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Today we are piecing together two seemingly unrelated news stories that ran on successive days — because they will lead us to a solution for finally getting to the bottom of the financial crisis that has crippled our nation and the world.
The first story appeared on November 11. Just one day after the federal government announced its restructuring of the bailout of insurance carrier AIG (American International Group, Inc.), bringing our total rescue effort to of the insurance and financial services giant to $150 billion, ABC News’ crack investigative correspondent Brian Ross reported that executives of AIG held yet another executive retreat at yet another luxury resort.
This time, it was at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix, for a meeting of 150 members the independent AIG Advisers Group. Last time, AIG held an executive hunting trip in England — just after the federal government increased its bailout loans by another $37.8 billion. Before that, AIG held a golf-‘n’-spa executive soiree at the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. — just days after the federal government’s first $85 billion AIG bailout loan.
AIG has become sensitive to your feelings — so it caringly told the Phoenix resort keep their retreat a top secret. No signs in the lobby. "Can’t even say the word," a hotel worker whispered to ABC.
Now we know what those AIG execs meant every time they said a tax-paid bailout was their last "resort." The total of those three resort retreats cost AIG — or us — more than $800,000. "It’s the way we do business," AIG spokesman Nick Ashooh told the Associated Press. "We have to hold these events. You have to hold them somewhere."
That brings us to the second news story.
On November 12, the Washington Post’s Peter Finn reported on page one: "The Obama administration will launch a review of the classified files of the approximately 250 detainees at Guantanamo Bay immediately after taking office, as part of an intensive effort to close the U.S. prison in Cuba…" A thought occurs: These two news stories may not be as unrelated as they seem.
Perhaps AIG’s spokesman is right — perhaps executives need to get away from the office pressures to do their best thinking. America certainly has an economic and patriotic need to know just what those Wall Street CEOs and board chairmen were telling each other in the madcap run-up to the economic collapse.
So perhaps we should underwrite one last retreat, all-expenses-paid, for all top executives of all financial institutions whose shameless greed is costing us dearly. Include leaders of the financial and banking behemoths we bailed out or let collapse. Include all who got millions in bonuses after their performance failures. And all who bailed out or were kicked out — but then floated to lifelong luxury on golden parachutes.
Come on down. You all absolutely deserve a government-paid retreat on a Caribbean island. And we deserve some straight answers. We haven’t gotten close to the truth in those congressional hearings, the ones where chorus lines of suits performed their song-and-dance specialties.
Executives who like golf and tennis may be disappointed. But for those fond of water-skiing, we can come close. Guantanamo is known for its water-boarding.
And we are assured by the highest levels of the Bush-Cheney administration that it is perfectly safe — a fine way to persuade perpetrators to spill secrets about anti-American conspiracies.
We know Wall Street’s perps committed acts of unpatriotic greed. We just don’t know if they committed indictable crimes. So print a batch of "Save Guantanamo" bumper strips. It may be a fine, patriotic way to recycle the services of Guantanamo — and get us the truth about what they knew, when they knew it, and whether they even cared.
(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)gmail.com.)