Yesterday's passage in the House of the punitive tax on bonuses paid by companies that received TARP funds is, I think, one of the most flagrant abuses of civil power at the federal level that I've seen in my lifetime. (Fortunately, it's just an attempted abuse of power so far. I hope the Senate will show more sense.)
It's important to be reminded that politicians and representative bodies can become bullies every bit as dangerous as power-drunk police or FBI agents. As Chief Justice Marshall pointed out 190 years ago:
That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create . . . are propositions not to be denied.
(from McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat) 316, 431 (1819).)