Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grassley And Suicide

The mainstream media is all atwitter about the recommendation of Senator Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) that corporate executives of the American Insurance Group commit suicide. Speaking to an Iowa radio audience on March 16, Grassley remarked

Obviously, maybe they ought to be removed. But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.

On one level this is not only silly but lacking in real courage. It's reminiscent of the reaction of some people when a guy gets arrested for allegedly committing a serious sexually-oriented violent offense, such as rape or abuse of a child. Enraged, individuals suggest that the criminal justice system, or some unnamed vigilante, impose ruthless frontier justice, possibly of a sexual nature (use your imagination) upon the accused perpetrator. (Perhaps I listen to too much to talk radio.) The suggestion is not only crude but also worthless because we simply don't do that sort of thing, which would take cruel and unusual to a whole new level, in this country. Still, it allows the speaker to vent his/her frustration harmlessly, aware that the suggestion is beyond the pale and never would be effectuated.

Grassley's opinion is similar. In the United States of America, individuals do not take a deep bow and they do not commit suicide because they've gamed the system, exploited capitalism, and did their best to bankrupt the country. (Cyrus Vance took one for the team when he was serving as Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State, but even he did not take his own life.)

Still, Chuck Grassley is a Republican (a conservative one, at that) and to be fair, we have to lower the bar a bit for those fellows. And it is at least a little bold for the Senator to say something which predictably incurred the criticism of his party's boss, Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh today stated of the Iowan "Did you hear that? He wants the AIG bonus recipients to go commit suicide. Now, I know, he said later, 'We're just talking about honor here.' Honor?" Then, of course, Rush went on to criticize Democrats who are responsible for racism, World War II, the Great Depression, and the Crucifixion.

There are better ways than suicide to handle the disgraceful bonuses paid out by AIG for executives who apparently have failed so miserably. Representative Carolyn Mahoney of New York, not surprisingly a Democrat, plans to introduce a bill to impose a 100% tax on (as she put it in a letter to her colleagues) "any bonus compensation that is not directly related to a commission for any recipient of TARP funds where the United States government is the majority owner of the company."

But give Charles Grassley some credit. Unlike Rush Limbaugh (and a few others in his party), Grassley does not believe corporate executives who run roughshod over the American people and American taxpayers should be put up for sainthood.

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