Thursday, March 19, 2009

Huffington on Bailout Bonuses

Arianna Huffington argues that what we are learning about the AIG bonuses is not only unfair but illustrates the lack of transparency in major government decision making.

Appearing on CNN today, Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said that officials at the Treasury Department had insisted that he modify a clause he had inserted into the stimulus bill that prohibited bonuses from being issued by bailed-out companies. This mirrors the legislative slaying of the similarly intended amendment co-sponsored by Sen. Wyden I write about below. The culprit behind the killing of the Wyden provision remains unsolved -- but Dodd fingering Treasury adds weight to Wyden's sense that members of Obama's economic team were behind the elimination of his amendment. And, in both cases, major decisions involving taxpayer money were carried out in a way that flies not in the face of fairness, but in the face of the administration's promises of transparency and accountability. . . .

The secrecy in which the bonus limits were eliminated in the Congressional conference after Congress had voted specifically to limit bonuses shows how difficult it is to maintain claims for a deliberative democracy. This is why transparency is so important to rhetorical culture. We will never achieve complete deliberative transparency, nor should we -- some things really do need to be kept secret or confidential, at least in the short run. But policy debate requires a high measure of shared knowledge--including access to the public historical record.

Arianna Huffington, "A Disturbing D.C. Whodunit," Huffington Post, 18 March 2009.

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