Friday, March 20, 2009

Two-Edged Corruption

I have been rough on President Obama’s clumsy and unethical job performance since he took office, and I have – quite reasonably – excoriated the Democrats on their unconscionable behavior since they seized power in 2006. Some people have taken heart from these scandals, though, believing that the American people will punish the Democrats for their corruption and re-install the Republicans into the House majority in 2010 and the White House in 2012. Unfortunately, that belief fails on two points. First, emotions of the moment do not necessarily carry over to political consequences, which is why politicians are reluctant to apologize or watch their steps in the early days after they are elected. But second, change is not automatically an improvement, something Republicans tried to warn voters in 2008 but which in this situation should warn us of a need for some serious housecleaning in both parties. An unfortunate example of the corruption prevailing across the aisles is Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

I got an email from Cornyn, basically asking for money but trying to play on Americans’ outrage over the AIG bonuses. It starts as follows:

“Those two words are what we've seen over the past few days as we learn more about the $165 million in bonuses offered to AIG executives.

Help me get that money back by signing the NRSC's "Take Back The Bonuses" petition. And then support the NRSC with a secure online donation of just $5 or more.

My constituents in Texas have been calling my office all week asking "what's going on up there?"

The answer is two other words: liberal Democrats.

They're the ones who are in charge and approved the money for the AIG bailout. And a couple of weeks ago when conservatives and moderates began asking questions, we were told - in not so many words - to mind our own business.
Well, the taxpayer's money is our business.

Frankly, it's unthinkable to me that a company American taxpayers bailed out would hand out bonuses to their executives. Where I come from - and pretty much everywhere except Washington, D.C. - you pay people to succeed - not to fail.”

Cornyn’s right that the bailout bill was largely a Democrat plan, and yes Americans – myself included – are appalled at the way top executives at AIG have acted. Cornyn’s dishonesty, however, comes from the fact that the bonuses were included in contracts signed long before AIG got into trouble. And while AIG should have tied bonuses to the company’s actual health and financial performance, and while the individual executives should have shown the moral fiber to turn down the bonuses, the fact remains that the bonuses were completely legal and in fact binding upon AIG; the company had little choice about paying out the bonuses. The contracts were legal, binding, and inflexible.

And by the way, that money does not belong to Senator Cornyn, you, me, or anyone else. If every person at AIG chose to return their bonus money, it would not be a case of "us" 'getting our money back' - it would just go to the government to be used on some other pork-heavy project blessed by the political mandarins of the Potomac.

So, we’re left with two possible judgments on Senator John Cornyn of Texas, Republican and purported conservative. Either he’s too stupid to understand what bill of attainder and ex post facto mean, and why such laws are unconstitutional (not to mention the devastating effect they would have on business, if it were to become the practice of government to abrogate contracts in order to coerce behavior to its whim no matter what is contractually stated), and too lazy to learn about the issue before declaring what he means to do about it; or John Cornyn is as corrupt as the Democrats, willing to ignore the Constitution in order to score a few cheap political points, to penalize a legal if inept business with taxes just to hurt them for obeying their contractual obligations, and to abandon the principles of conservatism and free enterprise in order to fit in with people who are America’s enemies. Lazy moron or America-hating crook, he’s one or the other.

Over eighty Republicans supported the attempt to break the Constitution in order to punish a company for a lawful act. So it’s not as if Senator Cornyn is an outlier here. He’s just a bad liar.

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