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Congress, Pushing Balloons « The Washington Independent

As House leaders are debating a bill to apply a 90 percent tax on controversial bonuses paid by bailout recipients like AIG, at least one Democrat has already found a gaping loophole.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said the bill might rein in bonuses, but it won’t prevent creative Wall Street executives — even those representing bailed-out firms — from being paid handsomely. From his statement:

While the bill focuses on bonuses, it does not affect million-dollar-a-month salaries. In fact, a bailed-out bank which might otherwise pay an outrageous bonus, is free to raise an executive’s salary to $2 million a month. Not a penny of that $2 million a month would be taxed or restricted by this bill.

The bill also allows unlimited commissions, without defining the word commissions. If Wall Street firms can rename their “bonuses” and call them “commissions,” they may escape the bill entirely.

Sherman brought up similar concerns in January, when House lawmakers were debating legislation to put tighter conditions on bailout spending. But the press largely ignored him, as did Democratic leaders.

Yet with the uproar over AIG’s bonuses reaching a fever pitch — and in light of reports that companies are already raising salaries to compensate for the Obama administration’s tougher bonus restrictions — Sherman just might find a larger audience this time around.

If not, you can be sure the next populist outcry won’t be too far off.

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