GOP TARGETS BAILOUT SALARY CAPS…. I was curious to see whether, and to what extent, Republican lawmakers would object to the Obama plan to “impose a cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money.” It’s an idea that’s bound to have some populist appeal, so the GOP would have to tread carefully.

Who’s going to stick up for exorbitant salaries for executives of failing companies that are already on the public dole? A few Republican lawmakers are willing to give it a shot.

“Because of [the executives’] excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That’s not a good thing in America,” Kyl told the Huffington Post.

“What executives have done is troubling, but it’s equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he is “one of the chief defenders of Obama on the Republican side,” but “as I was listening to him make those statements [about executive pay], I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay and how much to pay?”

Just to clarify, we’re talking about companies that wouldn’t exist were it not for federal intervention. We’re talking about $500,000 salaries for CEOs whose companies are on the verge of collapse. They’re taking our money, so we’re applying some strings.

This, in Inhofe’s mind, is un-American? Funny, he and his colleagues have no trouble applying these kinds of strings when it’s welfare recipients receiving aid.

We are in some ways still a nation of Puritans, and we don’t much cotton to people who can’t take care of themselves and end up sponging off our generosity. We demand that welfare recipients do an honest day’s work for their checks. And now, since President Obama laid down the law Wednesday, we demand that the guys who ran our banking system into the ground abide by our pay scales in return for our bailing them out.

After all, what’s the moral distinction between welfare recipients and the wizards of Wall Street, other than that the welfare recipients aren’t the ones responsible for tanking the global economy?

Obama’s decision to put pay restrictions on the top executives of banks seeking a federal bailout is a classic instance of saving capitalism from the capitalists. Wall Street may yelp, but it will be politically impossible to keep the financial system afloat unless the public believes its money is not going to reward the very executives who brought that system down.

I suspect Republicans won’t invest too much energy in fighting Obama on this. Call it a hunch.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.