Today we'll discuss the bright bulbs of the American International Group, insurance peddlers who took some $123 billion of our money (that's $400 for every living person in the United States) as their portion of the federal government bailout and apparently tried to spend it all at a posh California resort.
We'll begin with a Greek proverb: Avaritia facit bardus. It means: "Greed makes you stupid." Then there's the slightly less well-known Greek proverb: Onlius betterei drincus johnus newsomei, golfus, piggus, facei rubbus taxpae moneyus. It means: "The only thing better than eating like a goddamn pig, drinking like a district attorney, playing golf half the day and then having someone trim your toenails and rub your face, is doing it with the taxpayers' money."
Let's review what we know about AIG, in a kind and loving way. For the past decade or so, AIG has been one of the worst-run corporations in the history of the world. Its executives would be known far and wide as bumbling, inept fools if they weren't better known as crooks and thieves.
AIG has been mired in fraud investigations by the U.S. Justice Department, New York State Attorney General's Office (that would have been the highly esteemed Eliot Spitzer, who, to his credit, was apparently able to stop bonking a hooker long enough to get a little work done) and the Securities and Exchange Commission. AIG was recently fined $1.6 billion and has seen so many sleazy CEOs you'd have thought they were elected.
Footnote: Thank you for allowing me to rant. I would have been charged $250 by my psychiatrist, Dr. Renaldo Sarcastico. (Favorite saying: "Well now, isn't that interesting?")
Anyway, AIG which began in 1919 when founder Cornelius Vander Starr started an insurance agency in China (early company motto: "Striving to Screw 1 Billion People") claimed it was broke and on Sept. 16 received a staggering $85 billion bailout "loan." This was part of President George W. Bush's brilliant economic policy known as deregulated unleveraged hypothecation (DUH).
Then, from Sept. 22 to 28, AIG executives and sales agents gathered at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa and spent $440,000. Of our money.
Some of the actual costs: $147,302 for banquets; $139,375 for rooms; $23,380 for spa services (having things rubbed); $6,939 for golf (proving that if, during a near-Depression, you're going to use taxpayers' money to play golf, you'd better have a lot of balls); $5,016 at Stonehill Tavern; $3,065 for room service and more alcohol; $2,949 for gratuities (big tippers with our $%^&*&*@ money).
After all of that was uncovered, the Mensa Club we elected to serve us in Washington, D.C., gave AIG another $37.8 billion loan.
From Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama: "The Treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired."
From Republican presidential nominee John McCain: "My friends, my really skinny wife has more money than Canada and Brazil combined and furthermore, my friends, I do not know how many houses I own, so it's probably best if I just shut the $%^& up and look, I am now forcing an odd, scary smile."
Joining me now is Larry Lucero, a State Farm insurance agency owner in Colorado Springs for the past 20 years and a funny guy. Lucero reviewed the AIG spending spree with me, stopping first at the $147,302 banquet tab.
"Wow," he says. "My favorite restaurant is the Pepper Tree. For that kind of money, I could take a couple of my insurance clients up there. A thousand times."
On the $6,939 to play golf: "I bet they didn't walk."
On the $23,380 on spa services: "But their nails look great."
"It's the good ol' boy system," Lucero says. "Imagine: All those AIG executives, and none of them said anything?"
AIG canceled a similar retreat this week at the even-swankier Ritz-Carlton resort in California's Half Moon Bay. Initially, though, AIG execs considered going ahead with the second retreat and buying advertisements with our money to explain their position. AIG's public-relations consultant had to jump in, telling the company execs the ads would be "a really bad idea."
As my own Dr. Sarcastico might say, "Ooohhh, I bet we'll be getting our $122.8 billion back from those rocket scientists any day now."