Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Can’t Break AIG Bonus Contracts But Worker Pensions? No Problem!

--- by Jane Hamsher

It seemed like only yesterday that a contract was sacrosanct. Remember 2009, and those AIG bonuses, paid for with taxpayer dollars?

The administration official said the Treasury Department did its own legal analysis and concluded that those contracts could not be broken.

Larry Summers:

We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts.

But now that we’re talking about breaking contract to pay back pensions that middle class workers have paid into over the course of their professional careers, well — that’s another story.

Chris Christie:

The promises of the past are too expensive.

Let’s compare. Per the latest Pew study in 2008 (PDF):

According to Dave Stella of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Fund, the system’s assets were worth $79.8 billion at the end of last month, and the last solvency test at the end of December determined a funding ratio of 99.8%.

Then there are the bonuses paid by top 10 TARP beneficiaries in 2008, per the New York Attorney General’s report (PDF):

AIG also received $170 billion in bailout funds from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. But they apparently could not break their contracts to pay $1.2 billion in bonuses in 2009.

Suddenly “fiscal hawks” like Chris Christie think it’s fine to break the contracts of public workers because $252,600,000 that isn’t even due now means the “promises of the past” are too expensive.

You don’t hear too much about Orin Kramer’s decision to sink $115 million of New Jersey pension fund money into Lehmans right before the collapse. Or the fact that both Chris Christie and Christie Todd Whitman have diverted billions from the New Jersey pension fund into the state budget. That’s evidently just “reform.”

So, where was all this “fiscally responsible” fighting spirit when it came to paying out $32.6 billion in taxpayer funded banker bonuses?

Well, as Larry Summers said, “we are a country of law.”

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