Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taxation as punishment

While Congress is busy grabbing the torches and pitchforks over the AIG bonuses -- likely in an attempt to deflect attention from all the people that are mad as hell about Congress -- the Cato Institute is asking whether such punitive measures pass constitutional muster. I had similar questions when I first heard about this and emailed a lawyer friend of mine for clarification. Congress really is a modern day kangaroo court.

Update: More here. The whole thing is sickening.

Update: Mona Charen notes this disgusting bit of political theater:
[Rep. Barney Frank] demanded that Liddy reveal the names of the 73 executives who had received retention bonuses. Liddy said he would do so if he could receive a promise of confidentiality. Frank refused and threatened to subpoena the names. Liddy said if subpoenaed he would obey the law, but he then read to the committee some of the death threats his company had been getting over the past few days. Some threats spoke of hanging the executives with piano wire, others of finding where their kids went to school.

That is the sort of ugliness and criminality that Frank is willing tacitly to encourage by demanding the names. And for what? The bonuses amounted to just one tenth of 1 percent of the AIG bailout (to say nothing of the stimulus bill and the gargantuan budget bill Congress and the president are hanging around our necks). If politicians want to metaphorically flay away at evil businessmen, well, that's regrettable. But when they cross the line into encouraging the targeting of actual individuals, they are no longer "honorable gentlemen," but leaders of a mob.
I guess Congress would rather direct the mob's attention at someone other than themselves.

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