One of the more familiar sayings in politics is, "Don't get angry, get even."
The anger caused by using millions in taxpayer bailout money to pay "retention" bonuses to current and former American International Group Inc. employees and to fund banks that mostly won't tell what they did with the money is an object lesson for all of us. It offers taxpayers an opportunity to "get even" with those who have violated the U.S. Constitution, helped put our nation in peril and spent us into economic servitude to the Chinese.
President Obama has said he is angry, too, but he wants that anger to be "channeled" so it might do the most good. I agree with the president. But where should that anger be channeled? The president wants to channel it in ways that will create more government regulation of banks. The New York Times reported Sunday that the president "will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation."
Is that the best way to channel our anger so it will do the most good? Should Congress and the regulatory authorities, which have failed so spectacularly and at every level (in both parties) be allowed to manage and repair the financial damage they helped cause? Can they be trusted with even more power to invade private industry, overrule stockholders and effectively run more and more companies? This is what totalitarian societies do, isn't it? The answer isn't more laws; it's enforcing the laws already on the books. The solution can be found in proper oversight, not in overlooking transgressions.
Those busloads of people who last weekend descended on Connecticut neighborhoods where AIG executives live were in the wrong place. And by the way, who ordered up that little charade and media opportunity? It sounds like something ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), or some other left-wing political outfit might do in order to divert attention from the real culprits, who are located a few hundred miles south in Washington.
Next week, millions of tourists will begin the annual ritual of visiting Washington to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. They might wish to organize a bus ride to Capitol Hill to make their blooming idiot senators and House members feel their wrath. Then they should go home and organize tea parties and anything else that will unite them with others in the fed-up community and vow to throw out these bums in the 2010 election.
Their list should include Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and especially Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. In a brazen example of political bipolarity, Mr. Dodd stated contradictory positions in just 24 hours. First he claimed to have had nothing to do with a bill that sent bailout money to AIG. A day later, he said he did, indeed, have plenty to do with the bill but that he had succumbed to pressure from the Treasury Department not to cap bonuses.
No political fish should be too big to touch, and goodness knows fish like these have been stinking up Washington for far too long. Showing the most powerful the door is the only way we can liberate the country (and ourselves) from this overpaid, egotistical, self-centered, corrupt, uncaring pack of rats.
Voters should force term limits on these power-hungry, money-grubbing people (I'm talking Congress, not AIG). And by the way, if Congress pries all or most of our money from the tight-fisted hands of AIG executives, how about a provision that would force every member of Congress who took campaign money from AIG to rebate the taxpayers?
If the public doesn't rise up and stop this political coup of private industry, we will all be the worse for it. While AIG is paying for its real and perceived sins, the company's mistakes should not be a pretext for politicians to accrue more power when they have abused the power they have.
That should make us all angry, and we should channel that anger right back at the politicians most responsible and clean House (and Senate) in November 2010.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.