The lives of the rich and infamous were on full display in a congressional hearing room this week. There was Richard S. Fuld Jr., the chief of Lehman Brothers Holding, trying to explain his mega-million-dollar pay package. There was Joseph Cassano of American International Group, the beneficiary of an $85 billion government bailout. He was so good at his job at the insurance giant that he's now receiving $1 million a month in consulting fees. And for the junior executives at AIG, a week at an exclusive spa in California. The cost: $442,000.
Incredible as all this sounds, consider the total lack of contrition shown by two of AIG's top executives. When asked whether the collapse of the company may have been the result of, as one congressman put it, a "fundamental failure of management," neither man seemed able to come up with an answer. The U.S. government now holds the controlling interest in AIG, and it should demand the company rescind every one of the spendthrift bonuses and payouts for these executives and their cronies. This disgraceful show of conspicuous consumption must end.