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Rich-Slapped: Taxpayers Pay For AIG's Highfalutin Retreat


The author details his seething outrage.

I worked for a guy once. An honest, if deeply flawed, guy, who built a boutique publishing company with street-won grit and the ability to literally sell the Brooklyn Bridge.

He cut an early deal to produce a magazine for a public figure with celebrity bona fides and a hot new TV show. He found deep pockets and seed money in Chicago and hired a staff whom he paid a decent wage.

The company grew measurably. One title became 3. Three titles became 6. The staff and office space increased. So did the size of the paychecks.

Then a run of bad luck coincided with a glut of equally bad decisions. By this time, the company traded publicly - brought to market by a financial services firm intimately acquainted with how to legally execute what was, in effect, a pump-and-dump scheme.

Payroll -- in flush times deposited directly -- began to be administered as checks with a better-than-even chance of bouncing.

Weeks before I left for greener, safer pastures and a job that was too sexy to turn down, I told my boss I thought he should ask the staff for a 2-week reprieve in salary disbursement so some pressing bill could be paid. It was a splendidly naïve thing to say and I'll never forget his reply: "If I do that, we're through."

And they were. Fifteen dedicated people lost their jobs, vendors were made to eat well over a million dollars and investors lost thousands.

Nobody was there to bail the company out.

I'm not about to launch into some diatribe about how the world isn't fair. I don't need it to be. Fair is something concocted by fools and perpetuated by crybabies. If anything, I gain competitive advantage in a system that's rigged: My parents insisted on my being college educated, even underwrote my diploma. Right away I'm ahead of the curve.

This isn't about fair. It's about something that's very dangerous for our democracy and for whatever tattered shreds of capitalism we have left: The rewarding of poor -- dare I say piss-poor -- performance.

On September 16th, the government moved to bail out American International Group (AIG) at a cost of $85 billion, offering a number of scary-sounding, if ill-explained, reasons why not saving it would be calamitous.

Fine. Okay.

But consider this: When you screw up at work, you get your ass handed to you. When executives at AIG ran their firm into the ground, they got a $443,343.71 trip to the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California.
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