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"People need to be encouraged to start spending again," Michael Gross writes, especially the masters of the universe—such as John Thain, left—who made a mint during the boom years and then led us into this mess. So how do we go about doing that? Not by shunning them, or requiring them to take their fortunes and turn the cash over to the government. (It would probably be wasted on Citigroup anyway.) Maybe we could just force them to pump the cash into the local economy?

Since, Andrew Cuomo notwithstanding, odds are we'll never be able to claw back big bonuses from the greedy, grasping former masters, now destroyers, of the universe as we knew it, how about we do the opposite and shame them into putting that money back into the economy?"

Not by buying yachts or Maseratis or Park Avenue penthouses, but by using the full force of societal persuasion to convince them that every single bonus dollar they received in, say, the last two years, needs to be spent—now—at retail, in America—in easy increments of $50,000 or less—and at full price, not 70% off. Spend for themselves, for their families, for their multitude of victims, on charities, on total strangers for all I care. But spend that money down. Right now. In return, the news media should promise to praise them, not ridicule them for it. Call it the Small Business Hearts Bankers Program. Even bankers' wives. If that doesn’t work, we can still try tar and feathers.

One other great advantage to this plan: Just think of how many government jobs would be created to have a group of people sort through all the receipts to verify the money was being spent. Dozens.

A Kinder, Gentler Clawback? []