Wreck Company, Earn Bonus

10 other ways we should reward reckless behavior

By SHARE

At AIG, the hotshots who lost a staggering $41 billion in 2008 and injected poison into the world’s financial arteries are in line to earn at least $165 million in bonuses. Merrill Lynch, which lost nearly $28 billion last year, insists it must still pay $3.6 billion in bonuses to hundreds of dealmakers.

[See the real harm caused by the AIG bonuses.]

In the rest of the economy, we’ve had it wrong all these years. We’ve been paying people to do a good job, not to wreak havoc. By Wall Street’s logic, here are some of the new incentives we should institute across the economy:

Teacher slack-off bonus. Many people feel teachers are underpaid. Here’s how to fix that. Instead of dreaming up controversial ways to reward teachers for raising test scores and student aptitude, let’s pay them extra for every kid who gets a failing grade or falls through the cracks. The biggest bonuses would go to teachers who persuade their students to quit school altogether and join a drug gang.

[See why the Merrill bonuses are a watershed moment.]

Gas-guzzler giveaway. We’re not doing enough to subsidize the biggest SUVs. Congress should enact graduated tax credits for monster vehicles. The bigger the truck, the more you get back. This alone could breathe new life into General Motors’s wheezing Hummer brand, and maybe even save GM.

Just-in-time healthcare incentive. Enact prohibitively high costs for preventive care, so that patients wait until they’re highly incapacitated to deal with lacerations, illnesses, worrisome lumps and blood in the wrong place. The longer you wait to see a doctor, the less the visit costs. If you die within 24 hours of seeing the doc, the government covers all your medical costs.

Working-parent negligence bonus. Forget childcare. Working parents should start leaving their kids at home by themselves once they’re toddlers. The government will reimburse the cost of emergency room visits.

[Read about more outrage over the Merrill bonuses.]

Diabetes Now! vouchers. The government will distribute vouchers redeemable for unlimited amounts of soda and junk food. A big tax break awaits parents able to produce an obese diabetic by the age of 21.

Sports-betting bonanza. In addition to whatever they can earn by throwing the game, professional athletes with the most decisive flub in each game will get 20 percent of the gate receipts. This would lead to a highly profitable derivatives market in sports gambling, where people bet not just on the outcome of the game but on which athlete will take the prize of shame.

The gross-out dating game. The crudest guy gets the girl. A natural for reality TV.

[See 5 Wall Street fallacies.]

Budget-buster bonus. This prize goes to the member of Congress able to get the most egregious pork passed by his or her fellow trough-feeders. Award money totals $1 million per bill passed. Hey what the heck, make it $1 billion. To be financed by those fools in Asia who will buy any security that says “U.S. government” on it.

Bogus terrorist bounty. The CIA will fund this payout for any informant who provides information that distracts America from finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Bounty is doubled if the tip involves “bringing democracy” to nations that aren’t asking for it.

Personal Debt X Prize. This goes to any consumer able to rack up so much debt that he becomes “too big to fail.” Winning entrants will be those who spend so much money, regardless of their income, that it would cause a chain reaction of retail and banking failures if they put away their credit cards, leaving a government bailout as the only course of action. Only one bailout per contestant. Former AIG and Merrill Lynch employees ineligible.

TAGS:
AIG, Inc.
Merrill Lynch
  • Rick Newman

    Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success and the co-author of two other books. Follow him on Twitter or e-mail him at rnewman@usnews.com.