When the members of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) wanted to use anger as a political weapon they burned the Reichstag and blamed it on the Communists.
It's an old tactic -- when you are in trouble, create a crisis and then create a straw man to blame for the crisis. We are now seeing it played out as a giant insurance company, AIG, is given the role of straw man.
It's working. I'm mad, you're mad, and our anger over the mess created by Washington politicians and their Wall Street buddies is now being diverted away from Capitol Hill and toward AIG and a handful of executives, some of whom got huge bonuses as their company was being bailed out by the federal government.
In the entire furor, nobody has bothered to ask for the details behind the bonuses, such as why were they given to some AIG employees and whether they were legitimate and deserved.
One of them, Jake DeSantis, who like AIG's CEO Edward Liddy has been donating his services for the princely sum of one dollar a year, sent a letter of resignation to Liddy which was published as an editorial in The New York Times Wednesday.
DeSantis explained what he had done to earn his nearly $800,000 bonus. "Like you [Liddy], I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down."
He might have added that he is now being rewarded by having members of Congress -- the body largely responsible for the financial crisis -- aim the public's anger not at Congress itself, where it belongs, but at him and his fellow AIG employees.
Noting that AIG's equity and commodity units which he headed were consistently profitable, generating net profits of well over $100 million, DeSantis wrote, "during the dismantling of AIG-FP, I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to AIG's effort to repay the American taxpayer.
"The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation," he wrote, adding that he was donating his entire bonus -- nearly $800,000 -- "to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn."