There is a huge front page article in the NYT discussing what we already know — that AIG extracted billions from AIG before ($5.9B) and after ($12.9B)their collapse.

We know that Goldie got paid 100 cents on the dollar post-bailout.But what insured party gets to set their own valuation of losses? According to the article, GS nabbed closer to 300 cents on the dollar pre-collapse of losses.

AIG balked, but the matter never seemed to be settled.

Lucky for Goldman we didn’t do an official reorg for this. Consider what the judge would have rightfully done in what should have been a very complex bankruptcy instead of a smash and grab.

Here’s the TImes:

“By July 2007, when Goldman demanded its first payment from A.I.G. — $1.8 billion — the investment bank had already taken trading positions that would pay out if the mortgage market weakened, according to seven former Goldman employees.

Still, Goldman’s initial call surprised A.I.G. officials, according to three A.I.G. employees with direct knowledge of the situation. The insurer put up $450 million on Aug. 10, 2007, to appease Goldman, but A.I.G. remained resistant in the following months and, according to internal messages, was convinced that Goldman was also pushing other trading partners to ask A.I.G. for payments . . .

Later that month, Mr. Cassano noted in another e-mail message that Goldman’s demands for payment were becoming problematic. “The overhang of the margin call from the perceived righteous Goldman Sachs has impacted everyone’s judgment,” he wrote to five employees in his division.

By the end of November 2007, Goldman was holding $2 billion in cash from A.I.G. when the insurer notified Goldman that it was disputing the firm’s calculations and seeking a return of $1.56 billion. Goldman refused, the documents show.”

Now, AIG’s claims that it was Goldman that forced them into collapse, that “the payment demands were a major contributor to A.I.G.’s downfall,” are sheer nonsense. AIG wrote 3 trillion dollars worth of derivatives with precisely ZERO held in reserve. A drunk driver who drives off the road might as well blame the guy who planted those trees 50 years earlier. Given AIG’s massive mortgage exposure, they were going down anyway. GS just happened to be the one who made the opposite bet. In this zero sum game, AIG’s losses were GS profits.

Be sure to click on the graphic to see the full timeline . . .
>

Source:
Testy Conflict With Goldman Helped Push A.I.G. to Edge
Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story
NYT February 6, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/business/07goldman.html

Category: Bailouts, Derivatives, Real Estate

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

41 Responses to “Goldman Sachs vs AIG”

  1. michaelismoe says:

    “Given AIG’s massive mortgage exposure, they were going down anyway…” But when are they going down? These guys are still sucking billions out of the treasury and only God knows how much more.

    Can anyone explain why this company isn’t in Chapter 7, their contracts ruled nul and void, and the whole freaking sham imploded?

  2. Steve Barry says:

    AIG extracted from AIG??? Do you mean Goldman extracted?

    Didn’t Goldman basically take out fire insurance on a house they didn’t own and profitted when it burn’t down? That’s what the bucket shops did in the 20′s and were banned after the collapse. Now who set the fire?

  3. Robespierre says:

    BR: “are sheer nonsense”

    While I agree that AIG contributed to its own collapse, I disagree with your conclusion of “are sheer nonsense”. There is a lot more about this that meets the eye. It is specially troubling that GS allegedly incited others to collect from AIG. Do we know what equity positions GS had on AIG. Where they short on its equity either directly or through some other kind of means via other banks overseas? My theory is that this is like when you find a termites in a house. As soon as you start looking into it you will find lots more.

  4. Steve Barry says:

    Alan Greenspan KBE is saying on Meet The Press he doesn’t see home prices falling further…oh oh.

    I have never seen his speech this slow and measured…he is 84 next month. Paulson on with him, stuttering up a storm.

  5. cognos says:

    This continues to be wierd, awful, stupid populist BS. People dont take negotiated haircuts, so why should they have taken them in AIG?

    Howabout… why dont we ask the Chinese to take haircuts on all the FRE/FNM agency debt?

    Its just a moronic, unworkable idea. It never happens. So being “outraged” that it didnt happen… is like being “outraged” that its cold in Feb.

    AIG had financial swap contracts (mainly collateralized)… they lost money because they were too levered, failed an necessitated an organized wind-down involving the govt, AND ironically… did much much worse because they unwound alot of stuff in Oct/Nov/Dec 2008. If they would’ve held those contracts through 2009… they would’ve recovered enormously.

    But hey, thats how markets work.

  6. Steve Barry says:

    “This continues to be wierd, awful, stupid populist BS. People dont take negotiated haircuts, so why should they have taken them in AIG?”

    In your everday bankruptcy, the taxpayer is not sitting in the room with a blank check.

  7. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Take away our bailout money and all of the “banks” and “insurance companies” are bankrupt — not to mention the fraud they committed (and continue to commit) that placed themselves and the US taxpayer and economy in the position they/we are in. Why are we placing blame when both parties are equally guilty?

  8. farmera1 says:

    Barry R, have to disagree to some extent with your statement:

    “GS just happened to be the one who made the opposite bet. In this zero sum game, AIG’s losses were GS profits.”

    Not exactly a zero sum game GS vs AIG. The tax payers paid for both of their greed and stupidity, and GS happens to be well connected and ended up with my money(along with several foreign banks, etc). Now how did that happen????????

    The scope is breath taking. Three trillion in AIG derivatives (insurance contracts as I see it) with zero reserves. Now that is a business plan of epic proportions

    I’m trying to read “THIS TIME IT”S DIFFERENT”. Not an easy read. But a couple of things worth noting; in the sequence of a crisis the first step is “Financial Liberalization”. From the book:

    THE SEQUENCING OF CRISES: A PROTOTYPE
    “Investigating what came first, banking or currency crises, was a central theme of Kaminsky and Reinhar’st “twin crises work; they also concluded that financial liberalization often preceded banking crises…”

    “As Diaz-Alejandro narrates in his classic paper about the Chilean experience of the late 1970s and early 1980s, “Goodbye financial Repression, Hello Financial Crash” financial liberalization simultaneously facilitates banks acess to external credit and more risky lending practices at home. After a while, following a boom in lending and asset prices, weaknesses in bank balance sheets become manifest and problems in the banking sector begin.”

    I can imagine that this is what Paul Volcker had in mind when he said that he would comeback to haunt a the Congressman quizzing him if something isn’t done to get a handle on the “banksters”.

  9. mgkurilla says:

    “In this zero sum game, AIG’s losses were GS profits.”

    This seems to me to be an extremely critical distinction that if possible to reduce to some quantifiable unit could suggest a general policy for future financial regulation. Volcker has made the point that financial innovation has had little if any direct impact on overall economic productivity (beyond ATMs). It would seem to me that any “zero sum game, by definition has little or no direct impact on the overall economy. It merely reshuffles existing resources around with no thought to better resources allocation for future activities. An office betting pool for NCAA BB championships is a good example>

    Thus, any zero sum game has little or no upside potential, but possible downside potential if losses are severe enough to place larger firms (which do have productive financial activities) in jeopardy of survivial, as in the case of AIG. Therefore the issue is to isolate zero sum game activities (perhaps by either limiting who operates in the lofty space of big money games or restricting other elements of more productive financial activites) from the more societally important non-zero sum games that drive future growth.

    Most financial innovation over the last 30 years has been the development of greater and greater zero sum games that have extracted more and more resources from the overall economy until we hit the 2000′s where the process was continued with credit absatraction removing future resources until we hit the tipping point of unsustainability.

  10. Steve Barry says:

    “Why are we placing blame when both parties are equally guilty?’

    Good point…usually if a gambler can’t pay his bookie, or the bookie can’t pay the gambler, let them work it out…they both knew the risks going in. What we should be pissed at is that the taxpayer basically made the gambler whole. WTF is up with that? A suitable analogy on Super Bowl Sunday.

  11. chromex says:

    And again this goes to show that Goldman’s profit and bonus claims are sheer nonsense, a point I do not see emphasized when it should be the headline. Absent this bailout what would Goldman have gotten from AIG? Much closer to nothing. Which would have dramatically affected any bottom line at Goldman. No one is seriously arguing that Goldman would have such a nice looking balance sheet absent the “AIG” bailout. So who was really bailed out? And why are the CEOS of these companies arrogantly arguing for bonuses and no regulation? And why has the financial press largely abdicted any role in hammering this outrage home? So I disagree (a little) with Steve Barry. The taxpayer has done far more than make the gambler whole. The taxpayer has allowed the gambler to unjustly enrich him/herself.. This is far worse than the S and L scandal and people went to jail then and a whole new system of regulation came into being. Part of our descent into a third-rate country , I gather is that there have been no legal changes and no jail time.

  12. EricHirschberg says:

    Barry,
    It’s seems open season is upon Goldman, and given the contagion wallstreet’s hate relationship with them, it comes as no surprise. But let’s not forget that almost every firm on the street holding gobs of level III assets on the books and in SIVs were marking their books at unreasonably HIGH prices. I believe that Goldman’s prices were more realistic than most. Goldman was acting in it’s best interest at the time and I doubt any shareholder would fault them for that. The rest of the street didn’t make the same demands, because doing so would have forced them to come clean on their assets, and given Bear and Lehman’s experience with being called out, it was hardly something any of them could afford to do. Bashing Goldman is just another way to deny the truth.

  13. torrie-amos says:

    ditto barry

    one gets the feeling when Hank forced money on the banks, they all went home and said to each other, they have no clue, let’s scream and cry and put the fear of god into and see what we can get, and they got lot’s we could count the ways, yet, we all know what they are

  14. cognos says:

    AIG probably wont cost the taxpayer very much money. (Loss estimates have steadily dropped since 1-yr ago).

    Dont forget this was a company with $150B in equity market cap.

    Thats a big cushion to absorb losses… it just needed to have a big DIP (debtor in possession) financing from the US Govt. No one else was big enough to arrange this… and especially not in the midst of the 2008 crisis. So the only “transfer” was from chaos and instability — to — stability. Goldman may have made even more money in bankrupcy (bc they may have had huge default swap hedges linked to AIG default)

    And its not like the US govt was “not involved” in AIG. Large financials are highly regulated. It is typical for multiple regulatory agencies to have staff offices… right in the building.

  15. gorobei says:

    The problem here was the AIG thought they were in the insurance business, while they had actually entered the trading business.

    The contracts look the same, but the terrain is rather different: you are no longer protecting a counterparty from an adverse event he wants to avoid, you are now protecting a counterparty from an event he may be neutral or positively disposed to. This is not a bad thing in itself, but you have to be aware you are no longer betting the law of large numbers: if you are big enough, counterparties will move markets against you if it is to their benefit (everyone in the options markets knows this.)

  16. torrie-amos says:

    aig at it’s height generated 6 billion in income, so it got what 120 billion DIP, being generous let’s say in a good economy it could generat 4 bil in profits, yet, they’ve sold off lot’s of stuff, and have that pesky problem of competition, toast she is with lot’s of jam

  17. call me ahab says:

    cognos- quite the apologist and shill for the finance industry

    but as long as you’re happy w/ yourself- that’s all that counts- right cognos?

    and self respect-

    who needs that?

  18. b_thunder555@yahoo.com says:

    RE: Cognos: “If they [AIG] would’ve held those contracts through 2009… they would’ve recovered enormously.”

    I’m not so sure about that, ’cause AIGs losses were other BANKS’ GAINS. Without AIG’s unwinding their position near the bottom, other banks wouldn’t have gotten the profits that they’ve had in 2009. Without those profits market wouldn’t have been nearly as high (or “high”) as it is now. Why? For two reasons: 1. bank shares themselves and 2. the profits were certainly used by the banks to speculate and drive ALL markets higher.

  19. cognos says:

    b_thunder — agree completely. the forced unwind transfered from AIG to the counterparties (although they probably unwound other hedges, so its not so clear) and that move down setup the profits and recovery. but one issue… and there’s no way around it… its that AIG was forced to unwind at the bottom. That’s how being “over-levered” works.

    torrie — get the numbers straight. AIG earned $21B in 2006. It was close to a $200B company at peak. Plenty of cushion for taxpayer financing. In 1 yr AIG “losses” to tax payers will be deminimus, if not a net profit.

    What have tax payers made on TARP loans to banks so far? (My guess is ~$50B)
    What have tax payers made on the Fed? (spins off over $50B/yr, says all SPV like Maiden Lane are positive)
    Medicare fraud is a loss of $50-100B EVERY YEAR.
    The Iraq war cost $1-2T, thats just waste. Govt waste generally (defense, medicare, general ops) is easily $300B/yr.

  20. b_thunder555@yahoo.com says:

    The question that nobody is focusing on, and perhaps the most troubling in my opinion, is this:

    Did Goldman trade AIG CDS (not the mortgage paper, but the insurance against AIG’s own default) in the fall f 2008 while in possession of MATERIAL NONPUBLIC information regarding the AIG bailout.

    Perhaps the gains extracted from these trades pale in comparison with the mortgage-related gains, but these trades were made, and most likely were illegal. This time they can’t simply say “we were smart, and AIG was stupid, so they lost.” If proven, this could finally be the be the basis to indict both GS and the people who supplied the info, and, perhaps, used their position (read: Timmy, Hank, Ben and Friedman) to influence how the bailout(s) were made/structured. Too bad nobody with subpoena power so far bothered to investigate AIG CDS trades made by GS…..

  21. Winston Munn says:

    “What we should be pissed at is that the taxpayer basically made the gambler whole”

    Damn straight. If Congress had only taken GS straight up on the money line….

  22. b_thunder555@yahoo.com says:

    Cognos, are you really saying that the taxpayers made $$ from the Fed bailout? Do you really count that $50B as real gain after Fed printed over $1.5trillion??? (and diluted every single dollar that i have or will earn in the future?)

    First, SIGTARP said that taxpayers are deep in the red on TARP. And there’s really no hope to make any money on the entire deal. But that was Paulson’s mission, that’s why he was sent to DC in the first place. Let this devoted man burn in Hell forever for what he did (*IF* he did it.)

    Regarding the Fed: listen, Lenny Dykstra also claimed profits without writing off losses, and ended up in bankruptcy only a few months after Cramer called him an investing Mega-Star. Fed’s ML III is just like Lenny’s portfolio.

    And regarding Feds $50B profit claims – i think many people already described how it works. Fed prints $$, US Treaury prints bonds, Fed swaps cash for bonds, US Treas. taxes me, you, and everyone who doesn’t hide in an offshore, US Treas pays interest to the Fed, Fed takes it’s cut to pay electric bill, and returns the rest as “profit” to the treasury. The only losers are We, The People, who have to pay feds’ electric bill, and have the value of our saving and future earnings greatly diluted!

  23. wunsacon says:

    Cognos, I just read your first comment and a couple of responses thereto. I won’t be surprised if people stop responding.

    In general terms, whom do you work for? I have to wonder whether that explains your “views”.

  24. call me ahab says:

    cognos-

    so . . .that the Fed/USG are supporting all asset classes- no issue with that right? Why shouldn’t the game be rigged for the largest players-

    purchase of MBS w/ QE- hmmmm . . .would we be doing this w/o the financial crisis? And what of the billions spent on tax incentives to support the housing market . . .would we be doing that if not for the financial crisis and collapse of RE? Hmmmm . . . .probably not- right cognos? What of the hundreds of billions for the GSE’s- now guaranteed to infinity. . . and now being used along w/ FHA to underwrite the whole housing market . . .no risk there- right cognos? Hmmm . . .would these extraordinary steps have been taken w/o the collapse of the financial system and real estate??

    here’s a suggestion- quit your job w/ the TBTF bank you work at and go get a job at the Dairy Freeze serving soft serve ice cream-

    it’s more honorable

  25. cognos says:

    The Fed is supporting the economy (basic Keynesian macro process). They are supporting jobs, housing, economy – as you say.

    This does not skew to “the largest players”… my stock portfolio is up huge! The public markets are open to all, and taking risk in the recovery is just a good idea. I see many small businesses expanding.

    But hey, maybe that DQ job works for you. I’ll sell some stock, come buy an ice cream, and leave you a nice tip.

  26. call me ahab says:

    “my stock portfolio is up huge”

    hahahaahahaahahaha-

    as if anyone cares about you and your portfolio-

    but a person of small mind and shallow character would think that way

  27. cognos says:

    I have no “axe to grind”. I work for a large macro hedge fund (that has been positive each of the past 4 years). My work has done very well. And one of the things I do particularly well is “trouble shoot” problems. I once worked for one of the large failed financial institutions and know those players well.

    I can sympathize with people who are having the most difficulty in this crisis, and actually could help plot solutions quite well. But “demonizing” financial institutions, executives or some fantasy conspriacy theories. This helps no one. Its just a giant distraction.

    Govt waste is a far bigger tax payer problem (10-100x bigger). Healthcare is the key achilles heel of the US manufacturing workforce. Unions have forced >50% of comp to pension/HC benefits (non sensical!). While on the worldwide market, labor competes with other countries where healthcare is nationalized. This makes it impossible for blue-collar US labor to compete. But the problem is self-created!

    Finally, the tax system is skewed to the rich. Why do we tax “capital gains” at 15% and tax labor income at 30-50%? I think I would actually PREFER labor income to capital income. Working people are important! The next key break in the tax system… is the FICA tax, which is 12.4% for all income up to 100k, but then capped. So someone who makes $1M… only pays 1.2% FICA! This is an 11% regressive differential in the marginal tax rate. Both of these tax issues are massive INCENTIVES to Goldman Sachs and massive tax hits to the largest employers — WalMart, for example.

    If capital gains taxes were 20% and FICA was changed to 3% employee / 3% match on ALL INCOME. Alot of the US imbalances would go away.

    AIG/Goldman is such a petty little issue. Our govt spends 200-300B every month.

  28. cognos says:

    Ahab — The issue is simple. People like you are saying: “this Fed support only helps the largest players”. That’s just not true. It helps anyone willing to take risk, word hard for economic recovery. I assume you can figure my portfolio is not large… but I benefit. You could too…

    Or continue to hide your head in the sand, and hope you get that armagedon you “fear” is coming.

  29. call me ahab says:

    cognos-

    zero wrong w/ playing the market how you see it-

    and if banks want to play the market (and they are the market)- fine- but not w/ insured deposits from banking customers-

    and if they want to play the market- zero protection from the USG for failed strategies-

    commercial banks should be nothing more than a utility for the credit needs of businesses and to lesser extent consumers- a pretty basic and easy model to work with-

    what you seem to not see is that the “prosperity” we had for the last couple decades was based on expansion of consumer credit-

    we have now had 11 months of record credit contraction-

    my opinion is that credit destruction will trump anything the Fed can possibly do- because it is trillions more than they would be able to create through QE-

    so economic contraction is the ultimate destination- depressed assets the ultimate outcome regardless of temporary liquidity and stimulus measures

  30. Robespierre says:

    cognos
    “But hey, thats how markets work”

    You could not be more full of yourself even if you tried. As soon as the government starts to bail out you and your friends the “markets” go out the window. Of course these players don’t see themselves as receiving any favors from the government as you say you are taking risks and that gets rewarded. Really then how come when the risk goes the other way you don’t pay and the tax payer does? Of course you will not see this because like other sociopaths there is no blame in you. Ask any serial killer if he/she feel that they have done wrong and they will rationalize the same type of answers you presented

  31. Mannwich says:

    @wunsacon: I’m already in the camp that described above. When arguments are beyond intellectually dishonest , then why bother? Don’t waste your time. Most of those who are entrenched and the industry and doing great for themselves under the current system, will always shill for that system. It’s quite sad.

  32. foxmuldar says:

    This from another article on the same topic.

    ” As AIG got more and more distressed, Goldman offered to cancel the insurance contracts AIG had written on Goldman’s behalf AND buy the contracts AIG held with other banks at deeply distressed prices. This was presumably before Tim Geithner charged in and paid out those contracts at 100 cents on the dollar.”

    http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-this-just-in-goldman-sachs-killed-aig-2010-2

    A bit of difference in the numbers from what BR posted above and the article from Businessinsider.com

    In just the year before the A.I.G. bailout, Goldman collected more than $7 billion from A.I.G. And Goldman received billions more after the rescue. Though other banks also benefited, Goldman received more taxpayer money, $12.9 billion, than any other firm.

    And more not mentioned above.

    In addition, according to two people with knowledge of the positions, a portion of the $11 billion in taxpayer money that went to Société Générale, a French bank that traded with A.I.G., was subsequently transferred to Goldman under a deal the two banks had struck.

    It appears that Geithner continues to stand out as the idiot responsible for paying out 100 percent on the dollar to AIG. He wasn’t doing for AIG, but for his pals at Goldman.

  33. clawback says:

    cognos,
    focus on the TARP as “the bailout” if you like — the Treasury may see most of the TARP funds come back, eventually. unlikely, but it’s possible. also, though i’m sure it’s been pointed out before, clearly “the bailout” as a whole is much bigger than TARP and will in all likelihood cost taxpayers hundreds of billions if not trillions, depending on which of the myriad ways you choose to count the costs. for instance, the gse bailouts will not “make money” for the taxpayer. nor will the fed purchase of GSE debt and MBS. just stick with Barofsky on the total costs — you can quibble with his numbers, but all the numbers are there.

    so the numbers are one thing, but ultimately what makes us angry (and rightly so) is that the market and the economy have been rigged — openly, and by design — to favor particular people (bank execs, bank bondholders) at the expense of everyone else. moreover, it was done against our protests and against our will, with OUR money and at the risk of our currency. now, even if you accept the Geithner doomsday scenario, they had no right to do what they did. let me repeat that. they had no right to act against the express wishes of the people and no right to bend and twist the law in order to bail out particular banks, their execs and their bondholders.

    and yet, even if you want to believe that the world would have ended had we not bailed out every single large institution, their bondholders and their creditors, there is absolutely no good reason that these same taxpayer-supported institutions are paying their people millions and tens of millions per annum. none. it is baldly unfair and this unfairness is a primary source of our anger.

    even worse, hardly anyone has even been *investigated* for fraud — whether in the writing of CDS or in the packaging and selling of particular MBS, etc. eric holder, where are ya bud?

    this isn’t “populist bull shit,” it’s a real concern for the rule of law, for fairness and for our democratic form of government.

  34. rockfox212 says:

    Too big to fail
    is a tumor that is too big to remove

    you heard it here first

  35. cognos says:

    @ Clawback — most of the TARP funds are back already! Barofsky does not differentiate between money LENT and BAILOUTS. I dont know that lending money, at 10% interest… is a COST or a BAILOUT. Its an “investment”.

    This is non-sense. And yet, govt people dont seem to want to separate… what has been LENT (still $200B)… from what has been LOST (little to nothing, yet).

    You show this same bias throughout. Fed purchase of GSE debt… will definatively ONLY make money. The only way it would lose money is if we let Fannie or Freddie fail… right? Do you understand this?

  36. arthur.i says:

    cognos, it is a difficult complex issue and therefore will take a difficult and complex solution. IMO:

    Goldman Sachs sucks. Lloyd Blankfein is a monster, a spineless self-serving trollop. Everyone off the top 1000 executives at GS should be arrested, stripped of all their wealth, tar and feathered and then sent to spend eternity in a prison for male sex offenders and sociopaths. The surviving members of their families should be sold off to people in foreign lands.

    Repeat the above to all the other money grubbing scum sucking nincompoops who are masquerading as educated decent executive who are just doing their job in the financial service industry.

    This is not populist anger. This is a plan.

  37. clawback says:

    cognos,

    what???

  38. Lugnut says:

    “that AIG extracted billions from AIG before ($5.9B) and after ($12.9B)their collapse’

    Lil’ typo there Barry on that first ‘AIG’

  39. FrancoisT says:

    Alas, Morgenson misses quite a few very important issues.
    Fortunately for us, Naked Capitalism has some pointed observations about that.

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/02/the-nyts-latest-goldmanaig-salvo-missing-the-real-targets.html

  40. FrancoisT says:

    Cognos makes a very important point that seems to have been ignored in the brouhaha;

    Healthcare is the key Achilles heel of the US manufacturing workforce. [...] While on the worldwide market, labor competes with other countries where healthcare is nationalized. This makes it impossible for blue-collar US labor to compete. But the problem is self-created!

    Finally, the tax system is skewed to the rich. Why do we tax “capital gains” at 15% and tax labor income at 30-50%? [Can anyone spell S-T-U-P-I-D ?] I think I would actually PREFER labor income to capital income. Working people are important! The next key break in the tax system… is the FICA tax, which is 12.4% for all income up to 100k, but then capped. So someone who makes $1M… only pays 1.2% FICA! This is an 11% regressive differential in the marginal tax rate. Both of these tax issues are massive INCENTIVES to Goldman Sachs and massive tax hits to the largest employers — WalMart, for example.

    If capital gains taxes were 20% and FICA was changed to 3% employee / 3% match on ALL INCOME. A lot of the US imbalances would go away.

    Kind of hard to argue with that, don’t you think?

    Alas, I have to strongly disagree with his last sentence:

    AIG/Goldman is such a petty little issue. Our govt spends 200-300B every month.

    Quid? Tu quoque fili? AIG/GS ain’t so bad cause our go-vermin is worse?

    So, on the theory that one is worse than the other, we should NEGLECT the consequences of the behavior of the “least” offender?

    Hmmm! Not quite!

  41. [...] this is the NY Fed that put together the AIG bailout that funneled billions to Goldman Sachs, encouraged AIG and the SEC to withhold that information from the public, looked [...]