What I'm really furious about, though, is the Senate response. One senator told them to "resign or commit suicide." When told about death threats--some quite explicit, detailing how the executives' entire families would be strangled with piano wire--one senator said he was "not concerned. Everyone gets mail like this." Others have said that as long as the executives return the bonuses, their names will not be made public. What the hell is that? It's like something out of The Sopranos! "I know they say they'll kill your family with piano wire if they find out who you are. All you have to do is give us the money and we'll make sure they don't find out." For the love of God, that's not even a veiled threat, it's right in the freaking open! It's called extortion, sir. I don't want my government involved in open blackmail.
Then there's the way this stomps all over the Constitution. There's a clause in there about how the government cannot issue bills of attainder--singling out a person or group for punishment without trial. What do you think a resolution demanding specifically that AIG executives return their bonuses is, if not a bill of attainder? There's also a clause that says the government cannot interfere in a valid contract, and that, I think is the most important part of the Constitution. The contract is the only thing that holds our society together, the idea that someone must fulfill their obligations once the terms are set. It's the thing that assures we deal with each other fairly and respectfully. How will business be done if we can't be sure the other party will deliver? If I work for a guaranteed bonus, like the AIG execs, why should I work if Congress can cancel the contract and see that I don't get compensated? How could I, as a business owner, be sure my supplier will come through if Congress can overturn our shipping contract? How are we supposed to keep functioning when all of our binding agreements become null and void when the government says so?
Oh, a sidebar: does anyone think, if AIG does give the bonuses back, that the Congress will really return them to the taxpayers? Or will they spend that money on a pet project? Honestly, what do you believe?
The whole situation is seeming less real to me now. It seems like a dream or a movie when a sitting senator of the United States tells people to "resign or commit suicide" or "give us the money or we'll give out your name so all the people threatening your life can find you." What's happening to this country?