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Paul Begala

Paul Begala

Posted January 22, 2009 | 07:45 PM (EST)

Bring Back the Stocks


As President Obama ushers in a new era of good feeling, allow me this potentially discordant note. As we finally and belatedly stop torturing people, can we please start humiliating sleazeballs?

Bring back stocks. Not the equities that are tanking on Wall Street; the ancient English punishment wherein a criminal's head and hands where placed through a piece of wood, immobilizing them.

Bringing back stocks might restore a commodity that's in even shorter supply than hope: Shame. Let me be clear. I'm not suggesting we put terrorists in stocks. They need to be in prison. But what about those who shamelessly and shamefully ripped off our country, bankrupted our economy and tarnished our national identity? They need to be shamed.

Here's my proposal: An evildoer, when found guilty of fraud, market manipulation or other crimes like lying about weapons of mass destruction, illegally spying on Americans or outing a covert CIA agent, would be placed in the stocks.

Can't you see some Wall Street dirtbag immobilized in Battery Park with a sign explaining that he manipulated derivatives and caused millions of cops and firefighters and teachers to lose their pensions? Given the ingenuity of the free market, someone might even open a rotten tomato stand nearby.

Or here in Washington, the people whose arrogance and incompetence have weakened America and caused so many American troops to fight and kill and bleed and die should, at a minimum, be paraded before the public they betrayed. We could set up stocks in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. Of course, we'd make them wheelchair accessible.

Wussies and wimps would call it cruel and unusual punishment. But stocks were in use when the 8th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1791. So the Reagan-Bush majority on the Supreme Court, being originalists and textualists, might well uphold stocks. Justice Scalia certainly would. He's already said so. In an April, 2008 interview, NPR's Nina Totenberg asked Scalia if stocks would be permitted under the 8th Amendment, since they were in use in 1791. "I would say that may be very stupid," he told Totenberg, "but it's not unconstitutional, if indeed it was a punishment that was at that time accepted."

Amen, Justice Scalia. Now please pass the tomatoes.

And now, HuffPosters, it's your turn. Who would you like to see in stocks and why?