In what I'm now forced to call "The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the Gene Wilder one" because of the remake, when one of the rotten kids decided to hare off and do something stupid despite warnings to the contrary, Willy Wonka would try one last time to save them from whatever doom eventually befell with a very deadpan "wait, stop" or "no, don't."
I feel like I have to give the same kind of warning about this retroactive taxation legislation currently flying through the Congress. The AIG bonuses have so thoroughly incensed the American people and the politicians that (allegedly) represent them that they aren't thinking clearly, or are thinking even less clearly than usual. Everyone is so caught up in "getting our money back from the Wall Street assholes and Banksters who stole it from us" that they've thrown the Constitution right out the window. It's right there in black and white, no ex post facto laws, no bills of attainder. You can't go back after the fact and change the rules and then punish people for breaking them. You can't write laws directed at a particular class or group of people. That clause is in there for a reason, people. We don't want the law being used that way, because then you have no way to know if a particular action that is legal the day you do it is going to get you thrown in jail the next, and we don't want the law being used to persecute specific people. At least, that's what the idea was.
It's thoroughly depressing for me to go through my usual lefty blogs and find each and every one crowing about the new tax bill as if it's justice that was so long denied. Finally, the Banksters and Wall Street Wizards who screwed up the economy aren't going to get away with something! That's progress!
No, what it is is revenge. We got played, big time, but it wasn't against the law. Those bonuses were legally given out, and it's unfair to go back afterwards and say sorry, we've decided you have to give them back. Write laws to prevent those bonuses going out in the future, investigate AIG with a Nixonian proctoscope to see if any wrongdoing occurred under the laws as they existed at the time, vilify and shame the Banksters and Wall Street Wizards (lord knows they deserve it); but let's not throw away our core principles about justice and fairness out of anger.