Pelosi's Double Standard
By Howie Rich
Along with President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was at the forefront of a group of Washington politicians bashing the executives of American International Group this week.
Bolstered by $170 billion in federal bailout funds (for which the government received an 80% stake in the company) – AIG announced plans to award $165 million in executive bonuses to its employees.
“Unconscionable,” Pelosi said of the bonuses.
“I call upon the executives at AIG to right the wrong they have done to American taxpayers,” Pelosi continued, adding that the company's employees “should renounce the bonuses.”
Makes sense, doesn't it?
After all, it's corporate greed run amok, isn't it?
Yet while swinging at the low-hanging fruit-of-the-week, Pelosi whiffed on a more critical count of credibility.
Aside from the fact that government has no business picking winners and losers in our economy – or in our society, for that matter – there's something that rings particularly hollow as it relates to Pelosi's righteous indignation about these “bonuses.”
First of all, Pelosi defended Congressional pay raises in this same economic climate just a few short months ago, including a $6,100 (or 2.8%) raise for her.
Also, it was due primarily to Pelosi's leadership that the taxpayer-financed floodgates were opened to AIG in the first place – and it was Pelosi and many of those politicians now decrying AIG who refused to place sufficient accountability provisions in the bailout legislation to begin with.
But those hypocrites are sadly all too common in a Capital that is becoming more like Nero's Rome with each passing day.
Of course, there's one area where Pelosi's antics have crossed the line from garden variety doublespeak to a potentially debilitating double standard.
When it was revealed that Pelosi's aides – like famous hip hop entertainers – were demanding access to taxpayer-funded luxury corporate jets such as the Gulfstream G-5 to ferry them across the country, a raw public nerve was struck, one that tingled far beyond the usual universe of outrage.
Adding fuel to the fire was the way Pelosi's staff apparently bossed our military personnel around regarding the use of these $60 million planes.
"It is my understanding there are no G-5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable . . . The speaker will want to know where the planes are," an aide to Pelosi wrote to military staffers.
Informed by military personnel on one occasion that a G-5 would not be made available to the Speaker, a Pelosi staffer sniped back, saying "this is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset speaker."
Pelosi was also reportedly in the habit of demanding that G-5s be made available for her use, only to break her reservations and leave the military – and the taxpayers – holding the bag.
Needless to say, revelations about Pelosi's G-5 addiction have been a huge embarrassment for the Speaker – and not just on conservative blogs.
“Britney Spears may have nothing on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's diva demands,” read the NBC headline story.
Wire service briefs also populated the story all across the country.
Admittedly, Pelosi's salary increase and the excessive use of these luxury aircraft is small potatoes compared to the trillions being blown on her and Obama's unprecedented bureaucratic expansion.
Yet while her jet-setting clearly isn't going to bankrupt the nation, it's precisely the sort of thing that brings America's deplorable financial condition into focus.
It also showcases the individual bankruptcy of our leaders, who are padding their personal salaries and demanding expensive perks at a time when millions of families are being foreclosed upon, losing their jobs and watching their life savings evaporate in the stock market.
Accordingly, the real story isn't that Pelosi is wasting our tax money, or even bossing our servicemen and women around, it's that she is so brainwashed by the Beltway culture in Washington that she sees absolutely nothing wrong with her conduct.
In fact, she lashes out at anyone who criticizes her as “playing politics.”
The truth is that Pelosi's actions are every bit as “unconscionable” as those of the AIG executives she's criticizing.
And the fact she doesn't “get it” makes her even more contemptible.
Now more than ever, America needs decisive leaders – not demanding divas – in its positions of public trust.
The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.