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Commentary: Don't rush bonus tax

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  • Brown: Rushed legislation caused problem in the first place
  • Brown: Congress needs to think instead of posturing for the cameras
  • Brown: We face too many other problems to waste all this time on AIG
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Friday night's broadcast.

CNN's Campbell Brown says the AIG bonus issue has taken the focus off the real problem.

CNN's Campbell Brown says the AIG bonus issue has taken the focus off the real problem.

(CNN) -- With our last word of the week on the AIG bonuses, it's OK to be mad, but in Congress, too often one person's rage is another person's instant law in the making. That is not always a good thing.

Yesterday, with lightning speed, the House approved a measure that would slap a whopping 90 percent tax on bonuses for some of those working at companies getting at least $5 billion in bailout money. Of course, it's in response to the $165 million paid out by AIG last weekend. Does anyone see the irony here? Congress is showing its outrage over the bonuses by trying to rush through a new law.

The AIG bonuses were allowed to happen precisely because Congress, in its race to pass the stimulus last month, approved that bill with an exemption added at the last minute allowing any bonus guaranteed before mid-February to be paid out.

So now, they're trying to clean up the mess that comes from haste, by ramming through yet another piece of legislation, regardless of consequences. And of course, both sides had to make sure they got all worked up in front of the cameras.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York: "The American people have had it with all the posturing and the politics, they want their money back."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas: "You want to get it back? I want more than 90 percent. I want 100 percent. You do that by forcing them into bankruptcy."

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado: "We will hunt down your executives with pitchforks. We will subpoena your boards and haul you before Congress. We will use personal rhetoric to decry your greed -- we will make life miserable."

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Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia: "This is like asking forgiveness for a mortal sin by saying one hail Mary."

Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Florida: "No one is calling my district office and saying 'Congressman, please file an inquiry into these bonuses.' They're saying get it back and get it back now."

Is this bill actually good legislation? Hard to tell. House Minority Leader John Boehner said that the bill is "nothing more than an attempt for everybody to cover their butt up here on Capitol Hill. It's full of loopholes. A lot of these people who are getting these bonuses likely live in London. And it's not clear how raising this tax is going to recover that money."

What is clear is that this whole debate has been a massive political distraction, taking our focus off of how to solve the much bigger problem of shoring up our banks. This is what happens when our leaders are more concerned with taking full political advantage of the heat of the moment, rather than truly solving our problems.


Let me be clear, I am not defending the bonuses by any means. I am saying that we expect our leaders to stop and think for a moment about the consequences of their actions. If they had done so the first time around, those bonuses might never have gone out in the first place and our lawmakers could have focused on the many other problems we face. All of which had to take a back seat this week, so politicians could hold a witch hunt and grab a piece of the spotlight.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Campbell Brown.

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