AIG bonus and congressional posturing
By Ken Kemnagum Okorie
Special to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
Few events in recent times have showcased Washington DC in its true political color as did the AIG bonus debacle of March-April 2009. Washington is truly a circus of posturing where actors overindulge in childish gotcha. Seemingly, the singular motivation is to impress constituents as the good guy watching out for Main Street. But is that really true?
On March 19, 2009, the House of Representatives hurriedly passed a bill that will use punitive 90% taxation to recover much of the $165 million bonus from AIG executives. The Senate is positioning for its scene in this laughable comedy later this week or next.
To my mind, every lawmaker who votes for this bill should either resign or be impeached for gross negligence and reckless disregard and violation of the US Constitution they are sworn to support and defend.
Article 1 Section. 9 Clause 3 of the Constitution says: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. Bill of Attainder is law that targets a particular person or group. Ex Post Facto Law is law that either punishes someone for an act that was not illegal when it was committed or imposes more severe punishment than existed at the time the offense was committed. Except for public outrage under prevailing economic crunch, today’s face-saving scampering in Congress falls flat on both scores.
A recipient of the AIG bonus should be able to get the nearest JP court to declare this law unconstitutional, not to talk of the Supreme Court. So far President Obama has shown the better judgment over the AIG bonus than the political hyenas at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. I hope he uses his veto to stop this madness of a bill from becoming law.
The real question is: Why were legislators not as agitated when AIG first came calling last Fall, when Obama was yet fighting for his political life against onslaught from within and without his party? Was the Democratic majority too naïve to realize what was amiss? Were Republicans too blind seeing no wrong in George W. Bush to care? Did politicians of both parties deem Americans too lacking in substance to understand?
Washington does not need another legislation to deal with the AIG bonus. They needed only to look at existing law, especially contract law for viable answers. As representatives of the taxpayers controlling overwhelming interest in AIG, the government could use the instrumentality of corporate decision-making, as routinely exercised in boardrooms and shareholder meetings. Obviously such approach would not be sufficiently sexy or expedient.
In the midst of the worst economic slump of our time, legislature that expends so much effort over $165 million when we have invested hundreds of billions in bailouts is not my model of being either serious or responsible. Okorie, an attorney, is a member of the editorial board of USAfrica The Newspaper and USAfricaonline.com. Responses are welcome and will be published. He also wrote exclusively for USAfrica: Is Obasanjo endangering Nigeria’s democracy? and the Saga in Anambra, Obasanjo and Nigeria’s federalism