Pork Good, Bonuses Bad

That’s the official word from President Obama.

It’s awful when the financial sector gives its employees $18.4 billion in bonuses. It’s inexcusable when Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spends $1 million to redecorate his office. And when CitiGroup wants to buy a $50 million corporate jet, they must be stopped.


$400 million for HIV and chlamydia testing, $20 million for off-road trail maintenance and restoration, $600 million for new Federal government cars, $527 million to the Coast Guard to create 1235 new construction and acquisition jobs (that’s $460,000 per job), $75 million for smoking cessation programs (how will we pay for SCHIP then?), $7 billion to modernize Federal buildings and other facilities … that’s all perfectly okay. Just your tax dollars at work.

As our own Baron von Ottomatic recently explained, the Federal Budget has nothing on Monty Python’s infamous Mr. Creosote.

I’m not going to defend the bosses in the financial sector who recklessly loaned money and bet the bank (literally) that the stock and real estate markets would always be up. They blew it big time, and their greed destroyed tens of thousands of jobs in the banking sector and cost the American people trillions of dollars in lost savings.

But what business does the Federal Government have telling banks how to spend their money? Oh, that’s right — the banks are now being propped up by the government, so all of the sudden they’ve got to be “responsible.”

Yet when the government wastes money on pork, who’s going to stop them? From what experts say, at least $54 billion of our “stimulus” money is going to programs deemed ineffective or unable to pass basic financial audits by the OMB. Responsible? No, but it keeps the folks in DC smiling. After all, employees of mismanaged, inefficient, or ineffectual government agencies should never lose their jobs or bonuses, should they?

If you want to know the true value of those evil financial industry bonuses, just as the city government of New York, which is in full panic mode right now in anticipation of a catastrophic multi-billion dollar budget shortfall in the wake of the carnage on Wall Street this past year. As Rush Limbaugh correctly pointed out, even the $1 million Merrill Lynch extreme makeover* put money into the pockets of interior designers, furniture manufacturers, and precious blue collar transportation and construction workers. Further, how many pilots, maintenance personnel, and facilities workers lost contracts or jobs because CitiGroup won’t be buying that jet?

Maybe it’s time for government bureaucrats to do a little navel gazing and ask some serious questions, namely whether or not their insatiable appetite for pork might be one of the root causes of the painful series of market bubbles and meltdowns that have crippled us financially during the last ten years.

It seems that while profits are high, tax revenues are rolling in, lobbyists are flush with cash, and campaign coffers stay full, government doesn’t give a damn about the private sector or how it makes its money. The only thing that matters seems to be making sure that there will be more money available next year for even bigger spending programs. It’s a bi-partisan effort, too. Greed knows no party lines. Republicans stood by banks; Democrats defended the mortgage giants. The Clinton Administration excused the excesses of Enron and flimsy dot-com companies; the Bush Administration allowed energy futures to be manipulated.

Yet the excesses of the banks and mortgage lenders pale in comparison to the amount of money spent at the local, state, and Federal level by lawmakers with money burning holes in their pockets. But that ship has sailed. What happens now, since the bottom has dropped out of their biggest source of revenues — wealthy professionals in the top income tax brackets?

News reports state that President Obama celebrated the passage of his gargantuan stimulus plan by throwing a black tie cocktail party at the White House, including a gourmet meal that featured $100 a pound Japanese wagyu beef. And they want to lecture others about fiscal responsibility?

I know, I know … at least they didn’t serve pork.

*Again, I’m not defending John Thain. He pulled some serious financial shenanigans that justifiably cost him his job as Merrill Lynch CEO.

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Bye Bye Blago