So with little argument and a 300-plus majority, Congress yesterday voted to tax bonuses given by companies (read “A.I.G.”) funded under TARP at 90%, thus recovering the multi-million dollar awards to anyone in these companies earning over half a million bucks in regular income. The fact that this was targeted at TARP recipients in general was an attempt to generalize the law… and not make it, as it clearly is, a focused punishment of a particular company.
Essentially, this is what is referred to as a Writ or Bill of Attainder, and which is specifically banned in the Constitution.
A bill of Attainder is legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial. Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3 specifically states: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed.”
James Madison, writing in the Federalist Papers (Number 44) in 1788 stated:
“Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community.”
The complaints of a majority of Americans against the contracts agreed to by A.I.G. (and, for that matter, Fanny and Freddie) are solid and reasonable, but taxing them in this specific manner is likely to be unconstitutional.
Congress is really trying to cover up its unfortunate involvement in letting all this happen in the first place… a triumph of hpocrisy.
There had better be another, legal solution.