fire for giving millions in employee bonus payments after begging the feds for help and being given government support to the tune of $182.5 billion.
Outrage has been the theme in recent days, and Obama wants to get out in front of this issue before his credibility on the bailouts is tainted by this kind of behavior. And he’s not alone; Congress held hearings Wednesday and grilled AIG company executives so intensely that they were showing signs of remorse and suggesting ways they could get the bonus money returned by employees.
“People are rightly outraged about these particular bonuses. But just as outrageous is the culture that these bonuses are a symptom of, that have existed for far too long — a situation where excess greed, excess compensation, excess risk-taking have all made us vulnerable and left us holding the bag,” Obama said.
Right now the American taxpayers and holding the bag and it’s running on empty.
The administration lead on AIG’s problems is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Obama said, “Nobody is working harder than this guy. He is making all the right moves in terms of playing a bad hand.
“I want to repeat something that I said before the joint session: My interest is not protecting banks. My interest is protecting the American people; the people’s 401(k)s; ordinary folks who have a credit line with a bank for their small business; people whose pension funds are invested in some of these financial institutions,” Obama said.
Now we’ll have to see if the White House and Congress can come together and make it happen.