The Corner

Krauthammer’s Take

From last night’s All Stars.

On the outrage on Capitol Hill over the AIG bonuses:

…look, the larger issue here is, of course, the administration is really hurt. It is an issue of competence. The Democrats in charge are in disarray.

But the larger issue here–this the best argument against socialism, socialism writ large or socialism writ small, meaning the takeovers of companies in the United States.

When you get politicians ahead of the mob running companies, you get madness and idiocy here. The contracts are legal contracts, and it wasn’t as if these bonuses were unknown or sprung at the last minute. They were written into these agreements over a year ago, long before AIG was even nationalized or partially nationalized.

And the problem here is that by the Congress now trying to break the contracts by a ruse, essentially a 100 percent taxation or confiscation, they’re going against a few hundred years of common law where you don’t do retroactive confiscation or bills of attainder, which are laws aimed at particular individuals. It’s just not done.

And to sacrifice all of those principles of democracy and business and contract over, as Rich indicated, a tenth of one percent of the bailout, is absurd, particularly in a Congress which just a week ago signed a bill with enough pork to fund these bailouts for about 20 years.

On the trade spat with Mexico over cross-border trucking:

If you thought AIG was an example of Democratic incompetence over a relative triviality, look at this. There are over 6.5 million trucks in the United States. This program allows 98 Mexican trucks to roam among them. And over that, they are willing to risk a trade war with Mexico.

If you wanted to do protectionism, do it competently. Go the full Smoot-Hawley. But over 98 to enrage Mexico, to threaten to destroy NAFTA, and to show the world that the American Congress is willing to impose protectionism over trivialities at a time when the economy is hanging by a thread, where every other country is looking to see if American is going to turn protectionist.

And, as we saw in the stimulus package, it included a provision to buy American, which enraged the Europeans. There is a huge amount at stake, meaning the world economy and the risk of a world depression if you have trade wars. And to do it over 98 truck is absolutely absurd.

NRO Staff — Members of the National Review Online editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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