Now I will never receive a seven figure bonus and I can’t figure out why a company would ever agree to pay one, but with that being said, I’m just not on the Bonus Bashing bandwagon yet. It’s not that I think AIG is great. It’s not that I’m especially sympathetic with the downward spiral that the formally high riding AIG folks are on. The real reason that I can’t yet bring myself to go looking for my torch and pitchfork is that we really don’t know squat about these bonuses… and neither do the congressmen building ever higher soap boxes from which to denounce them.
As the Obama administration prepared to unveil major elements of its plan to address the global financial crisis, some of its leading economic officials reacted coolly to congressional actions to recoup bonuses from financial firms through targeted taxes, with one adviser saying the approach may be a "dangerous way to go."
While acknowledging the legitimacy of the public outcry over at least $165 million in bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, administration officials stopped far short of endorsing legislation passed last week by the House that would levy a 90 percent tax on the payments. The Senate is scheduled to take up a modified version of the measure this week.
"I think the president would be concerned that this bill may have some problems in going too far -- the House bill may go too far in terms of some -- some legal issues, constitutional validity, using the tax code to surgically punish a small group," Jared Bernstein, the top economic adviser to Vice President Biden, said on ABC's "This Week." "That may be a dangerous way to go."
Another top Obama economic official, Austan Goolsbee, echoed that view. "The president's also been clear we don't want to govern out of anger. He's going to look at what comes out of the House, what comes out of the Senate, see what ideas we have," Goolsbee, a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."