Saturday, March 21, 2009

Disregarding the Constitution

In Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution are listed the things that Congress is allowed to do. In Article One, Section Nine are listed the things Congress is not allowed to do (more prohibitions were added in the Bill of Rights several years later). At the time of ratification, it was generally understood that the congress could not do anything except what was found in section eight, and in so doing could not do anything in section nine. Nowadays, for the most part, it's understood to mean that congress can do anything it wants, except what is in section nine.

"For the most part" because the House of Representatives just passed a law that is clearly in violation of "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed"—the new law on bonuses. They passed a law (the bailout) and later found out that they didn't like a provision of that law (maybe because none of them read the thing), so they're ex post facto fining people who made entirely legal decisions based on the law at the time. There's no conceptual difference between this and the government passing a law raising the 2007 tax rates and tossing you in jail if you don't pay.

This country was meant to be based on rule of law and the government was meant to be restrained, but in practice that's not the case any more. If you're in a minority that gets vilified by the press/government, you're going down, regardless of whether or not you did anything wrong. In this case, it's the people who agreed to risk their careers by sticking with shaky financial institutions in return for large retention bonuses. In the past it was crazy wackos or families who just wanted to be left alone.

This is what happens when you no longer have a working Constitution and instead have plain old democracy—two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

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