Santelli: AIG Bonuses Only Millions, Let's Focus on Billions and Trillions

Since his now-famous Chicago Tea Party outburst from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in February, CNBC’s Rick Santelli had seemingly disappeared from the spotlight.


However, on CNBC’s March 17 “Squawk Box,” Santelli, using similar theatrics, noted that the Obama administration as been very concerned about $165 million in bonuses paid out to American International Group (AIG) executives, even though they were recipients of bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).


“Well, I mean it seems as though the administration really hit this one head on. They’re not happy about it, right?” Santelli said.


In a speech on March 16, President Barack Obama called it an “outrage” and said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was pursuing “legal avenues” to block the bonuses. In Santelli’s view, Obama seemed to be worrying about millions, instead of the billions and trillions.


“Now think about it this way – maybe I’m missing something, but the outrage seems to be about ‘M’s – millions of dollars, right? Hundred and sixty five dollars, OK?” Santelli said, as he drew a large capital “M” on a sheet of paper. “I would think that it should be looked at as a pretty big positive because when you go from the ‘M,’ maybe you should try to go to the ‘B’s – which is the billions of dollars. And maybe that’s going to even enlighten for the ‘T’ – trillions of dollars.”


“Squawk Box” co-host Becky Quick suggested the outrage wasn’t over the $165 million amount, but the “rewarding of bad behavior.” Yet, Santelli thought the bonus issue was being used to resonate with the average American, instead of attempting to examine the much larger pools of money.


“Don’t you think that this dynamic – the average guy reading his newspaper – is really starting to be in-tune with this?” Santelli said. “And, I think bonuses really strike a chord as to the dynamic you’re talking about. But there’s many degrees of intensity if one really wants to shine the light on the money that’s being scrutinized. You know, there’s ‘M’s, there’s ‘B’s, and then there’s ‘T’s. I just want to know what people think.”


Quick still insisted the fact the AIG were receiving bonus money was outrageous, but Santelli put the amount of money in perspective – 16 cents versus $165. 

“They’re the catalyst,” Santelli added. “But I guess I still think, and a lot of people I talk to think 16-and-a-half cents maybe important, but $165-and-half is pretty darn important, too.”