As we were leaving DC last week we were listening to the testimony of Edward Liddy, who came out of retirement to try to get AIG back on track– manage all that bailout money– for no pay. He sounded like a decent guy to me. Here are the three thoughts that occurred to me  as he talked about those bonuses.

1. they were an infinitesimal percentage of the total bailout package– getting them back isn’t even a drop in the bucket.

2. Legacy knowledge is an all important form of capital. you lose productivity big time when you lose the folks who saw it go down before the shit hit the fan. you lose productivity big time when you lose folks ever. retaining staff is so important to the wellbeing of any company. provided they are honest and have true honest professional intent. Only a very very small group amongst AIG’s vast divisions is responsible for this mess. The many honest people who were there before are the best ones to pick up the pieces and bring the company back.

3. We, the American people, are a bunch of sheep. Know what a derivative is? That’s what caused this mess. If we– the working or middle class with decent careers, decent homes, our health or at least health insurance, and decent opportunities for education– whether in school or through self education and lifelong learning–  willfully choose ignorance about how our economy works, we deserve what we get.

Come on. This is f-ing ridiculous. All this mess comes from our acquiescence to the huge pyramid scheme that is our economy. As long as we are scraping by okay, screw the rest, right?

We don’t teach our children about debt and compound interest rates (whether in our favor or racking up on our credit card debt). Every child should know how our economy works and how personal finance works.

I have a dear little colleague, a very sincere financial advisor. She is urging folks to attend the latest Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University. My husband and I used Dave to crawl out of I don’t want to tell you how much debt, accrued through years of near constant life change and increasing salaries.

But here’s the thing. I love Dave. LOVE HIM. But if we all adhered to his principles, paid cash and lived within our means our economy would collapse! I said as much to my friend and she said yeah… yeah that’s true.

It is in banks’ and lenders’ best interest that we little people should live outside our means, not understand the consequences, and fail– or at least fail just enough that they can levy insane finance charges and ruin our lives.

That whole ‘derivatives’ thing… I heard it explained and defined on Marketplace on NPR, though i cant quite tell you now what the lady said. See what I mean?

So we go on. we fail to pay our bills or invest poorly– we pick up the pieces, if we are lucky enough to have pieces. We can’t get a car loan. Financial giants like Enron or AIG make it look so easy — and when they screw up–no worries! The government will bail us out! Oops, sorry about all those retirement investments that weren’t even there.

But the bottom line is, our economy is at any and all times a bubble ready to burst. This has got to stop. Corporations,  lenders and elected officials have us all by the short hairs. We are too scared to say no, afraid to rock the boat– and refuse to give up the giant houses (like mine) with the insane heat and cooling costs. And we refuse to educate ourselves about what, personally, locally and nationally, would provide us personal and national security. We let our finances, our food, shelter, health, happen to us.

STOP it! Get educated– the economy, local agriculture, local energy, renewable energy, walkable and sustainable communities. Think about how it affects your family, your community– yes, I am asking you to look at the big picture, at what would be good for human beings and families across town and around the globe– and our national security– or you get what you get.

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