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By Jay Cost

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Obama Signs Omnibus, Blasts AIG

An interesting contrast. The President was choked with anger over the fact that AIG has distributed $165 million in bonuses.

But I have to ask: how much money was "wasted" in the recent omnibus spending bill? That's an impossible figure to pin down, as waste is in the eye of the beholder, but there was $7.7 billion spread across 8,570 earmarks. So, I'm guessing we could find $165 mil that's pretty suspect. We might start by searching through the millions that administration officials sponsored when they were still in Congress.

Yet, the President signed the omnibus, anyway. And this is what he said during the presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi:

John, nobody is denying that $18 billion [in earmarks] is important. And, absolutely, we need earmark reform. And when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.

But the fact is that eliminating earmarks alone is not a recipe for how we're going to get the middle class back on track.

Mr. Obama's was a breezily dismissive tone: small potatoes, not worth all the commotion. Calm down, John.

Now he's worked up about AIG? Pardon my skepticism.

Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of businesses wasting taxpaying money on things that do not benefit the public good. But this is a trifle compared to the indefensible waste that members of Congress appropriate every year to secure reelection.

This looked like a stunt: political theater designed to reinforce the idea that corporate irresponsibility is to blame for the economic meltdown, keep from losing a few news cycles, and hopefully inoculate the President in case the public turns its angry gaze to his administration.

Let's just hope that the President did not actually do this:

Then he announced that he had instructed his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, to seek "every single legal avenue available to block" $165 million in bonuses that were awarded last week to the very same traders at AIG's Financial Products division who made the bad bets in the first place.

I think Mr. Geithner has too much actual work to do - like salvaging the banking system - to be a prop in Mr. Obama's campaign.

-Jay Cost