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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why Are White Southerners Hostile Toward AIG?

Birmingham is home to a company called AIG Baker Shopping Center Properties. The first three letters of that name are proving to be bad both for business and public relations in the Bush recession.

In fact, the company's president says his workers have received threats from people who now recognize AIG as the poster child for bad corporate behavior.

Given that most of AIG Baker's properties are located in prosperous suburban areas, our guess is that those threats came from white folks. And given that white suburbanites tend to vote GOP, particularly in the Deep South, our guess is that those threats came from Republicans.

All of which means the threats make no sense. More on that in a moment.

But first, a few words about AIG Baker's problems, as reported in The Birmingham News. The shopping-center developer has a relatively loose connection to AIG, the insurance giant that has received $182.5 billion in government bailout funds. AIG's problems became national news when it started running out cash after its complicated derivatives deals imploded.

An agreement calls for the insurer's AIG Global Real Estate unit to provide cash for overhead and tenant improvements at AIG Baker's retail developments. The partnership used to be a hit, and it helped AIG Baker develop more than 20 million square feet of projects in 25 states. In fact, Mrs. Schnauzer and I can almost throw a rock from our house and hit two AIG Baker developments--The Village at Lee Branch and Brook Highland Plaza.

But the AIG partnership turned sour when the insurer started hemorrhaging cash and stopped funding subsidiaries as it had in the past. AIG Baker has been forced to lay off 60 percent of its employees, delay new projects, and forgo tenant improvements.

"Because the AIG funding has not been there, we have not been able to make many lease deals that require tenant improvements," President Alex Baker said.

Which brings us back to those threats that have been directed at AIG Baker employees, apparently because of pent-up hostility toward AIG.

If I were an AIG Baker employee on the receiving end of such a threat, I think I would have a few words for my tormentor. I would say something like this:

"Excuse me, but did you vote Republican in the past eight years? Specifically, did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004?"

My tormentor, probably a white suburbanite, almost certainly would croak, "Yes."

"Well then," I would say, "what's your beef? AIG did what corporations always do when conservative Republicans are in charge. They took advantage of lax regulation and pro-greed policies and screwed regular Americans to the wall.

"You should have known this would happen when you voted for Bush. The same stuff happened with the savings-and-loan scandals in the 1980s under Reagan. It happened in the lead-up to the Great Depression under Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. It happened under several conservative administrations in the late 1800s."

Assuming this might cause my tormentor some pause, I would fire one last dagger.

"Instead of threatening me, why don't you take time to consider the real reason we are in this mess. You can do that by going home and looking in the mirror."

If I worked for AIG Baker, such comments probably would get me fired. But I'm sure I would feel better from getting that load off my chest.

1 comment:

Dale said...

I am not hostile at AIG as a white southerner, I am hostile at any Demon-Republicrat that regularly screws us hard working folks to the wall via high taxes and empire building.