Friday, August 20, 2004
Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes has proposed exempting African Americans from tax (per the Chicago Tribune):
"When a city had been devastated [in the Roman empire], for a certain length of time--a generation or two--they exempted the damaged city from taxation."
Keyes proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes-federal because slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment."... The former ambassador said his plan would give African-Americans "a competitive edge in the labor market," because those exempted would be cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees and would "compensate for all those years when your labor was being exploited."
Under Keyes' plan, African-Americans would still have to pay the Social Security tax, because "it's not a tax in the strict sense," said Keyes, calling it instead a payment to support a social insurance program.
Eugene Volokh notes
: "No word on whether Americans whose ancestors died fighting in the Civil War would get special treatment as well, or whether having a slaveowner ancestor would double your tax bill." Volokh also points out that Keyes himself dismissed the idea of reparation two years ago in these words:
Those responsible [for reparations lawsuits] propose to settle the accounts of slavery leaving the Civil War out of the equation — complete and utter nonsense. The price for the sin of slavery has already been paid, in blood. . . .
Pettifogging lawyers and dishonest scholars will always be able to carp selectively and ignorantly about the warts upon our body politic.
But the truth of the Civil War is that the terrible price for American slavery has been paid, once for all, by the American people's deliberate acceptance of their duty to pay it when, in God's providence, Southern intransigence brought it due.
Yet Keyes held his ground when interviewed by a sympathetic Tucker Carlson on CNN's Crossfire
, claiming that reparations for African-Americans through the Tax Code is "a thoroughly conservative, thoroughly consistent Republican approach":
CARLSON: All right. I want to ask you question then, Ambassador Keyes. I take you serious, I take your ideas seriously and I agree with most of them. So I was shocked the other day to see you give a press conference endorsing the idea of reparations for slavery, for tax breaks for descendants of slavery. You said, pointing out that your opponent Barack Obama is not descended from slaves and you are. This struck me as a kind of essential betrayal of the beliefs you've been espousing in public for the last 20 years.
KEYES: Not at all. I have taken a strong position against schemes of extortion from the fellow citizens of people here in America, based on the idea that somehow or another that would be requital for slavery. And I made clear over the years that I think the blood and treasured sacrifice during the Civil War constituted that requital.
But I have also made clear every time I was asked that there was objective damage done to black Americans by the slave system. And there have been frequent efforts in American history not thus far successful to address the wounds that were left by that legacy.
What I have laid on the table repeatedly is a thoroughly Republican, thoroughly conservative approach that is actually borrowed from ancient history in terms of what the Roman empire used to do to respond to damaged communities. You give them tax relief. You give them a tax break to make up for the fact, for instance in this case, the black folks toiled for generations at what was effectively 100 percent tax rate.
And by doing this, you unleash their enterprise. Give them an incentive to work. Give people an incentive to own businesses without taking pennies out of anybody else's pocket, you're able to create an environment where people are encouraged to work and put a strong foundation under themselves instead of putting money in a democracy to dominate their lives that undermines the moral foundations of their families and destroys their economic incentives.
As a matter of fact, it's a thoroughly conservative, thoroughly consistent Republican approach to a very serious challenge.
For other media and blogosphere commentary on the proposal, see here
, and here