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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?
Not a long ago I was a planning to write a critique of Obama’s plan to reinstate a federal assault weapons ban. Thankfully, however, Democrats in Congress have already done an end-run around Obama and handed conservatives what may be our first decisive victory since the last election. By quoting NRA talking points in whole-verse, Reid and Pelosi did not just turn their backs on Holder yesterday, they turned, mule-kicked him into oncoming traffic and ran for their lives in a single, satisfyingly deft motion that one only sees when a politician beats a hasty retreat.
Reid and Pelosi’s actions should not have surprised any of us—Democrats around in 1994 remember well the bloodbath that ensued after their first attempt to take Americans’ right to defend themselves. This episode reminds us that conservative ideals still have power. The collective action of Americans joining the NRA and purchasing a gun (or two, or ten) since Obama’s election and called their representatives put a swift end, for now, to the Democrats’ latest effort to wrest control of peoples’ lives from their own hands and place it in Washington.
Although the Democrats’ actions were likely the result of political calculations, there are a number of reasons that Americans everywhere should rejoice in this conservative victory. First, as the Supreme Court held last year in Heller, the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to self-defense and prevents the government from banning any “class of ‘arms’ that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.” Any AWB would fly in the face of this holding as semi-automatic rifles (which are NOT machine guns…a post for another day, I suppose) are definitely a premier weapon of choice for self-defense.
Second, there seems to be little reason for reinstating the AWB. AG Holder said that one of the goals of a new AWB would be to alleviate violence in northern Mexico. Leaders who swear to uphold the Constitution should not use another country’s problems to curtail the rights of Americans. Further, “assault weapons” are used in around 1% of all violent crime in America, and violent crime rates have held steady or even declined in most jurisdictions since the last ban was phased out in 2004. AG Holder seems to be proposing a solution without really identifying a problem.
Finally, a new AWB would leave Americans more defenseless and reliant on an ever-expanding government to protect them in their own homes. Studies have shown that firearms are used in self defense more than 2.5 million times per year in America, and while many proponents of the AWB say that no one needs semi-automatic rifles to defend themselves (although, imagine if such a needs-based test were applied to people’s First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendment rights!), stories emerging from the L.A. riots and Hurricane Katrina show us that when someone needs an “assault weapon,” they really need it.
This is a big win for every American who believes in the right to defend himself and his loved ones. Hopefully, the Republican Party can take note of the grass roots elements that led to this victory.