In Thursday’s outraged House debate on the AIG bonuses, House Republicans rallied around a different approach. Members of both parties in the House and Senate have taken the tack of proposing to tax these bonuses through targeted, retroactive taxation. This is the substance of the bill that passed the House Thursday by a wide margin. This kind of oppressive use of government power to thieve private property is so unprincipled as to make the past behavior of Wall Street tycoons seem saintly in comparison.

The House Republicans, including minority leader John Boehner and minority whip Eric Cantor took a different approach. Rather than exercising the power to tax as the means of destroying the meaning of contracts and private property, they intend to go straight to government expropriation. Their approach directed Treasury to implement a plan within two weeks to recoup the bonus monies, apparently by whatever means necessary.

Since Treasury’s lawyers have already concluded the AIG bonuses were contractual obligations and therefore had to be paid, the House Republican language is either completely vacuous, or it calls on Treasury to do the patently illegal. This was an empty gesture, a frivolous, emotion-charged talking point signifying nothing.

These are serious times. The global financial system and global economy are in crisis. Yet the House Republicans continue to strain at seriousness. After the thrashing of the past two elections, Republicans have sung the mantra of rediscovering their principles and presenting serious policy alternatives to the American people. It would appear they still have a very long way to go.