Sunday, February 08, 2009

When Our Heroes Fail

Heroes in post-Capitalist America tend to be more rare than gains on one’s 401K. So it was with no small amount of exhilaration that I gleefully welcomed three promising candidates into my mental Mount Olympus. Two great men and one woman of such high moral stature, unfathomable bravery, and devout strength that I as a humble homosapien could only stare in awe (and quickly avert my eyes so as not to be struck blind) at such inspiring brilliance. I was, it seemed, one leg shiver away from a man crush.
Ah, but if I have learned anything on my eternal path to maturity it is that there is no perfection in this realm of physicality. That all utopian hopes and standards fall far short of the eventual reality. And so it was to be with my soul’s investment in these three as well.
But I should not get too far ahead lest I lose the reader to mindless wordiness and numbing meaninglessness. Thus I will start with a premise I find most basic, yet one that is today spoken only in whispers in smokey backrooms in rural America.
The Thirteenth Amendment made slavery illegal in the United States of America. We all know this. Well, at least those of us who have had the good fortune to have attended government schools pre-Noam Chomsky and Al Gore. Yes, the Thirteenth Amendment finally brought truth to the Founders promise “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was a great moment for our country. America’s founding promise fulfilled.
But the ratification in 1913 of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution changed all that. It gave the Federal government the right to a direct income tax on "wages, salaries, commissions, etc. without apportionment". Sure, there had been an income tax during the Civil War, but this tax had a definite date of termination. The Sixteenth Amendment codified eternal taxation on American production.
With that history lesson, I now submit my premise: All taxation is slavery.
Any time a human being unwillingly works for the enrichment of another by threat of force from that same entity, this is slavery.
But let me be precise, American’s are not slaves. Not always anyway. In 2008, working Americans worked until April 23 to pay their taxes. That is nearly four months of work, not for one’s own self interest, but for the sole interest of another party(here government) through the tacit threat of force.
One may be thinking at this point, “This is all fine mental gymnastics, but what does any of this have to do with present day heroes and men of greatness?”
Ah, but if the reader will only grant me a moment more digression it should all become a bit more clear.
In his essay Civil Disobedience, tax resistor Henry David Thoreau wonders, ”Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” His refusal to pay six years of delinquent taxes and an ensuing night in jail until his aunt finally paid them (over his protestations no less) were his answer.
But that was ancient history, what relevance has any of this to do with today’s passing scene? It is here we meet my fallen heroes.
Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senator from the great state of South Dakota, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, former nominee to lead Obama’s Health and Human Services Department, and former anti-tax zealot. His righteous stands in non-payment of $101, 000.00 for limo expenses and his under reporting of $83,333 in consulting income were a shot across the bow of the immoral slave ship in which every working American now sails.
Next we have Tim Geithner, previous president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and presently Obama’s the United States Secretary of Treasury. His refusal to pay $34,000 in due taxes stoked steam to the train of a modern Underground Railroad of freedom from tax slavery.
And lastly there was Nancy Killefer, previous Senior Director and Head of the Washington D.C.’s office of McKinsey and Co. and failed Obama nominee to head the cabinet position of Chief Performance Officer. Her admirable stance in avoiding a freedom sapping $950.00 tax lien reminded me of such great American Abolitionists as John Brown and John Jay.
Ah, but human greatness is such a fleeting thing. The insult, offense, and even the grief that I felt when each in kind relented to the threats of the taxation status quo, no words can accurately express. The fact that not a single one of these champions I had previously exalted could stand up for their most deeply felt beliefs tore a hole in my soul that will assuredly take a lifetime to repair.
My heroes had acquiesced. The Founder’s promise of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” would again be put on hold.
Oh, Tom, you could have fought for the promise of “Life”. For that portion of “Life” that is stolen from each worker toiling not for himself but for the government. The moments of his “Life” he could have better spent as a free man, not a slave constrained by the ties of governmental intrusion.
Poor Tim, where is the “Liberty”? Where, indeed, when a free man must spend a third of his working life in slavery to the whims of government? Is a man two thirds free, free at all?
And Nancy, what of “the pursuit of Happiness”? I can not deny that a man can pursue “Happiness” while enslaved, but I will aver he can not be truly happy.
You could each have stood up and said, “No more”. The moment was yours to throw off the ties of bondage and make a stand for freedom. Freedom for us all.
You could have been heroes. But like Icarus the heat was too much, freedom just a passing dream. It seems as always, when heroes fall, they fail us all.