Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Executive pay caps cut from the Stimulus Bill

Cenk Uygur Cenk Uygur Host of The Young Turks
Posted February 12, 2009 | 01:45 PM (EST)

Who Keeps Screwing Us Over?

I shouldn't be surprised by now. But I still was when I read the article this morning in the Washington Post explaining that the cap on executive pay has been removed from the stimulus bill. I knew what Congress was doing yesterday by bringing the Wall Street executives in and scolding them in public was a dog and pony show. But I had not realized how profoundly full of shit these politicians are.

They make a big display of yelling at the CEOs and then the very next day they quietly remove any cap on their compensation. These people are not on our side. This is why so many Americans are so damn frustrated. Everyone in power appears to be bought and paid for. There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.

I want to know -- no, I demand to know -- who killed this provision? Who argued for taking this cap on executive pay out of the stimulus bill? Do we have a free and strong press in this country? Or are they in on it, too? If not, then find out who did this to us.

The constant non-sensical argument is that if we cap their pay, they won't want to participate in this system. Ooh, don't scare us now. So, we won't get the most incompetent and corrupt losers in America to participate in their own rescue? I'm shivering thinking about the possibility of losing out on the help of these geniuses.

We're wasting our time here. Just nationalize the damn banks already. Almost all of the top economists are now in agreement that we should take this step. The people who put the money in are the people who own the company -- that's how capitalism works. I'm a die-hard capitalist. I don't want the federal government owning banks for an extended period of time. But what's worse is to continue letting these bankers rob us of our money day in and day out while we sit around like fools.

We buy it, we own it. Kick the clowns out. Run it for a limited amount of time while we stabilize the credit markets. And then sell them off in the free market. Instead of begging the bankers to loosen up credit, we take the banks and do it ourselves.

At the very least, it is unconscionable to get rid of these pay caps. On what grounds do these people think they deserve millions of dollars for bankrupting their companies? How is that capitalism? That's not capitalism, that's cronyism. They pay the politicians, the politicians pay them. They have perverted the whole system.

No way. No way. No way. We have to stop this. If we don't, I guarantee you that we will look back and realize that the bankers actually did the most amount of damage and ripped off the system for millions more after the TARP program started and we let them walk away with all the money after the companies were bankrupt.

As Joseph Stiglitz says, they are bleeding the banks right now. It's a zero sum game, every dollar they take out is a dollar we have to put in. Why are we paying them for their incompetence?

My favorite joke is when people say if we don't continue to pay these clowns millions of dollars they will take their talent elsewhere. I literally laughed out loud after writing that. Please, have at it hoss. Take your talent wherever the fuck you would like.

Is it possible that the Obama administration is behind this move? Absolutely. First, Tim Geithner is a complete Wall Street guy. He believes in protecting the Wall Street bubble. That's why they were ecstatic when he was selected. And Obama himself is a guy who is instinct is almost always to be conciliatory. If Wall Street says this is necessary, he's going to want to reach out and appease them to get things moving. But not this time. This is a conciliatory move we cannot abide.

I voted for Obama, but I did not loan out my intellect to him. I can still make up my own mind on whether he is right or wrong. And if he is participating in this, he is 100% wrong.

One last thing, the banks say that part of the stimulus cap on pay might be retroactive and that's not fair because that's changing the rules (I love how they're complaining about fairness now). They say that the banks might pull out of these deals if we change this rule on them now.

First, great, pull out. Where are you going to get the money elsewhere? Nowhere. It's the world's worst bluff. And even if they do, they run out of money. We are forced to nationalize them and we arrive at a better result anyway. Please make our day and don't take the money.

Second, on the retroactive issue. As one of our listeners pointed out, if a bank makes an error and deposits some money into your account that isn't yours and you spend it, you know what happens to you? You get arrested! We have covered numerous stories like this on the show. The bank accidentally puts in an extra $100,000 in someone's account. They spend it and they go to jail.

Here we have accidentally put too much into the bankers' accounts. I know it's too much because they took $18 billion of it home in bonuses instead of spending it on the problem at hand. If they spend it after we notify them of the error, they get arrested. They have to give the money back. It's what they do to their customers all the time.

Now, that's my solution. But that's not even in the bill. We should get that $18 billion back. But instead all we're asking for is that they not pay their executives more than $400,000 a year for being the worst businessmen in the country. Here's what I know as a fact -- that is not too much to ask for.

And if our politicians claim that is too much to ask for, then they are either the most pathetic weaklings around or they are in on the heist. Either way, if they don't put this back in the bill, they gotta go. Democrat or Republican, I don't care. If they don't understand the urgency of this, then they are not for us.

Every day we wait is another day they "bleed the banks." If there isn't a popular uprising to stop these guys from stealing our money, then we deserve what we get. The old saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. Are you going to be that fool?

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President Obama, quit kissing their ass

It is time for President Obama to quick kissing Republican ass. He has spent far too much time wining, dining, and reaching across the aisle to the conceited assholes. Again, no Republican support from a SINGLE republican House member. All of the concessions made in that bill, when it could have just been passed with out all the bullshit.

The Right-Wing is more interested in their political careers than in the stability, security, and livelihood of the American Citizens.

We need to get people to work, and rebuild this country into what it once was.

Write, call, e-mail, and fax your representatives. And more importantly, when your officials are up for re-election, remember how they voted.

Houses Passes Stimulus, Again Without Any Republicans

ANDREW TAYLOR | February 13,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, flanked by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., left, and Rep John Larson, D-Conn., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, after the House passed the stimulus legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — In a major victory for President Barack Obama, Democrats muscled a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill to the brink of final passage Friday night in hopes of combating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. The vote in the House was 246-183 for the package of tax cuts and federal spending that Obama made the centerpiece of his plan for economic recovery.

The Senate was following suit in a roll call that was without suspense but extended into the night. That was to allow time for Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown to fly back from Ohio, where his mother died earlier in the week. His was the decisive 60th vote for the bill.

Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.

Supporters said the measure would save or create 3.5 million jobs. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer conceded there was no guarantee, but he said that "millions and millions and millions of people will be helped, as they have lost their jobs and can't put food on the table of their families."

Vigorously disagreeing, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio dumped a copy of the 1,071-page bill to the floor in a gesture of contempt. "The bill that was about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that's about spending, spending, spending," he said. No House Republican voted for the measure.

The legislation, among the costliest ever considered in Congress, provides billions of dollars to aid victims of the recession through unemployment benefits, food stamps, medical care, job retraining and more. Tens of billions are ticketed for the states to offset cuts they might otherwise have to make in aid to schools and local governments, and there is more than $48 billion for transportation projects such as road and bridge construction, mass transit and high-speed rail.

Democrats said the bill's tax cuts would help 95 percent of all Americans, much of the relief in the form of a break of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. At the insistence of the White House, people who do not earn enough money to owe income taxes are eligible, an attempt to offset the payroll taxes they pay.

In a bow to political reality, lawmakers included $70 billion to shelter upper middle-class and wealthier taxpayers from an income tax increase that would otherwise hit them, a provision that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would do relatively little to create jobs.

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Also included were funds for two of Obama's initiatives, the expansion of computerized information technology in the health care industry and billions to create so-called green jobs the administration says will begin reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

Asked for his reaction to House passage of the bill, Obama said "thumbs up" and indeed gave a thumbs-up sign as he left the White House with his family for a long weekend in Chicago.

Congress cast its votes as federal regulators announced the closing of the Sherman County Bank in Loup City, Neb.; Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast in Florida, based in Cape Coral; and Corn Belt Bank and Trust Co. of Pittsfield, Ill. That raised to 12 the number of failures this year of federally insured banking companies _ the latest reminders of the toll taken by recession and frozen credit markets.

The day's events at the Capitol were scripted to allow Democratic leaders to fulfill their pledge to send Obama legislation by mid-February.

"Barack Obama, in just a few short weeks as president, has passed one of the biggest packages for economic recovery in our nation's history," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, anticipating final Senate passage.

The approval also capped an early period of accomplishment for the Democrats, who won control of the White House and expanded their majorities in Congress in last fall's elections.

Since taking office on Jan. 20, the president has signed legislation extending government-financed health care to millions of lower-income children who lack it, a bill that President George W. Bush twice vetoed. He also has placed his signature on a measure making it easier for workers to sue their employers for alleged job discrimination, effectively overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court's conservative majority.

Obama made the stimulus a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan even before he took office, but his calls for bipartisanship were an early casualty.

Republicans complained they had been locked out of the early decisions, and Democrats countered that Boehner had tried to rally opposition even before the president met privately with the GOP rank and file.

In retrospect, said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the White House wasn't "sharp enough" in emphasizing the benefits of the bill as Republicans began to criticize spending on items such as family planning services, anti-smoking programs and reseeding the National Mall.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faced a different task _ finding enough GOP moderates to give him the 60 votes needed to surmount a variety of procedural hurdles. To do that, he and the White House agreed to trim billions in spending from the original $820 billion House-passed bill, enough to obtain the backing of GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

As the final compromise took shape in a frenzied round of bargaining earlier this week, it was trimmed again to hold the support of the moderates, whose opposition to a new program for federal school construction caused anger among House Democrats.

In the end, a compromise was reached that allows states to use funds for modernizing schools. But in a display of displeasure, Pelosi decided to skip the news conference last Wednesday where Reid announced a final agreement.

In addition to tax relief for individuals and businesses who purchase new equipment, lawmakers inserted breaks for first-time homebuyers and consumers purchasing new cars in an attempt to aid two industries particularly hard-hit by the recession. In response to pressure from lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Indiana and elsewhere, the bill was altered at the last minute to permit the buyers of recreational vehicles and motorcycles to claim the same break as those buying cars and light trucks.

In the House, all 246 votes in favor were cast by Democrats. Seven Democrats joined 176 Republicans in opposition.


Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Ann Sanner and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Progressive Voices Silenced In Washington

As published in The Washington Post
Sunday, February 8

By: Bill Press

If you’re looking for a break from those conservative voices that dominate talk radio, take time out today to listen to local station Obama 1260 AM.

Providing a welcome relief from the constant Obama-bashing by Rush Limbaugh and others, you’ll hear the progressive voices of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Lionel – or, during morning drive, my own “Bill Press Show.” Unfortunately, today’s the last day you’ll be able to do so.

As first reported by the Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, Dan Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting Company, owner of Obama 1260, has announced plans to jettison all progressive talk and replace it with canned, pre-recorded financial advice programming.

The commercial use of public airwaves is supposed to reflect the local community. But not in Washington. On the AM dial, 630 WMAL features wall-to-wall conservative talk. So do stations 570 WTNT and 1580 WHFS. For the last two years, AM 1260 - even with a weak signal that can not be heard in downtown Washington – was the one exception. No longer. Starting Monday, February 9, our nation’s capitol, where Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans ten to one, will have no progressive voices on the air.

Or maybe one. In order to mollify critics, Red Zebra has said it will add Ed Schultz to its conservative line-up on 570 AM. Which means Shultz will be outgunned in this market by at least 15 conservative talkers: Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Chris Plante, Michael Smerconish, Michael Savage, Andy Parks, Fred Grandy, Bill Bennett, Monica Crowley, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Miller, and Lars Larsen. No matter how good Schultz is, that’s not a fair contest – nor a fair use of the public airwaves.

Unfortunately, what’s happening in Washington reflects what’s happened in one city after another across the country. In Miami, Clean Channel recently dumped progressive talk for sports: the same move made by Clear Channel stations in San Diego and Cincinnati. Sacramento abandoned progressive talk for gospel music. In fact, according to a study released by the Center for American Progress and Free Press, there are nine hours of conservative talk for every one hour of progressive talk.

Why? Station owners complain they can’t get good ratings or make any money with progressive talk, but that’s nonsense. In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF AM 950 profitably for five years. Madison’s 92.1 just scored its highest ratings ever. And Portland, Oregon’s KPOJ soared with progressive talk from #23 in market ratings to #1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings – and make money for their stations.

In fact, the only reason there’s not more competition on American airwaves is that the handful of companies which own most radio stations do everything they can to block it. In many markets – witness Philadelphia, Boston, Providence, or Houston – they join in providing no outlet for progressive talk. In others, as in Washington, they limit it to a crappy signal, spend zero dollars on promotion, and soon pull the plug.

In other words, there is no free market in talk radio today. The airwaves have been taken over by an oligopoly offering conservative talk only, which totally contradicts what commercial radio is supposed to offer.

Companies are given a license to operate public airwaves – free! – in order to make a profit, yes, but also, according to the terms of their FCC license, “to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance.” Stations are not operating in the public interest when they offer only conservative talk.

For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Reagan’s FCC cancelled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.

That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly-held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine - and bring competition back to talk radio.

Bill Press is working on a new book on talk radio.

Job losses

What 3.6 Million Jobs Lost Over 13 Months Looks Like

February 6th, 2009 by Karina

This chart compares the job loss so far in this recession to job losses in the 1990-1991 recession and the 2001 recession – showing how dramatic and unprecedented the job loss over the last 13 months has been. Over the last 13 months, our economy has lost a total of 3.6 million jobs – and continuing job losses in the next few months are predicted.

By comparison, we lost a total of 1.6 million jobs in the 1990-1991 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing; and we lost a total of 2.7 million jobs in the 2001 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing.

As President Obama said on February 5, 2009:

We can’t embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face; that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees. I don’t care whether you’re driving a hybrid or an SUV — if you’re headed for a cliff, you’ve got to change direction.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Americans save just when economy needs their money

It really is a catch 22. . . People who have lost their jobs can't spend, people who haven't lost their jobs are saving in case they loose their jobs. In the meantime, businesses are loosing money because people aren't spending, so more people are loosing jobs.

We really are stuck in a vicious cycle. Also, we were in a society where we maxed out our credit, and our mortgages to buy the things we wanted. Now that the banks are cinching up the credit, and our home values and retirement funds have dramatically decreased, where are we supposed to get money to spend?

So what can be done about it from our perspective as consumers?

Americans save just when economy needs their money

30 mins ago
WASHINGTON – Americans are hunkering down and saving more. For a recession-battered economy, it couldn't be happening at a worse time.
Economists call it the "paradox of thrift." What's good for individuals — spending less, saving more — is bad for the economy when everyone does it.
On Friday, the government reported Americans' savings rate, rose to 2.9 percent in the last three months of 2008. That's up sharply from 1.2 percent in the third quarter and less than 1 percent a year ago.
Like a teeter-totter, when the savings rate rises, spending falls. The latter accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity. When consumers refuse to spend, companies cut back, layoffs rise, people pinch pennies even more and the recession deepens.
The downward spiral has hammered the retail and manufacturing industries. For years, stores enjoyed boom times as shoppers splurged on TVs, fancy kitchen decor and clothes. Suddenly, frugality is in style.
Grace Case, 38, of Syracuse, N.Y., is a self-described recovering creditaholic. For 13 years, she charged it all — cars, clothes, repairs, vacations. She'd make only the minimum card payments to sustain her buying spree for her and her family, which includes her husband and two children.
But after being laid off 2 1/2 years ago from her job as an accountant, she landed another accounting job that cut her salary from $60,000 to $40,000. It was impossible to meet minimum payments on her card balances.
Now, the Cases are on a strict budget. They take "staycations," grow their own vegetables, buy only used cars and pre-pay cell phones. Case hasn't used a credit card in two years. And she's saving more.
"It's really a liberating feeling," she said. "If you want something, you have to have the money for it."
Many economists think the savings rate will keep rising, perhaps as high as 6 percent or more.
So where's the money going? To savings accounts? To debt reduction?
No one knows for sure. But Robert Frank, Cornell University economist, says it doesn't much matter.
"For economic purposes, paying off debt and saving are the same," he said. "Incurring debt is negative savings; paying down debt is savings."
He sees a long-term behavioral shift. He calls the spending of the past decade or more unsustainable.
"The only way people were able to (spend heavily) was by harvesting cash out of their home equity, which was just an illusion," Frank said.
The ripple effect has been brutal. The economy shrank at a 3.8 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2008, the worst showing in 26 years. The biggest reason was that consumer spending fell for a second straight quarter, something that hasn't happened since the 1990-91 recession.
Analysts believe the hard times will persist in 2009 as consumers, squeezed by layoffs and tighter credit, delay purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.
Some experts say consumers have been so shaken by how fast their wealth has shrunk, so burned by credit card debt, that they might not resume their robust spending for years, if ever.
"People are not saving; they are building financial bomb shelters," said Mark Stevens, who runs a management consulting firm, MSCO, in Rye Brook, N.Y.
Matthew Conrad, a financial manager at Complete Wealth Management in Orange County, Calif., says he knows of people who drive a BMW or Mercedes and eat macaroni and cheese for dinner several nights a week. That suggests some are making an awkward shift from free-spending habits and are reluctant to give them up.
Today's consumers might even start to rival their penny-pinching, Depression-era grandparents.
"The generation that lived through the Great Depression was very conservative in their spending and aggressive in savings," said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody's "I think we're going to have a set of consumers who are moving in that direction because they don't have that much faith in their assets."

Bailed Out Banks are Robbing Americans Blind

The TARP package (more appropriately know as the Bailout) continues to prove it has been one of the biggest robberies of American taxpayer money.

Maybe congress should have had a clue to what was coming when the execs showed up in private jets begging for money. Why were the auto execs questioned about arriving in jets and the Wall street thiefs were not?

We were told the funds from TARP were intended to free up the lending funds in order to make credit more accessable to employers, business, and lenders. None of which has happened.

Instead, the investment banking industry has had the 2nd poorest year in terms of performance, yet the execs have had the 6th best year in bonuses at $18.4 billion. Other execs at Merrill Lynch spent $1.2 million redecorating; including $87,000 for an area rug, and $1,400 for a trashcan.

They are asking for more bailout money! Someone needs to put an end to this. This is the most blatant robbery ever.

AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Banks collecting billions of dollars in federal bailout money sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.

The dozen banks receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers. As the economic collapse worsened last year — with huge numbers of bank employees laid off — the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in fiscal 2007 to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.

The AP reviewed visa applications the banks filed with the Labor Department under the H-1B visa program, which allows temporary employment of foreign workers in specialized-skill and advanced-degree positions.

It is unclear how many foreign workers the banks actually hired; the government does not release those details. The actual number is likely a fraction of the 21,800 foreign workers the banks sought to hire because the government limits the number of visas it grants to 85,000 each year among all U.S. employers.

During the last three months of 2008, the largest banks that received taxpayer loans announced more than 100,000 layoffs. The number of foreign workers included among those laid off is unknown.

Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

White House, Senate take aim at Wall Street bonuses

By Susan Cornwell
Friday, January 30, 2009; 3:47 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington moved to crack down on Wall Street bonuses on Friday as a Democratic senator proposed capping employee salaries at companies receiving government aid and the White House pledged action from President Barack Obama as well.

Sen. Claire McCaskill proposed a law that would prevent executives from making more money than the U.S. president -- $400,000 a year -- until their companies no longer rely on government aid such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that bails out banks.

McCaskill, a close ally of Obama who represents Missouri, announced her legislation a day after the president said he was outraged by a report of some $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses being paid while taxpayer money was being used to shore up the crumbling financial system.

At the White House, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president's upcoming plan for financial stability also would address executive compensation and bonuses.

"I think you will see the president and his economic team outline a plan to deal with what he found irresponsible yesterday," Gibbs told reporters. "Stay tuned, because something on that is coming soon." He declined to say more.

Obama on Thursday said recent Wall Street bonuses in the current situation were "shameful." His administration is working on options to help stabilize the U.S. banking industry after various experts have said the $700 billion already allocated to the bank rescue program in recent months will not be enough.


The head of the Congressional Budget Office told Congress this week he thought U.S. banks would need hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Public outcry has grown over reports of corporate excess by companies getting bailout funds, including Citigroup Inc, which intended to purchase a private jet, and bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch & Co, now owned by Bank of America Corp.

Citigroup later canceled the plane order. Bank of America's Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis ousted former Merrill chief John Thain this month after Merrill awarded large bonuses just days before the merger closed, and following huge losses that led Bank of America to obtain $20 billion of government aid to absorb Merrill.

McCaskill, an early endorser of Obama's presidential candidacy, gave an angry speech on the Senate floor Friday in which she said an average of $2.6 million dollars had been paid in bonuses to executives from the first 116 banks that got money from the TARP rescue plan.

"I am mad," she said. "We have bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer. ... They don't get it!"

Her office said the $400,000 compensation cap she was proposing would include salary, bonuses and stock options.

"We should have done it in the first place," McCaskill said of the proposed salary cap, "but I don't think any of us thought these guys were this stupid."

Obama is also working with Congress to pass a stimulus plan of over $800 billion in tax relief and government spending to try to revive the moribund economy.

(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Brian Moss)

Nobody needs an office decorated with greed


It was the wastebasket.

That did it for me.

No, you can't justify $87,000 for a rug and you can't justify $35,000 for a commode -- yes, a commode -- but you really, really can't explain $1,400 for a wastebasket.

Made out of parchment.

Who buys a wastebasket that can catch fire faster than the trash inside it?

These were just some of $1.22-million decorating expenses incurred by John Thain, the former chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch who was ousted after merging with Bank of America for hiding last-quarter losses of around $15 billion.

Fifteen billion in losses?

That's a lot of wastebaskets.

Yet that didn't stop Thain from whining about his dismissal, it didn't stop him from seeking a $10-million bonus for himself, and it didn't stop him from rushing out billions -- yes, again, billions -- in bonuses for his executives even as he was taking billions of our taxpayer money for a bailout.

Honestly. Where do you begin with this guy?

Trying to justify things

Let's begin here, with Thain's lame attempt to explain himself in an interview with CNBC.

When a reporter asked why he felt a need to redecorate the office after inheriting it from his predecessor in late 2007, Thain said this:

"Well, heh, um, his office was very different, uh, than, uh, the, the general decor of, uh, Merrill's offices. Uh, it really would have been, uh, very difficult, uh, for, uh, me to use it in the form that it was in."

The "uh's" say it all. Come on. How bad could an ex-CEO's office be? Were there dead animals in there? Dry rot? Mold?

"So in an environment where jobs are being cut and clearly salaries are being cut and the firm is reporting all of these losses," the CNBC reporter asked, "did it occur to you at some point ... 'I'd better to put this off?' "

"Remember," Thain shot back, "this was back in, it really started in, December of '07, so the financial industry hadn't melted down yet. I had every expectation that Merrill Lynch would be a large, successful company."

So, in his mind, that would have justified $1.22 million on decorating. Because profits would be up. Stock price would be high. And people like Thain could do whatever they wanted to do. He could order an $18,000 George IV desk because, after all, he was a king himself, wasn't he?

And therein lies the problem. Even as he is being pasted in the media, Thain (whose corporate nickname was once I-Robot) doesn't get why he can't still be a Master of the Universe, where CEOs rule the game because they're smarter, faster and, doggone it, richer than the rest of us.

Of course, Thain ran off for a ski vacation when news emerged that his company lost billions. So I guess "braver" isn't one of his adjectives.

Make an example of all of 'em

Now, Thain is hardly the only CEO dipped in a sense of privilege. True, he was paid a whopping $83 million in 2007 and stood to earn as much as $120 million last year, so you'd think he could have purchased his own $16,000 coffee table.

Instead, when things went sour, he still wanted his bonus. He blamed the economy for the losses. Of course, he never credited the economy when everything was shooting up. Then it was somehow just his brilliance.

Or maybe it was the commode.

Either way, he needs to be held up and lambasted. Sure, he points to other companies, he claims this is par for the course in Wall Street, he wonders, why pick on him?

Which reminds me of a scene in the movie "Stand By Me" where a young hero pulls a gun on a gang of thugs led by Keifer Sutherland. Sutherland says, "What are you gonna do, shoot all of us?"

And the kid says, "No ... only you."

For now, begin with Thain. Shame him, deride him, hold him up and then move on to the next guy who does this, because the spineless nature of these guys will quickly emerge: They all want to be rich; none of them wants to be humiliated.

We have endured such shameless behavior before (remember Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski and his $6,000 shower curtain?), but in this New Depression, it can't be tolerated and it can't be sloughed off. Enough is enough. If they won't stop this elitist immorality, the government should make them.

Remember, it's our money being given out. And $1 million could be 20 middle-class jobs, 20 Americans who wouldn't have to sell their homes or pull their kids from college -- just so the Thains of the world can toss their trash into parchment.