A reader writes:
The problem with Manzi's reasoning is the that bonuses should be tied to actual SUCCESS at unraveling their compromised positions, not simply doled out in advance with the vague hope that enough money will keep the "brain trust" from leaving the building. If they manage to fix what they broke, then fine, let them take their bonuses, but allowing execs to keep this free money rather forcing them to defer it until they actually clean up at least a fraction of the mess they've made is simply throwing good money after bad.
It's not the size of the bonuses that is necessarily outrageous. It's that the bonuses were defended as a contractual obligation that could not legally be rescinded. But for months we've been hearing that the auto makers are going out of business because of the same legally binding contractual obligation with the auto workers. But there's no problem with the auto makers backing out of those contracts - they're just a few hundred thousand blue collar workers, yet denying dozens of executives what they were promised by their equally failed employer is unacceptable and illegal.
That's what is outrageous - that contracts of the rank and file are fair game and the contracts of executives are sacred. And the question isn't whether we want well paid people there to unwind this mess - we do, but do we want the very people that wound the mess, and do we want to pay a premium for them? For any other employee, the answer would be totally different than what is being offered up for executives. If I screwed up this badly, I'd get fired and someone else brought in to fix my mess. Do we really think there aren't some other exceedingly smart people out there that will work for a few million dollars per year to fix what ails AIG?