Before I go any further, I want to say that IMO the idea of executives getting bonuses when they ran their businesses into the ground is abhorrent.
But the real test of principle is holding to the principle when it's distasteful, not when it's easy.
AIG promised those bonuses via contract over a year ago -- well before the crash occurred. As a contractual obligation, AIG was therefore under the same legal obligation to pay those bonuses as it was to pay the light bill. Obama's stimulus gave the company the solvency it needed to pay its bills.
Senator Dodd added an amendment to the stimulus bill that expressly protected bonuses promised to employees prior to Feb 11, 2009.
Now people are upset about those bonuses, the government is passing confiscatory taxes to take them back.
What concerns me here is an emerging trend by this administration to conduct "community organizing" on a national scale. There's a pattern emerging whereby they generate mass outrage, and then unleash that outrage against a target.
The trick is that people do things when they're angry that they might not do otherwise, because people don't think when they're angry. An angry mob can be easily steered wherever a clever leader wants it to go. This is the reason why the administration is always in a hurry to pass a particular agenda item -- it has to harness the mob's energy before it evaporates.
In this case, if you strip away the anger for a moment and look at what the other hand is doing, we're signing up to a huge precedent: the idea that if the government feels your employer is paying you too much, it is justified in confiscating that money from you. In other words, we're giving the government license to limit compensation employers give to employees.
We're OK with this right now, because we're angry and want to take out our rage against these people. But once the adrenaline is gone, we'll realize that we've just given the government a foot in the door to impose salary caps and use punitive taxes against individuals.
The other disturbing aspect of this is Barney Frank demanding a list of names of who received the bonuses. People are already making death threats. It disturbs me that the federal government that's managing through mob rule tactics is seeking the identities of people to target. What do you think is going to happen when the list goes public?
You can see it brewing -- a lynch mob being motivated by a drumbeat that being rich is a sin, and that people of substance need to be punished. I can see BMWs being keyed across the country and expensive homes being vandalized. The drummer is sounding the beat of class warfare in order to achieve a political agenda, and the mob is rapidly reaching critical mass whereby anyone who questions it is destroyed without consideration in a flood of emotion.
This isn't what America is about. We're supposed to be better than this.