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."
That's the side of the story the media and the sanctimonious members of Congress haven't bothered to tell the American people because they don't dare. If they did the anger might be directed at them, where the blame lies.
Congressmen have a tendency to react, and we, unfortunately, tend to over-react with them because that's what we do when we are mad. The problem with anger is when you are mad you make terrible decisions.
When you are angry at your children you say and do things you'd never do or say when you aren't mad. Ditto with your spouse. The fact is, you can't make sensible decisions when you are on fire.
That's what's going on here. You have a government and a slavishly subservient media pointing the finger of blame at AIG. As a result, spurred on by duplicitous members of Congress and their media stooges, you are enraged at AIG and their bonus recipients such as Jake DeSantis, and not at such miscreants as Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, who were among the real villains behind the financial meltdown.
Lost in the shuffle is the fact that it was Dodd who wrote the legislation that required AIG to pay the disputed bonuses in the first place.
As a result of your anger, you are willing to allow Dodd and Frank and their congressional colleagues and President Obama to burn down AIG and slander some of their executives when the blame lies elsewhere, on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
Don't get mad, folks, get even.