by digby

Representative Alan Grayson introduced legislation yesterday which will restrict executive pay in companies taking TARP money:

So far, taxpayers have spent over $500 billion in direct cash infusions into banks and financial institutions, with guarantees of trillions more. Yet, these companies are still paying their executives lavish sums for driving their companies (and the entire economy) into the ground.

I introduced a bill - the 'Pay for Performance Act' - to put an end to this theft. It's on the House floor today. It bans unreasonable and excessive pay to employees of financial institutions that are running on taxpayer money. The bill is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money. And two, no one should get rich off abject failure. If the government owns a chunk of a bank, that bank must pay its employees reasonably, and all bonuses must be performance-based.

But first, let's be clear about what has happened. The government owns stakes in many companies through the TARP program, and Congress tried to put executive compensation restrictions on those companies. Big banks, though, were able to carve out an exception for any contract signed before February. AIG executives drove a truck through that exception and stuffed their pockets with our money. This bill closes that loophole.

Predictably, the Republicans' eyes instantly rolled back in their heads and they began babbling incoherently about "socialism" and "Old Europe" which is a very, very bad comparison. Let's just say that Old Europe has a different approach to dealing with these sorts of outrages:

Hundreds of French workers, angry about proposed layoffs at a Caterpillar factory, were holding executives of the company hostage Tuesday, a spokesman for the workers said.

It is at least the third time this month that French workers threatened with cutbacks have blockaded managers in their offices to demand negotiations. Executives were released unharmed in both previous situations.

The latest incident started Tuesday morning at the office of the construction equipment company in the southeastern city of Grenoble.

The workers were angry that Caterpillar had proposed cutting more than 700 jobs and would not negotiate, said Nicolas Benoit, a spokesman for the workers' union.

They did not want to harm the Caterpillar executives, Benoit told CNN.

That's one way to get their attention. And if these American executives keep acting like complete jackasses and whining to the press about not being treated respectfully. So far, in the US, all that's happening is that people are tweeting their discontent and registering strong protests on their Facebook pages.

Even in the capital of our one true ally they are a bit more direct:

Police and protesters skirmished around the Bank of England on Wednesday as world leaders gathered for the G-20 Summit.

Thousands of anti-capitalists, anarchists, and environmental campaigners descended for protests in several locations in London, including its financial center around the Bank of England, Britain's central bank.

Protesters broke several dark tinted windows of a Royal Bank of Scotland building and crawled inside. They also spray-painted the word "thieves" and the anarchist symbol on the side of the building.

The ailing bank has been the target of much anger following reports that its former chief executive was given a multi-million dollar pension payout despite overseeing record losses.

The American ruling class had better hope that Grayson is successful lest its serfs really start looking to Old Europe for inspiration.

Update: Zbigniew Brzeznskijust said, when asked about whether the G20 leaders care about these protests:

It is a signal to all of us, including them, that if the economic financial crisis is not brought under some constructive control we could have a repetion of this in many other parts of the world, including in the United States.

You know there is a potential rage, public rage, in the United States, at the unfairness and inequality that's involved in the financial crisis and the financial scandal.

Seriously, these MOUs really need to stop their public whining and get behind some things like Grayson's measure. They are fanning the flames of their own funeral pyre. It's just dumb.

Update II: Jane Hamsher is liveblogging the circus .... er House debate on Grayson's bill.

I guess the Republicans really are going to throw in their lot with the billionaires on this. It's an awesome political miscalculation.