If the terror attacks of 9/11 represented a life-threatening blow to the American system, then we should certainly consider placing the current economic crisis in the same category.
This will allow the President to declare a war on greed, much like his predecessor did with terrorism , and help us solve all sorts of problems, starting with the financial wizards at AIG whose exorbitant bonuses are driving the country to madness, if not vengeance.
Forget about contract law, threats or moral persuasion. The war approach would allow President Obama, our commander in chief, to order people deemed to be dangerous captured and held without trial. They can sit in Guantanamo Bay and think about it.
I’m sure we can persuade the Justice Department to go along with it, even if the current attorney general might waver a bit; based on his role in the pardon of the indicted-but-never convicted commodities trader Marc Rich during the Clinton administration, he seems unfazed by the excesses of capitalism).
And, yes, there will be court challenges, but fortunately we still have the Bush Supreme Court in place and those will take months to play out anyway. During that time, we’ll be able to wear down the AIG bad guys, who’ll probably agree to forgo the bonuses—especially if we put their faces, addresses and bonuses payments on milk cartons and the Internet.
Once we take the war course, a Pandora's box of remedies will open. We can start investigating these people, whether it is for tax violations or other anti-American activities. Though we still may be unable to break their contracts (contract law is tougher than constitutional law), I’m sure we’ll be able to recoup the bonus money on a tax-penalty basis.
The only flaw with this plan is that if these guys are in Gitmo doing hard time, instead of back home unwinding derivatives deals, then it might take us much longer to get AIG back on its feet.
That’s why I don’t support the argument of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the AIG bad guys should either forgo the money or commit suicide. (A spokesman later said Grassley meant to say apologize in public, as is the Japanese custom.) If we keep them alive, we can probably force them to train some unemployed Wall Street wizards how to deal with the derivatives.