Economy & Budget

The Best Anger Management is Change

While it may be true that some clouds have silver linings, they’re still clouds. These days the storm clouds of desperation are darkening the lives of most of us, because a corrupt few have pockets lined with our money.

For the hopeless cockeyed optimist who insists that it’s darkest before the dawn, this is probably a good time to point out that the dawn these days is pretty dreary.

So is there any glimmer of light … any silver lining … any end to all these clichés?

Just one more: We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

It is true that the outrage screaming from all corners against AIG and bonuses is irrational and scary. Right now, though, scary is good.

If the greedy incompetents who buried the rest of us with their careless thievery can be frightened out of their smug belief that they can continue, that’s a good thing.

It’s imperative that, as President Obama contended in his news conference Tuesday night, “the days of outsized rewards and reckless speculation are over.” Those who insist on continuing to get their outsized rewards need to realize they are sitting on a powder keg — a popular uprising of those already disgusted enough to march on their suburban paradises. The more nervous we can make them, the better.

Once we get their fearful attention, maybe we can start the real work of re-structuring and regulating this “bubble-and-bust” system, as the president described it, that is so demonstrably unfair. The new proposals put forth by the Treasury secretary are a start, but it’s important to note that Congress will have to approve them, and REALLY important to remember that most political contributions come from the very entities that will hate the new rules.

And therein lies the problem. Our government is run largely by politicians whose only motivation is reelection. They accomplish this two ways: They pander to those who can finance their incumbency — and they simply pander. How pathetic it was to watch leaders with the depth of a Twitter race to the House floor with their unsound fury. They had no desire whatsoever to understand the complexities of the AIG situation.

Complexities, after all, don’t make good sound bites. It won’t get them on TV. Outlandish tax legislation of dubious legality and effectiveness does. That’s what we got from our House of Representatives: a punitive tax on AIG bonuses. If the bill didn’t violate the Constitution, it probably constituted breach of contract. And what a surprise: Once they had squeezed all the attention from their bombastic thunder, they quickly abandoned the effort, as well they should.

Faithful readers will know where I’m going next. If our policymakers really want to make necessary change, they need to create a 90 percent tax bracket all right — on ALL the super-rich. Why are several million dollars a year not enough? Anything more creates an intense temptation to resort to larceny, bribery and debilitating strategies.

That is the very same criticism of the ridiculous bonus system that has evolved in the finance biz. It’s really guaranteed compensation, rewarded not for improving products but for improving profit.

That gets us to a core problem: Profit is everything. Underlying structure, culture or loyalties don’t seem to matter. So the nihilistic pursuit of riches must be reined in by common sense and fairness. That won’t come easy. Those who reap the undeserved benefits aren’t simply going to give them up. Unless they’re scared.

Well, they should be scared. Very scared. This AIG uproar could be the preview of mass uprising if the people come to believe that there is no hope the thieves won’t stop picking their pockets

Maybe the numskulls who just couldn’t seem to comprehend that the rules were changing will perhaps now let it sink into their very thick heads they’re risking a dangerous confrontation between the Haves and the overwhelming majority of Have-Nots.

As for those who argue that these new rules and regulations will cause the captains of industry to pack up and leave, good riddance. Have a nice life. Don’t let the door hit your assets on the way out!

In their place, we could install those whose practices can stand up to close scrutiny in an open system, one that is sensibly regulated, unlike the current one that makes it impossible to detect the destructive practices that have brought us to ruin.

We’re suddenly seeing and hearing lot of commentary about how President Obama needs to finesse the outrage. Forget that. He needs to lead the nation in making the major changes. That is the only way to get everyone to settle down.

The alternative is a protest that will turn even uglier. What we’re seeing right now is a fair warning that continuing unfairness will not be tolerated, one that could get so nasty the nation could be torn apart by anger.

In these crazy times, we should listen to the mental health professionals who tell us that unresolved anger can turn inward and cause depression. Did I say “depression”? Not only must that be prevented, but the kind of chicanery that has brought us to the brink must no longer be allowed.

Visit Mr. Franken’s website at

Tags AIG bonus payments controversy American International Group Anger Answers in Genesis Economy of New York City Emotion Financial services Late-2000s financial crisis Person Career Quotation

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