Why That 90% Tax on A.I.G. Bonuses May Fail Constiutional Muster
My friend Ian Millhiser who (a) requires neither food nor oxygen because he eats and breathes politics, and (b) is populist enough that he's probably sympathetic to the bonus tax points out how the statements of various Congresspeople make it more likely that this tax, if passed, will be struck down as an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder.
To be clear, I think there would be a fair constitutional argument that Congress has the right to see that taxpayer money is not squandered on rewarding failure via the A.I.G. bonuses. Taxpayer money almost always has strings attached. That's why some people were so leery of the bailout in the first place. BUT you can't pass a law for the purpose of punishing somebody.
And - with famed Constitutional Law prof Laurence Tribe having the same assessment as Ian - I think it's safe to say that Congress shot itself in the foot on this one. Whether that's a good or bad thing, I leave to your pre-existing opinion.
By the way, if you haven't done so yet, you should read my brilliant national security law analysis.