Whenever a politician or commentator bloviates about the brokers at AIG who are getting bonuses, we should all be remembering Lynndie England and Charles Granger. AIG brokers are to the financial meltdown what England was to the Iraq war.
Certainly she did things that were deplorable. But she thought they were legal (England, operating under orders to "soften up terrorists," even thought she was helping defend our nation). And to the extent that John Yoo's memos were law, arguably her actions were legal (although the Bushies never wanted it tested, so threw them to the wolves).
But the important point is that the real criminals of the Iraq War were not those like Lynndie England: they were George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld (and their neocon buddies).
. . .But the real criminals of the AIG mess - and the entire financial meltdown that was set up between 1999 and 2006 and crashed starting in 2007 - were Grover Norquist, Phil and Wendy Graham, Tom Delay, and, sadly, Bill Clinton.
The philosophy that it's possible to bomb people into democracy and torture them into being on our side drove the Bushies. It was wrong, flawed, and frankly insane, and we're paying a huge price for it.
Similarly, the philosophy that playing the game of business and investment without rules (the technical term is Laissez-faire Capitalism) has driven our government since the election of Ronald Reagan, and went on steroids during the last two years of the Clinton administration and throughout the Bush administration. It's equally wrong, flawed, and insane, and we're paying a multi-trillion dollar price for it not unlike we are for the war.
The intellectual forefathers and mothers of the insane conservative economic policies that have brought us to where we are include Ludwig Von Mises, Freidrich Von Hayeck, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Tom Freidman, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Ayn Rand. Phil and Wendy Gramm pushed through the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Act (which allowed banks to get into the gambling business) and the Commodity Futures Moderinization Act (also known as "the Enron Loophole"), and Bill Clinton merrily signed them into law.
But just as it's inconvenient to hold the defense contractors and the senior politicians responsible for the Iraq debacle, and instead blame it on Lynndie England, our sound-bite corporate media prefer to focus on a few IAG traders, instead of the people who made what they did both possible and legal.. . . Instead of passing a 90 percent tax that is limited to the traders, let's be realistic. Ever since Ronald Reagan rolled back the top marginal income tax rate on millionaires and billionaires from 74 percent to 29 percent, our government has been disastrously in debt, sliding deeper each and every year (the so-called "Clinton surplus" was a mirage created with phony numbers, although it was still a hell of a lot better than what we have now).