Jake Desantis’s (public) letter to Edward Liddy in today’s New York Times is just one more attempt by the the real media elites — the conservatives of both parties — to quash public outcry over the legacy and abuses of Reaganomics.

Mr. Desantis takes the party line on the bonuses: the people who received them were not the law breakers, they were working hard to clean up the mess of a few bad apples, and they only decided to stay (a perfectly normal, self-interested decision) because they were promised this pay. He says, “I was raised by schoolteachers working multiple jobs in a world of closing steel mills. My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T., and the institute’s generous financial aid enabled me to attend. I had fulfilled my American dream.”

Indeed, he did live the “American dream” of the late 20th century. Without a doubt he voted Republican from 1980 to 2008, cheered all military engagements with the exception of Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia, and angrily denouced tax-and-spend liberals for wanting to ruin the economy. He says:

I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. … The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money.

Of course this entirely misses the point. The $100 in profits we know from hindsight were obscurely connected to the bubbles inflating all over the world. The “rising tide” that lifted all those boats ultimately rested on promises that could never be fulfilled — either as credit default swaps or slick ARMs or complex “financial instruments.” Real estate agents also made a killing during the bubble years, and that had nothing to credit default swaps, but it had everything to do with the culture of selfish mendacity that has crippled the global economy.

Only once does Desantis acknowledge any possible guilt he may feel from being a maker of the culture of greed that is now being publicly condemned:

I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.

Even here he has to qualify his outsized and unearned rewards by saying they were the product of “hard work,” and not luck or a system designed to defraud the credulous and enrich the faithless. (His after tax bonus was more than $750,000, which means the actual bonus was more than $1,000,000. ) The system was designed to take a little money from those without a lot of money, those who don’t have enough saved to weather a hurricain of bad luck — people with life-threatening illnesses, people whose houses and livelihoods have been destroyed by accident or someone else’s negligence — and pay to make them whole. That is what insurance is supposed to be. But Mr. Desantis and his fellows thought the money of those everyday people would be more wisely invested in building the Desantises a new house, buying them a boat, or sending their kids on a trip to Europe. The Desantises of the world thought their wealth was given by God, and not by the little people who struggle to get by every day. They were wrong. So do cry for A. I. G. Mr. Desantis. If you want to make it right, become a school teacher like your parents. Understand that there is more honor and true weath in integrity than all the riches of Croesus.

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