Congress was entirely consumed this week with trying to punish the AIG executives who received $165 million in bonuses despite running the company into the ground. House Democrats decided a 90% tax (!!) would do the trick. This was a hotly contested proposal. People on both sides of the aisle rightly felt that those executives didn't deserve the money. But there were also strong concerns about the constitutionality of the tax hike. In the end, it was a bad bill that should have been defeated. Unfortunately, it passed 328-93. All but six Democrats voted for it, while the Republicans were evenly split 85-87. Afterwards, we found a statement written by Club favorite Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) that we thought was a great explanation for why voting "no" was the correct choice. Here it is:
by John Campbell
I firmly opposed and voted "no" on HR 1586. Let's first understand exactly what the bill does. It imposes a 90% federal income tax on any bonus paid to any employee of any company that has received over $5 Billion in federal rescue funds. Such companies include, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Chase Bank, JP Morgan, CitiBank, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac amongst others. The tax would only apply to people with total joint incomes over $250,000 or single individuals with income of over $125,000. When combined with California Income taxes which now top out at 10.55%, this can be a tax just short of 101% of the income.
Under this law, a bank teller at Wells Fargo could receive a bonus of $1,000 for doing a great job. If that bank teller was married to a physician who made $175,000 and they had some additional investment income, that bank teller would pay a tax of $1,055 on the bonus of $1,000 that they received for doing a good job. This is horrible!
This is not raising revenues, this is punishment. It is a terrible precedent to use the tax laws for punishment. If we go down this road, the government can impose a 100% tax on anyone they don't like, or anyone they believe is paid too much.
Employees of other companies, doing the same thing for the same bonus, will not receive this tax. That probably makes it unconstitutional and I hope it does.
I understand the public outrage over these bonuses and I share much of it. But this is not the way to fix it. Sue them to get the money back. But don't do this.
You may or may not realize it, but embezzlement income is taxable today, but at normal rates. So if you steal money, you will not have a tax higher than normal. You may be forced to give the money back because you stole it, but it will not be taxed away from you. This bill makes a bonus from Bank of America a more egregious offense under the tax laws than bank robbery.
All of this was caused because we nationalized companies that are created to make a profit. Throughout time, governments have shown themselves to be particularly inept at such an enterprise. This is another example of why.
Have a great weekend!
Pat Toomey Andrew Roth
President VP for Government Affairs
Club for Growth
2001 L Street, NW, Ste 600
Washington, DC 20036