We Americans have always found comfort by wrapping ourselves in a one-size-fits-all security blanket.
We safeguarded our domestic security by redoubling our efforts to catch and punish crooks and murderers who endanger our homes and streets. We safeguarded our national security by taking hard lines against those who willfully endanger our country -- spies selling stolen secrets got tough sentences and sometimes paid with their life. We called them "traitors" -- because their greed put our nation at grave risk.
If you can stay focused, my topic today is the various assaults on America's declining powers of concentration. Where was I? Oh yes, according to my theory, everything in modern life is subversive of people's ability to focus on the subject at hand. This is a huge problem.
If not distancing itself from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the White House is placing firmly on his shoulders responsibility for how the government handled the $165 million in bonuses paid to about 400 executives and traders at American International Group Inc.
"Secretary Geithner last week engaged with the CEO of AIG to communicate what we thought were outrageous and unacceptable bonuses," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
Then he volunteered the answer to a question being asked all over Washington: Did Geithner still enjoy President Barack Obama's confidence, given the whopping bonuses the failed insurance giant paid Friday after receiving taxpayer bailout money?
Congressional Democrats careened between the circular firing squad and the three-ring circus Tuesday as they struggled with their new reality: playing defense on the economy.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) blamed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for letting bailed-out insurance giant American International Group pay $165 million in bonuses to its employees, saying he wrote a letter to Geithner two weeks ago warning him of just such a possibility.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), tagged by Republican aides for sponsoring an amendment to the stimulus bill that allowed the bonuses, shifted the blame to the Treasury Department and “the bill conferees,” saying he had no idea that the AIG bonuses were coming.
Congress should identify banks or other financial institutions that have become so large their failure poses a systemic risk and should put them under federal supervision, according to the Independent Community Bankers of America.
"Excessive concentration has led to systemic risk and the banking crisis that we now face," C.R. Cloutier, president of MidSouth Bank in Louisiana, told the U.S. House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee on Tuesday.
The Obama administration says it's trying to put strict limits on the next $30 billion installment in taxpayers' money for insurance giant AIG amid questions about whether it responded fiercely enough to executive bonus payments.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley (left) suggested that AIG executives should take a Japanese approach toward accepting responsibility for the collapse of the insurance giant by resigning or killing themselves.
The Republican lawmaker's harsh comments came during an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT on Monday. They echo remarks he has made in the past about corporate executives and public apologies, but went further in suggesting suicide.
The only real difference between Bernie Madoff and the management of AIG is that when Bernie Madoff got caught, he pleaded guilty. When AIG got caught, it asked the government for $170 billion.
And it got it. Now the American International Group is going to pay $165 million to its executives as a reward for the fine job they did in duping everybody.Read More
If AIG were in the public relations business instead of insurance, it surely would have gone broke years ago.
Take the reaction to its decision to go ahead with $450 million in bonus payments, including $165 billion paid out over this last weekend, to executives of the business unit whose recklessness almost wrecked the company. Also over the weekend the firm disclosed that had to sue $34 billion in bailout money to make good on credit default swaps the unit has written that had gone bad.
Trust in government -- essential to a democracy -- depends greatly on whether citizens believe the government's dealings are conducted honestly and above board. In the United States, the means of verifying that is the Freedom of Information Act, a law laying the ground rules for access to federal records, passed in 1967 and strengthened twice since then.