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Posted by on Mar 17, 2009 in Economy | 1 comment

Obama White House Plays More “Politics As Usual”

And The New York Times Plays Along

As if we needed another example of why the average citizen is turned off not only by politics but also by “reporting,” here comes a tale of complicity and intrigue from two bastions of power: The White House and The New York Times.

On Saturday, the NY Times provided anonymity (not quite Judith Miller style, but close) to an “administration official” who said:

It is unacceptable for Wall Street firms receiving government assistance to hand out million-dollar bonuses, while hard-working Americans bear the burden of this economic crisis.

Why would such a statement require anonymity, you might ask? We don’t know, because the Times reporters and editors think we don’t need to know. They don’t even say “trust us.”

Here’s the reason: The off-the-record official points a finger at the culprit, the person responsible for AIG executives to get million dollar bonuses. The stenographers-posing-as-journalists at the NY Times don’t blink or bother to fact check. That dirty deed is left up to the blogosphere.

Who Did What When To Whom?
Here’s what the off-the-record-guy (we’ll assumed it’s a male) revealed to the NYTimes:

The official noted that even a provision recently pushed through Congress by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, had an exemption for such bonus agreements already in place.

The problem, according to Jane Hamsher at FiredogLake, is that this allegation is a lie. Do we really think that Sen. Dodd has agreed to be the designated scapegoat for the White House?

What Dodd did during the debate about the economic stimulus bill was not pave the way for executives who ran their firm into the ground to get bonuses. Instead, he introduced a retroactive limit on executive compensation; the source is none other than the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of liberalism. Ha!

Contemporaneous reporting (it was only February!) from The Hill:

President Obama and the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee are at odds on how to rein in the salaries of top executives whose companies are being propped up by the federal government.

A senior presidential adviser indicated on Sunday that Obama wants Congress to change the executive compensation provisions passed in the economic stimulus legislation on Friday.

Now, using an anonymous source, the White House and Treasury rewrite history with the complicity of the New York Times. Orwell is either proud (because he was prescient) or rolling over in his grave in dismay (because he was prescient).

Then There’s The Money Issue
The number two organization employing contributors to Obama’s presidential campaign: Goldman-Sachs. Sixth was Citigroup; seventh, J.P.Morgan Chase. Morgan Stanley rounds out the top 20 at number 17.

In fact, the financial, insurance, real estate sector was the number one “sector giver” in the 2008 presidential campaign although it came in second to the catch-all “other.” The sum: $131 million.

So, is it really a surprise that Jane can conclude like this:

So — in the end, all compensation limits only applied to contracts written after February 11, at the specific request of Timothy Geithner, and AIG was able to pay out $286 million in bonuses on Sunday.

In a word, no.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to “change” in the White House.

For a challenging but incredibly thought-provoking read on this sorry mess, check out the April issue of Harper’s: Infinite debt: how unlimited interest rates destroyed the economy.

Tip: Greenwald @ Salon.