The image of former Merrill Lynch boss (and 740 Park penthouse owner) John Thain‘s wife asking for a plain paper bag when she went shopping at Hermès not long ago — and then being ridiculed for it — highlights the disconnect between the media’s “the sky is falling” reporting on the economy and the real big picture. The big picture is that people need to be encouraged to start spending again, albeit more carefully, not be shunned for it. So herewith a modest proposal. 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.