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Pitchforks for Populists

THE WHITE HOUSE’S CALCULATED SYMPATHY with the public outcry over the AIG bonuses and the bills now winding through Congress that would tax up to 90 percent of any bonus paid to executives earning in excess of $250,000 is a jolting reminder that whatever business leaders do or say, as far as the Democrats in …

THE WHITE HOUSE’S CALCULATED SYMPATHY with the public outcry over the AIG bonuses and the bills now winding through Congress that would tax up to 90 percent of any bonus paid to executives earning in excess of $250,000 is a jolting reminder that whatever business leaders do or say, as far as the Democrats in power are concerned, business still retains both horns and the tail of the devil.

Putting aside Treasury Secretary Geithner’s dissimulation about his foreknowledge of the bonuses or the fact that he was slow to point out that the folks receiving them are different from those who got AIG into the mess in the first place, can there be anything less edifying than New York’s attorney general Andrew Cuomo threatening to make public the names of bonus recipients if they don’t agree to return the payments? (One would think such extra-legal bullying is worthy only of Hugo Chavez but it was also the hallmark of Cuomo’s predecessor, Eliot Spitzer.) Stoking the public’s natural outrage and pushing unconstitutional retroactive taxes on pay are transparently cynical ploys to deflect Congress’s own responsibilities in this affair. Public anger ought to aimed more at D.C. than AIG. When government gets to decide your pay, it controls your decision making.

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