Last week, taxpayers found out that of the $173 billion we have generously bailed out AIG with, around $165 million was used to pay “retention bonuses.” If my math is correct, that comes out to a little less than one tenth of one percent of the total sum of AIG’s bailout.
This one tenth of one percent has been expressly singled out by the House of Representatives as waste that should be subject to a 90% tax. In passing the tax, the House nicely glossed over the fact that these retention bonuses are a contractual obligation of AIG and that Congress, seemingly at Senator Dodd’s insistence, explicitly condoned these payments in the terms of the bailout.
Those pesky facts aside, there is a constitutional hurdle that the House’s 90% tax will have to jump over—the infrequently used bill of attainder clause. Before the Senate takes up this tax for consideration, I’d like to propose another bill of attainder, since they seem to be all the rage today. If Congress can demand that the taxpayers “recoup” the money that has been “wasted” on AIG’s employee bonuses, can’t the taxpayers demand to recoup the money that Congress has wasted?
Consider the $410 billion omnibus bill that President Obama signed earlier this month. Within that bill were 9,500 earmarks containing between $5.5 and 7.7 billion in pork. Even giving Congress the benefit of the doubt, that comes out to at least 1.34% of our money being wasted, ten times more money wasted on a percentage basis (and 33 times more on a dollar basis) than the AIG bonuses. While a 90% tax on AIG’s bonuses would recoup around $150 million for the taxpayers (from other taxpayers, of course—got to spread that wealth), recouping 90% of Congress’s waste in the Omnibus Bill alone would save just under $5 billion! So please, call your senators and ask that if they’re so interested in saving taxpayer dollars all of a sudden, would they mind going about it the constitutionally acceptable way?