Isn't it encouraging to see so much criticism of Barack Obama from the Left? I love seeing accountability, even for the supposed "Chosen One" we think of as our God.
The latest round of attacks on Obama from the Left is contained in this headline (In the context of the AIG Bonuses outrage): Obama forces Wagoner Out..Contracts only matter when they belong to WS.
I beg to differ.
First, in the case of Rick Wagoner being forced out as CEO of GM, you're talking about one person. A single person can be prevailed upon to behave a certain way for the good of the company, but getting 60 individuals to all agree to forgo their bonuses is an impossible task - there will be intransigent outliers, if only for the purpose of sticking it to the government. In any 60 people there's bound to be one Joe the Plumber, right? So, if even one refuses to give up the bonus willingly, then you're in a situation requiring the abrogation of contracts. Since they don't have the legal powers to do that, they don't try. If you haven't noticed, Obama's a cautious guy. The Administration does not attempt things they aren't very sure they're going to accomplish.
The alternative would be a name and shame technique, putting pressure on the individuals refusing to forgo the bonuses, but it would be seen as sicking violence on the poor Bankers. The mood out there is a little ugly, after all. It would be inappropriate for the government to direct it's power at individual citizens in this way.
Furthermore, they could easily be co-opted by the Republican Opposition. The Bankers are a smart, typically Republican demographic, and might well come up with the idea themselves. If a few of them simply refused, they could make the President look impotent. There could be a Joe the Plumber amongst them, as I said. It would be a drag, and it wouldn't recover the money from the real assholes anyway without abrogation of the contracts.
That's why these are different situations. The Left's criticism is unconvincing.
That said, I am a little nervous about Cognitive Regulatory Capture - the fact that our economic team (Summers and Geitner) comes from wall street predisposes them to wall street-centric solutions. We need to be vigilant on this issue to make sure they are doing the people's work, and not Goldman's.