Saturday, March 21, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Rep. Joe Sestak was one of the 328 members of Congress who voted to impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on AIG executives who were paid according to their existing contracts.

Having voted for the mamouth spending bill that permitted such bonuses, it's safe to say the Joe Sestak was "for the bonuses before he was against them."

“These bonuses are an outrage and an insult to the American taxpayer," Sestak thundered in a press release, "and that’s why I voted today for this measure to recoup the American people’s money.”

Great. So why did he vote for the bill that contained the bonuses in the first place? It's safe to say that - like every other member of Congress - he didn't read it.

Isn't that an outage? Congressmen voting for bills they haven't even read?

How about a resolution that says "Our leadership in Washington is so pathetic that congressional salaries are now going to be taxed at a rate of 90 percent"?

How much support do you think that proposal would glean with the American people? With Congress' approval rating hovering at about 28 percent, we're guessing quite a bit.

Sestak claimed that "normally" he wouldn't for such a punative bill (one, that is patently unconstitutional and has no chance of withstanding judicial scrutiny) "but these are not normal circumstances."

Right. The rule of law no longer applies when an issue like this can be demagogued by populist nincompoops.

As for the AIG bonuses themselves, well, as much as they stink, there is an argument for them.

The best way to understand this is to think about post WWII Germany. When Patton marched in, he decided to leave the people who were running the railroads, phone systems, and other bureaucracies in place, even if they were members of the Nazi party. He did this to keep the country functioning and orderly. It cost Patton his command, but it worked.

Contrast that with the Bush Administration's decision to boot all the Baathists out of government when we took over Iraq. Seemed like a good idea at the time but it made getting the country back on its feet tougher, fed the insurgency and almost led to civil war.

These AIG guys aren't Nazis or Baathist thugs, but they did help create the mess we're in. Most of them have taken their lumps for it, financial and otherwise, and are looking for work. The ones who are left are in the best position to know what to do now within the company as it pays out billions to other financial institutions, winds down and restructures.

Joe Sestak hasn't been a congressman in Washington long enough to be blamed for any part of this financial crisis. But the leaders of his party have. And they have contributed mightily to creation of the housing bubble that trigged this house of cards to implode.

Sestak CAN be blamed for this particular bit of shamelessness. He could've been one of the grown-ups in Washington and pointed out that abrogating legal contracts is unlawful and un-American. Instead, he's chosen to be just another Democrat, following a party leadership that doesn't know the meaning of "responsibility."

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