I am frustrated at a number of things that the previous U.S. presidency did that in my opinion are obviously against the original intentions of the United States Constitution. I am thinking of habeas corpus and warrantless wiretapping. I am even more disappointed that the encroachments on rights explicit in the constitution may continue.
An article by Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune that I came across thanks to Russell Roberts of Cafe Hayek brought up the an interesting point. Chapman's article discusses a number of the recent attempts of congress to get involved in how things are run in business. Specifically the idea that up to a ninety percent tax be placed on the bonuses given to certain employees. Chapman ends with the following point.
Expropriating property from people who did nothing more than accept money they were legally due sounds uncannily like a bill of attainder—a legislative measure declaring someone guilty of a crime, and imposing punishment, without trial. This weapon was expressly forbidden by the framers of the Constitution because it is fundamentally unfair, at odds with the rule of law and driven by mass hysteria rather than dispassionate fact-finding.I can't seem to find my Political Science Dictionary, probably a casualty of a past cleaning effort, so I am relying upon Wikipedia. The United States Constitution explicitly forbids a bill of attainder in Article I, section 9, clause 3. This is a part of our constitution because it had a history in British law (though no longer). The Wikipedia entry includes some relevant legal references that I found interesting.
Once upon a time, those were considered bad things.
from Cummings v. Missouri:Since in the case of bonuses I have read that contracts existed concerning these bonuses the following portion concerning bills of attainder from various state constitutions is intersting.
A bill of attainder, is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment.
The constitution of every State also expressly forbids bills of attainder. For example, Wisconsin's constitution Article I, Section 12 reads:
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall ever be passed, and no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.
Contrast this with the subtly more modern variation of the Texas version: Article 1 (Titled Bill of Rights) Section 16, entitled Bills of Attainder; Ex Post Facto or Retroactive Laws: Impairing Obligation of Contracts: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, retroactive law, or any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be made".We find ourselves on a slippery slope when we forget the freedoms which the founders of this country found so important and fail to defend these freedoms in the face of a perceived public uproar or panic. I for one fear the actions of our government in attempting to protect us more than those things from which they are attempting to protect us.