Reports over the weekend that bailed-out insurance giant AIG will be paying $165 million in bonuses to executives “in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year” have sparked bipartisan outrage. Even ultra-conservative Bill Kristol expressed his anger in a column yesterday, asking rhetorically, “[I]f capitalism is to survive, shouldn’t the Republican party, the party that defends democratic capitalism, be particularly vehement in denouncing its excesses? Isn’t this a pretty spectacular one?”
However, it seems that Dana Perino, former President Bush’s press secretary, didn’t receive the memo. On C-Span’s Washington Journal on Sunday, Perino defended the bonuses:
PERINO: And the people who are working there that are middle-class people, are expecting to get this bonus. If they do not get it, maybe they won’t be motivated enough to try to help the company turn around and getting the company to turn around and be more profitable is important for all of us.
Perino then chastised the “rhetoric in Washington” that “can try to make things so black and white, and make things sound so easy — demonize people when I don’t think that that’s fair.” Watch it:
It appears that Perino either doesn’t know who is set to receive the bonuses or is unaware what it means to be “middle class” (i.e. those American households that generally make between $40,000 and $70,000 per year). In fact, while as of Sunday, it was unclear what the salary range is for the executives who are set to get the bonuses, as The New York Times reported at the time, some of them will receive more than $3 million in bonuses alone.
A new Wonk Room analysis notes that under Bush’s tax system, these AIG executives will collectively take home $7.5 million more dollars more than they would have in the 1990s. But President Obama’s budget would effectively eliminate the Bush tax bonuses, allow middle class families to save as much as $800 per year, and invest in health care, renewable energy and education.