The Democrat-controlled House voted Thursday to tax the controversial AIG bonuses at a confiscatory 90% rate. This constitutes an illegal bill of attainder, which is specifically prohibited under the Constitution:
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
And yet this is exactly what the House did, a sad number of Republicans siding with the Democrats in a frenzy of panic and populism. (Ai! What’s with that culero Cantor? I thought he was one of the smart guys! -Tito You got me, pal. Very disappointing.)
Let’s make clear what just happened here: the lower house of the United States Congress just targeted a specific, unpopular group of people and punished them by taking their money, all without benefit of a trial and due process of law.
If this bill passes, is signed into law, and survives the almost certain court challenge, it will mean that no person or group in America is safe from the pitchforks and torches of the mob and their hangmen in Congress. Oil companies? Landlords? Gays? Religious minorities? Old men who wear dark socks with shorts? No problem. If Congress can get away with this, then no group or individual that is unpopular for any reason is safe.
It’s immaterial whether we like the AIG bonuses or not: they are legally contracted obligations and have to be honored. Congress and the administration have known about the bonuses for weeks and months —and approved them in the Stimulus bill. Their outrage over the past week is a sham, and this bill is nothing but a sickening attempt to cover themselves and avoid blame for the situation they created.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: the United States is a nation founded on the rule of law. Contained within that rule are, among others, two core principles: the sanctity of contracts and equal protection under the law. This bill takes those two bedrock ideas that underlie our entire system and shoots them in the head. It does nothing less than rip up the Constitution and lets mob passions rule the day.
It turns our constitutional republic into a banana republic.
I’m not surprised the Democrats went along with this; they’re busy trying as hard as they can to divert the public’s anger from their role in creating this whole mess, from CRA to the bailouts to the bonuses. And for the last few years I’ve had growing doubts about their commitment to democracy as we understand it. (Card check, anyone? Secret ballots? Who needs them?)
But I’m very disappointed in the Republicans who voted for this travesty: what happened to the principle of a "small government of limited, defined powers," guys? What about due process? What about the Constitution itself? You didn’t vote for the stimulus. You didn’t create CRA. There was no need to wet yourselves like this.
Thankfully, Senator Kyl of Arizona had the sense to put a hold on the bill and thus slow this runaway train before the wreck is complete. Let’s hope it comes to a full stop in the Senate and that our elected leaders recover their wits and remember their oaths:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Maybe they need a refresher.
LINKS: More at Power Line (and here), Fausta, and Blue Crab Boulevard. Sister Toldjah has a related piece on Senator Cornyn of Texas ripping into the administration. No more cocktails and wagyu beef for him, I bet. Charles Krauthammer on the bonfire of the trivialities. Steyn is brutal. Jennifer Rubin points out other obvious problems that escaped these constitution-busting braniacs.