Freshman Rep. Mike McMahon was the only Democrat in New York State to vote against last week’s House bill to put a 90-percent tax on AIG’s “outrageous” (in the words of the president) bonuses.
What the hell is wrong with McMahon — doesn’t he know people are grabbing pitchforks, torches, buckets of tar and down pillows?
That seemed like a good jumping off question for our weekly feature, “McMahon on line 1.”
What, Congressman, the hell is wrong with you?
“A lot of my colleagues here in D.C. were caught up in the passions of the mob,” said McMahon, who was on the losing side of the 328–93 populist-inspired landslide. “The bill went through so quickly that many people weren’t conversant in the details.”
McMahon said the AIG “bonus tax” bill — which has stalled in the Senate, by the way — was flawed for three reasons:
1. It was too broad: It would have covered bonuses received by any employee at any bailed out financial institution with a household income over $250,000.
“So if you work as a bank manager and you’re married to someone, like a principal or a fire battalion chief, who also makes a decent income, suddenly, a bonus that you’ve rightfully earned would be taxed at 90 percent,” he said.
2. It’s unconstitutional: “The government should not use confiscatory tax policy — besides, this was probably a bill of attainder, which is unconstitutional,” he added. “It is not something that the legislature of a democracy should be doing. The founding fathers objected to that kind of arbitrary monarchial approach.”
3. Um, it punished an important New York industry: “We can’t tear down the financial-services industry, which is an important economic engine that helps put teachers in the schools, fireman in the firehouse and cops on the street.”
McMahon said he fully understands the anger out there, what with the very Wall Street guys who created the mess walking away with huge bonuses. But now is not the time to lose our heads (or, alas, theirs).
“We have to go after the bad guys, but we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” he said. “Government has to have a reasoned approach to solving problems, not following the headlines on CNN.”
McMahon said he was gratified that many people along the route of the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday cheered him on.
“Several people specifically thanked me for that vote,” he said. “That was very gratifying because you never really know how a vote will be received.”