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The Unconstitutional AIG Bonus Tax

Written By : John Hawkins
March 19, 2009

“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.” — Daniel Webster

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Obama and Company have piled one mistake on top of another with AIG.

First off, they should have never pumped 173 billion dollars into AIG in the first place. At best, we should have used loans and insurance to help keep them solvent. At worst, we should have let them go under — but instead, the government chose to buy into AIG.

Then, Chris Dodd and the Obama Administration worked together to protect the bonuses at companies like AIG without realizing it would become a hot political potato down the line.

Next up, all hell broke loose over the bonuses, and we have all this posturing over these bonuses from the Democrats in Congress and in the Obama administration — as if they didn’t specifically work to make it possible for these bonuses to be paid out in the first place.

Now, in an effort to compound the stunning series of errors that led us to this point, the Democrats are planning to try to target these AIG executives with a special tax.

That is incredibly hypocritical, irresponsible. Targeting people’s incomes with a special tax because the public is mad at them opens up a rather dangerous can of worms as Jeb Hensarling explains,

“You know, this is the wrong instrument to go around and say [about] people that do things that are reprehensible, ‘I’m just going to tax them. Who’s up tomorrow? You know, a lot of my colleagues vote on reprehensible legislation — when I’m in power, should I vote to increase their taxes 100 percent?”

If we’re going to start playing this game, how about we aim a massive tax at former congressmen who lobby for a living — after all, lobbyists are supposed to be bad guys, right? Oh, and how about a 90% tax on people who make over a million dollars per year acting? After all, no one deserves that kind of money just to act and those guys are jerks anyway. Know who else we should tax into the ground? Employees of organizations that engage in voter fraud — I’m looking at you, ACORN.

Is this a road we want to go down?

Moreover, this would appear to be a crystal clear violation of Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution which reads in part,

“No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”

What’s a bill of attainder?

“A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment.”

They can dress it up any way they want, but clearly that’s what’s being done here — and no one who cares about the Constitution should support it.

PS: So if the GOP shouldn’t support this bill, what should they do? They should introduce legislation that will get the government out of AIG and any other company that pays out bonuses as soon as possible.

Why? Because we shouldn’t have bought into AIG and these other companies in the first place. This bonus issue isn’t just an issue with AIG; nor will it be the last issue that comes up because of the new nexus between government and the banking industry. The quicker we get our money back and get out, the quicker these sort of inevitable conflicts will happily fade into the rear view mirror.

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