Earlier this week, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) suggested that executives at AIG Insurance should accept responsibility for the collapse of their company by either resigning or killing themselves. Yes, that's right. An elected member of the U.S. Senate suggested that people commit suicide as a way to accept responsibility for this financial fiasco we're in.
Normally, I let this kind of stupid, mean-spirited, illogical commentary roll off my back. It doesn't help our current situation. In fact, it does nothing but hurt it. But Sen. Grassley's remark just went way beyond the pale.
If you haven't kept up with the AIG situation, here's the 30-second rundown:
- September 2008 - AIG gets $85B from the government, after which executives attend a California retreat (est. expense approx. $500K).
- October 2008 - AIG gets an additional $38B and executives spend approx. $100K on an English hunting trip.
- November 2008 - AIG receives another $40B from the government and spends approx. $350K at a resort in Phoenix.
- March 2009 - AIG to receive another $30B in aid and announces bonus payouts of approx $165M to executives.
I think it's a waste of breath to debate whether or not AIG ranks right up there with the most misguided and mismanaged companies of all time or if their "leaders" should be stripped of their bonuses. Clearly, the answer to both of these issues is a resounding yes. If the brass at AIG were smart, they'd decline the bonus money (even if they're contracted to get it).
But that being said, words just don't seem adequate to describe how unbelievably inappropriate it is for a U.S. Senator to suggest a person commit suicide over it.
What we need right now is calm, level-headed leadership. And, as a leader, the last thing you should be doing right now is passing blame. Let's stay focused on putting the pieces in place to fix the problem and then develop measures to insure this doesn't happen again. And that goes equally for AIG-type fiscal incompetence and the election of brainless politicians.