Editorial: AIG scandal should be approached rationally

There is one word that best sums up the emotions of the American public and its government following the scandal surrounding the insurance giant American International Group: outrage.

Earlier this month, AIG announced it had used part of its $170 billion bailout money to fund $165 million in bonuses for its executives.

To say the nation was angry would be an understatement.

Fury, rage, downright hate and all-around ill will toward any member of AIG would be better words to describe the emotions exhibited by public officials.

Here we have a company that is struggling and that begged the government for money – paid for by the American people – so it could keep its head above water.

The company then had the gall to shell out millions of dollars to corporate executives.

And for what? For doing such a great job? For contributing to the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression?

If AIG were smart, it wouldn’t have even told anyone about this debacle, which in the business world is known as fraud, but it beats an angry mob demanding the $165 million be refunded.

Now lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are at an impasse: How do they punish the company without losing billions of taxpayers’ dollars?

In an interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday, President Barack Obama expressed discontent regarding the prospect of taxing the executives for 90 percent of the money handed to them, citing constitutional violations prohibiting the government from taxing a select group of individuals.

While the American people are demanding their money back, Obama is right; however, if the government chooses to proceed, it should be based on rational thought, not on emotions.

However, if the government fines AIG too heavily, the company will not stand and the economy will be plunged further into the depths of depression. Even if we win, we lose.

It’s a depressing situation with no conceivably positive outcome, one with long-reaching effects that will span across the nation.

One can only hope the elected officials in Washington know how to approach this delicate situation.

The editorial is the majority opinion of The DEN editorial board. Reach the opinions editor at: [email protected].