It’s amazing the crazy things conservatives come up with, isn’t it? Keyes’ real problem (other than losing to Obama in 2004) is the income tax code. He apparently holds President Obama responsible for this and why not, since 9/11 took place on Obama’s watch and Afghanistan is “Obama’s War”? Apparently, anything the Republicans no longer have a use for, even things they once supported, become Obama’s.
Keyes’ reasoning, if it may charitably be called that, is as follows:
the income tax system gives the U.S. government “the prerogative to reach into people’s pockets and claim as much money as it pleases before they have a chance to decide anything about it.” If you and I made an agreement that gave me the power to control the use of a certain percentage of your income, to be decided by me, in principle how much of your income do I control? In principle I control all of it, of course. This is the power the income tax places in the hands of those who control the U.S. government at any given time. Therefore, it makes sense for them to speak as if every cent of the people’s income belongs to the government. In principle, and for as long as the income tax system remains in place, it does.
It is difficult to see how in controlling a percentage of a person’s income a government controls all of it but all Republican math is fuzzy math; after all, they claim to be anti-deficit while coming up with a budget proposal that increases the deficit, to be champions of employment while putting millions out of work. So maybe in their warped and wonky world 30% = 100%.
Let’s move on to a few facts because as usual this is where any conservative is most challenged.
Mr. Keyes seems unaware of the social contract theory of government, whereby we, the people, get together and agree to have a government. As part of having this government we all agree to give up certain freedoms in order to make the government work, so that we are all protected, if, perhaps, a little less free. We do this, as Thomas Hobbes writes in the Leviathan because without this government life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” In other words, we pay taxes for our own good. The most radical of the Founding Fathers never proposed a system wherein no government existed, and no government can support itself without taxation.
And our Founding Fathers saw already how useless the Articles of Confederation were, how inadequate to the task of governing a nation even as small as the United States were at that time, how unable to protect its citizens from even state vs. state rivalries let alone foreign invasion. A stronger government was needed: thus the Constitution and a reduction in the rights of what were formerly independent states. It seems clear that Republicans and Tea Partiers would like to roll back the Constitution in order to return to the golden age of states’ rights of the Articles of Confederation. This obviously makes a mockery of their alleged devotion to the Constitution.
Mr. Keyes cites Alexander Hamilton, that proponent of a strong central government, in support of his thesis:
At the beginning of Federalist 79, Alexander Hamilton observes that “In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.”
Of course, Mr. Keyes gets Hamilton all wrong by taking this quote out of context. What Hamilton is arguing is that the judiciary is “dependent on the pecuniary resources” of the legislative and it is the financial “independence” of judges he is concerned with here, in other words, that judges needed a regular salary to make them less dependent upon the legislative. It is the “power over” the judge’s adequate subsistence that he is concerned with, not the idea of taxation in general, which Hamilton clearly supported (perhaps Mr. Keyes has not heard of the Whiskey Revolt, which brought up again the Revolutionary principle of taxation without representation). Here is how Hamilton sums up his argument:
In a republic, where fortunes are not affluent, and pensions not expedient, the dismission of men from stations in which they have served their country long and usefully, on which they depend for subsistence, and from which it will be too late to resort to any other occupation for a livelihood, ought to have some better apology to humanity than is to be found in the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench.
Mr. Keyes either did not bother to read Federal No. 79 or simply chose to pretend it did not exist, and with it, Hamilton’s first sentence, which pointed to the topic of that issue: “the independence of judges” and a “fixed provision for their support.”
Nothing like a little historical revisionism is there, Mr. Keyes?
Mr. Keyes complains about the income tax but President Obama did not invent the idea. The first federal income tax came about because of the Civil War, in 1862 (under the Republican President Lincoln) and established the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Income tax was then eliminated in 1872, re-established in 1894 and then declared unconstitutional in 1895. That problem was resolved in 1913 with a Constitutional Amendment, which established the income tax system as we know it today.
For Mr. Keyes, the income tax is a slave tax and Obama is to be chastised for supporting it and through it, our slavery:
Obama’s use of language that overtly employs the enslaving logic of the income tax system ought to be a warning to all Americans still loyal to the constitutional liberty of the people. It warns against Obama’s embrace of the communistic logic that overturns the unalienable rights of property in order to assert collective, government ownership of the income and assets of all the people. But it should also warn against the assumption that this logic is simply a function of the Obama faction’s leftist ideology. The problem is not just with Obama, or with this or that communist, socialist or liberal faction of our leadership. The problem is that we are already living with the consequences of establishing institutions, like the income tax, that weave into the fabric of our daily lives a communist-style assault against the unalienable right to private property.
Somehow in all this, income tax becomes a communist conspiracy and liberals are to be equated with socialists and communists. Mr. Keyes simplified worldview seems to be for him a “happy place” where anything he wishes might become real, but like the rest of us, Mr. Keyes lives in the real world and is as subject to fact as the rest of us.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels point to the implementation of an income tax system like our present one as a crucial step toward achieving the abolition of private property, which they call the epitome of communism.
We can follow Mr. Keyes logic for a moment: Keyes assails income tax as communist because Marx and Engels speak in its favor. Never mind that “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax” is only one point out of ten enumerated by Marx and Engels, given no more weight than say point #3 which is “confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels” (not at all applicable to America) or point #10: “Free education for all children in schools” (who would argue against this? oh, that’s right, Republicans…) and “abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form.” Of course, we all know by now that the Republicans are attacking restrictions on child labor laws so perhaps from their logic prohibiting child labor makes you a communist?
Let’s look at what Keyes said again and run it up on the flagpole to see if it makes sense:
The problem is that we are already living with the consequences of establishing institutions, like abolition of children’s factory labor, that weave into the fabric of our daily lives a communist-style assault against the unalienable right to private property.
The problem is that we are already living with the consequences of establishing institutions, like free education for all children in schools, that weave into the fabric of our daily lives a communist-style assault against the unalienable right to private property.
Yes, that is what Keyes is saying, in his own words. I would argue without blushing that the communism of Marx and Engels is superior in all respects to the capitalism of Alan Keyes.
Context is everything. Mr. Keyes, like most conservatives today, miss that key point in their haste to construct a reality more in align with their ideology. But the world of facts does not work that way and as we have seen before, this necessitates a revised list of facts, not then a history we can learn from, but a history which will support a Republican corporatocracy and true slavery – slavery to self-interested and greedy corporations that will make of us all serfs.
Note: For the record, Alan Keyes actually filed a lawsuit against Obama, the California secretary of state, and others back in 2008, in order to stop California from giving its electoral votes to Obama until Obama produced a birth certificate to prove he is natural born citizen. Of course, Obama did produce a birth certificate in 2008 but Keyes refused to accept it. Sorta like refusing to accept reality itself, right Mr. Keyes?