Bail Me Out | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Bail Me Out 

We got fat the old fashioned way—by getting our asses kicked, then crying in our beer.

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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that the mammoth insurance company AIG has awarded its stellar management staff $165 million dollars in bonus money. AIG was recently provided $170 billion dollars of taxpayer funds because the people on the receiving end of that $165 million bonus allotment had run AIG into the ground. How nice that such abject failure is still rewarded in the good ole U. S. of A—the United Suckers of America.

God knows having to forgo linen napkins for paper, steak for hamburger, silver for plastic and Majorca for the Jersey shore is a terrible burden. AIG earned its bailout dollars fair and square. AIG needs suckers like you and me on the other end of their insurance-denial claims to continue paying monthly premiums into a kitty that never seems to provide enough coverage for an average family of four, but that no family of four should be left without. When they ran out of suckers, the government fed us to them.

AIG just turns money, same as a bookie. It measures odds on the life and death of people, mortgage loan values and companies, then sets the betting line. It keeps the vigorish, just like a bookie. Sometimes a bookie starts living large. When that bookie goes down, he might cost some of his customers some money, but he doesn’t bring a country down with him. He has no one to cry to. The last time the government bailed out a bookie was never. But AIG, the biggest bookie ever with the best suits money can buy and all being worn by U.S. congressmen? The sky’s the limit.

If anyone should not be criticized for stealing from the American public, it’s the AIG brain trust—after all, with their self worth gained from having wealth—but not earning or creating it—it would be unfair to let them suffer like, say, a soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with medical bills that can’t be paid because the premiums went unpaid while that soldier was overseas. No, let’s be happy, fellow suckers, that such brilliant people are around, such noble people. And let’s all rest assured that they will do right by that money and reinvest it in you and me. Not!

According to Cuomo, 73 AIG employees got at least $1 million in bonus money, the highest individual payout at $6.4 million. For what, again? One million dollars would pay a monthly insurance policy of $1,000 a month for 83 years. At the $6.4 million bonus rate, if that same person could just live to be 531 years old, he would have insurance coverage for life. Instead, one person got that money and, according to my own bookie sources, that person will be dead before the Boston Red Sox win another World Series. I’m taking that bet—there’s already been a call from one U.S. Senator for the folks getting that AIG money to be honorable and commit suicide. No word yet if there have been any takers. Given the anger of many struggling Americans at this fiasco, there is equal debate whether such suicides will be unassisted.

It just gets worse, too, all this bailout stuff. I guess she’s oblivious, but somehow in the midst of the AIG crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the Justice Department to come to the aid of the newspaper industry. Well, the newspaper industry in San Francisco, anyway, but you can count on that aid spreading outward, even here. Pelosi is asking that newspapers (by that, she means daily newspapers that support her) be allowed to consolidate operations even more than they are currently permitted. San Francisco and Salt Lake City are two cities that already “benefit” from consolidated operations in the form of Joint Operating Agreements. That “benefit” is this: You won’t have to worry about additional newspapers littering your neighborhood, because competing against the JOA is a monster. We know.

The core thesis is that a JOA protection allows cities to have profitable newspapers with diverse news voices (pre-Internet logic, obviously) and that they will not engage in anti-competitive practices (nobody is watching, so they do what they want). The theory goes that, if a newspaper fails, a city will be left with just one newspaper. Well, that would be a real shame, wouldn’t it, Salt Lakers? Honestly, if you didn’t care that the Deseret News was owned by the LDS Church, on any given day, you couldn’t tell the Deseret News from The Salt Lake Tribune from TASS from the Washington Post from a rotten green apple.

Call me AIG, but if the Justice Department came to me and said, “We’ll let you sister up with the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune so that all three of you can bully the rest of the market,” I just might take that offer. But that offer will never come, and I’m not worried about it. I didn’t even worry this past weekend when Tribune reporter Paul Beebe wrote yet another article about the death of his newspaper. I wish the Tribune would either die and go away or stand up like a real newspaper and shed itself of the yoke it shares with the Deseret News. Let them duke it out without the benefit of the JOA monopoly agreement that made them fat, lazy and blind in the first place.

We got fat the old fashioned way—by getting our asses kicked, then crying in our beer. We never asked the government for a phony monopoly or for a taxpayer bailout. On the other hand, a million dollars would buy about 300,000 beers—no wonder those AIG folks took their bonus. That’s almost enough beer for a lifetime.

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