"Most men die of their remedies, not of their diseases," a smart-alecky Frenchman once observed. At this point, many Americans might be pondering a similar thought: What's worse, the recession or the prescription?
It began with the federal government rescuing financial institutions because they were, allegedly, too big to fail. Somewhere along the line, treating this ailment included cajoling perfectly healthy financial institutions into accepting taxpayer medicine (some of those have returned the TARP funds) for the common good.
Inevitably, a few institutions abused their new funding in supposed "reckless" corporate extravagance. Congress dealt with the ensuing populist fury by passing a bill that retroactively and punitively taxes nearly all of executive bonus pay -- undercutting both the spirit of the Constitution and the sanctity of contractual agreements.
If you accept government money, you should be prepared to have your salary regulated, right?
OK, well then why, according to The New York Times, is the Obama administration considering oversight of all executive pay of banks, Wall Street firms and "possibly other companies," whether they accepted government funds or not?
What is the justification for capping a private citizen's salary? Actually, don't say a word. I can already hear the president's moralistic splendor (maybe on David Letterman?) about sacrifice and greed in times of crisis.
This week, the crisis means doing away with pesky financial regulation and independent oversight (in place to try to mitigate political interference). Instead, the Treasury wants to give itself new power -- "in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators" -- to sweep in and take over any financial institution that poses a threat to the broader economy.
And seeing as how Tim Geithner's done such a bang-up job with the banking crisis so far, why not?
Obama has said he hopes "it doesn't take too long" to pass this legislation. By which, of course, he means he hopes there's no debate. Don't worry, Mr. President.
(I suppose it would be a waste of time to point out to Democrats that they won't be eternally in charge and that this kind of executive power grab will only make complaints about the next Republican president's abuse of power even more impotent.)