Demagoguery Watch: The New News About AIG Bonuses

POLITICO's breaking news alert screams:  "AIG bonus pool much higher than reported."

In a response to detailed questions from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-M.D.), the company has offered a third assessment of exactly how much it paid out in bonuses last year.

    And the new number, offered in a document submitted to Cummings on May 1, is the highest figure the company has disclosed to date.

    AIG now says it paid out more than $454 million in bonuses to its employees for work performed in 2008.
    "I was shocked to see that the number has nearly quadrupled this time," said Cummings. "I simply cannot fathom why this company continues to erode the trust of the public and the U.S. Congress, rather than being forthcoming about these issues from the start."

This isn't a criticism of the Politico (sorry, the POLITICO), which got the story first.  But the Congressional outrage here seems a bit contrived.

In point of fact, AIG paid out its bonuses to about 40,000 employees. Most received less than $10,000 a year -- hardly nothing, but hardly objectionable, given that many AIG business units met or exceeded their performance targets.

Actually, conflating the regular employee bonuses with the outrageously high bonuses paid to  the derivatives traders in question is plain unfair to the tens of thousands of AIG employees who bear no responsibility whatsoever for our economic collapse.