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Pay the AIG Bonuses, But...

...if there's fraud involved, throw the CEO, the executives, the employees, and the responsible government bureaucrats in jail for the rest of their lives. No paroles. No exceptions.

I know that some of you will disagree, but I happen to believe in keeping your word, especially when it comes to salaries and bonuses.

How would you like it if you were contractually promised a bonus, and then you did what you were contractually obligated to do, and then somebody said: "Ooops, it didn't turn out the way we hoped so we're not paying you"?

So if the idiots in the government were clueless enough to allow contracts that provided for giant bonuses to people who don't deserve them, the right response isn't to yank back the promised pay, but to remember what happened next time you step into the voting booth.

If those contracts are legal, they should be paid. But if there was fraud involved -- a likelihood given the scofflaw nature of the Bush administration -- then it's time to get serious about prosecuting financial fraud. And I mean really serious.

In my opinion, financial fraud is tantamount to murder and worthy of the same punishment. In fact, if we're going to have the death penalty in the United States, then it should be applied to cases where government bureaucrats collude with corporate executives to steal taxpayer money.

I've about had it with the notion that financial fraud is a "white collar" crime deserving a few months in a minimum security resort hotel. (Remember Martha Stewart's government-paid vacation?) The reason is simple: fraud doesn't just loot corporate coffers -- it sometimes robs people of their life savings.

Stealing the life savings of wage slaves is the same thing as stealing a portion of their lives. As one of my favorite authors, Jack Vance, put it:

"Property and life and not incommensurable, when property is measured in terms of human toil. Essentially property is life; it is that proportion of life which an individual has expended to gain the property. When a thief steals property, he steals life. Each act of pillage therefore becomes a small murder."
I doubt whether we'd be continually plagued with Enrons, Worldcoms, Madoffs and (possibly) AIG bonus fraud, if the perps knew the penalty was a one-way ticket to a life sentence.

Please don't argue it can't be done under current statutes. In some states, they've put people in jail for decades for stealing insignificant amounts of money. Surely we can, for once, find a way throw some rich white fraudsters in the slammer.

READERS: I'm curious what you guys think. Comments welcome.