By Robert Wallace
So, to anyone who thought that the mob frenzy wouldn’t drive talent out of AIG — I told you so. To anyone who thought innocent people wouldn’t bear the cost of this insanity — I told you so. To anyone who thought that legislating out of anger wouldn’t come back to bite us in the butt both culturally and financially — yeah, I told you so.
I’m referring to a letter of resignation from AIG executive Jake DeSantis to AIG CEO Edward Liddy published in full in yesterday’s New York Times. DeSantis works in the infamous Financial Products division, but he has never sold nor in any way profited from any business related to credit default swaps. He was raised by middle-class parents–school teachers–and attended MIT on a scholarship before starting as an equity trader at AIG in 1998. After 11 years, he had risen through the ranks to the head of business development for commodities, a unit that consistently made AIG profits in the neighborhood of $100 million.
In the past 12 months, DeSantis has played an integral role in selling AIG business units. These sales earn money for AIG which, in turn, is used to keep the company afloat (so that American tax dollars used to bail the company out won’t be entirely wasted) and eventually to even pay taxpayers back. He agreed to have his salary cut to $1 based on repeated promises from Mr. Liddy that his bonus–about $700,000 after taxes–would remain intact.
As a result, he understandably felt betrayed by the company for which he’d worked for more than a decade when Liddy failed this week to defend his employees before Congress. And he understandably felt betrayed by his country when Liddy’s request that executives return their bonuses–in some cases, their entire salary!–under threat of having Congress tax their bonus at 90 percent and New York or Connecticut attorneys general revealing their names and their families’ home addresses.
DeSantis decided he’d had enough. He’s quitting — and he’s quitting under his own terms. He is not returnig his bonus, but he has promised to donate every single penny, with documentation, to charities working directly to help those effected by the recent downturn. Of course, there might not be much of his bonus left by the time Congress is done converting our tax code into a financial Inquisition, but the principle of the gesture remains.
He has a unique perspective on just how corrosive government attempts to “help” can be, writing:
That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.
After reading this article, it became more clear than ever that liberals need to stop this war on success. Because that’s really what’s going on here. DeSantis is a man who lived the American dream. He did not come from privilege or wealth, but through hard work and sacrifice he became an extremely successful business executive. He bears no responsibility for the fall of AIG, and obviously his family is blameless as well. His work in a profitable section of AIG has helped soften the blow of failure in other sections, and he’s sacrificed time and money for his company.
What did he do wrong? Nothing.
And yet he’s the target for the three-ring circus on Capitol Hill, as vicious, spineless politicians violate the Constitution to take his entire year’s salary. He’s the target of posturing attorneys general more interested in their careers than the law they are supposed to uphold. He’s the brunt of clueless, populist American outrage.
Let’s get this straight once and for all: Jake DeSantis is not the problem with the American economy. He is the solution. Obama used the divisive rhetoric of class warfare and “social justice” to get elected. Now that he’s president, he realizes that these policies are detrimental to the American economy and has called for silence. It’s too late. Like a teenage pyromaniac, he stoked the flames and now the fire is out of control. What we’re seeing in America is nothing less than a war on success — a self-destructive impulse to obliterate the very cornerstones of American prosperity: hard work, sacrifice, ingenuity, and liberty.
It’s time for this war to stop. DeSantis is not the problem. He’s not the enemy. Forget ACORN-sponsored bus tours of these executives’ homes: we know where the enemy can be found. It’s not Connecticut and it’s certainly not New York.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.