One of the nastier comments to come out of the financial crisis is in the news today: Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, brings up suicide as an option for executives in failed financial firms.
From the AP story on Grassley (in an Iowa radio interview) joining the outcry over AIG executives receiving bonuses:
“I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed,” Grassley said. “But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they’d follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.
“And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology.”
As I said – nasty. Suicide is not something to treat lightly. I learned long ago, in some past economic down-cycle, that executives of failing businesses are truly in danger. Their companies’ collapse and personal financial losses can seem like the whole world falling apart. This remark lacks compassion and real-world perspective. It’s offensive toward American and Japanese executives.
Of course, we don’t expect much of our politicians – and Grassley is as entrenched as a politician can get, after 50 years in elective office. When the economy is in the dumps, those who fancy themselves populists always villainize the business people whose misjudgments or greed contributed to the economic crisis. But can’t politicians be civil, or at least humane?