"Six weeks ago I wrote in this space that the country’s surge of populist rage could devour the president’s best-laid plans, including the essential Act II of the bank rescue, if he didn’t get in front of it. The occasion then was the Tom Daschle firestorm. The White House seemed utterly blindsided by the public’s revulsion at the moneyed insiders’ culture illuminated by Daschle’s post-Senate career. Yet last week’s events suggest that the administration learned nothing from that brush with disaster." columnist Frank Rich in The New York Times
I largely agree with this column. The administration could try to downplay the bonus issue all they want. Yes the money spent on "retention bonuses" are a drop in the bucket. It doesn't matter. People are angry and they are angry because they see the very people who brought this economy down make out like bandits at taxpayer expense while they lose their 401K savings.
The president has to somehow recoup what was the companies paid in retention bonuses. He should pressure AIG officials into renegotiating the contracts of those still working at the company and condition on the outcome of such negotiations.