David Harsanyi

Here's an idea: If you stop nationalizing banks, there will be no need to engage in phony-baloney indignation over bonus payments anymore.

This cockamamie populism in Washington really hit its stride when Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, suggested that AIG execs who earned bonuses should "follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, 'I'm sorry,' and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."

C'mon. If suicide were a proper penalty for piddling away taxpayer dollars, the National Mall would look just like Jonestown -- after refreshments.

These same senators who voted to nationalize banks with nary a precondition are also, apparently, stupendously talented actors. After all, most of these senators voted for a bill that contained a provision that specifically protected bonuses that were agreed upon before Feb. 11 in the bank bailout legislation. It was put there by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who is the chairman of the Banking Committee.

How is it that all those who cast votes on this provision -- because, we imagine, no trustworthy lawmaker would vote for legislation he hadn't examined vigorously -- are threatening a "special" tax to snag AIG bonuses? It not only is dishonest but also means they, in a breathtaking abuse of power, believe using punitive taxation to appropriate someone's salary is a legitimate function of government.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole," claiming it is all about "fundamental values."

You know what's a super-useful value? A guarantee that contracts entered into by individuals or parties are respected. Or is the state ready to throw that fundamental value out and bend to the will of the angry mob?

Those are only a few of the reasons the insincere contortions of politicians over $165 million are so pathetically transparent. How could a president who threw $700 billion of your money away in a Keynesian spending orgy feign moral indignation over a few bonuses? We now have $11 trillion, in effect, invested in various bailouts -- with $170 billion going directly to AIG .

Grandstanding isn't going to make us "whole" again. Sorry.

AIG has been dreadfully run, obviously, or it wouldn't be a welfare queen. No one will pity it.

David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.