My good friend Herb says that government is the only burglar that can steal a wage-earners money without benefit of weapons or superior strength. Furthermore, its theft is fully supported by the police, the FBI, the National Guard, the U.S. Marines, and the Coast Guard, and backed by the legislative grandeur of the United States Congress. Herb hates taxes like a midnight toothache. “The last truly great U.S. president was Calvin Coolidge, whose favorite diatribe from the political pulpit was a one-worder that began with an ‘N,’ rhymed with ‘whoa,’ and related to taxes.” My tax- obsessed friend swears that verbally parsimonious Cal could easily have been a glittering silent film star, making a lot more money than he made by wordlessly hanging around the White House.
“But Herb,” I replied, “Coolidge played poker and drank bourbon with his pals in the White House bar for four years – that’s all he did. And Mrs. Coolidge, as hyperactive as a sloth with mono, only hung new curtains in the White House master bedroom. That was the extent of the Coolidge agenda.”
“Yeah, my kinda prez. Note that in 1927, 98% of Americans paid no taxes.” My friend paused to drink one of my beers. “Calvin Coolidge,” continued Herb, “passed about as much legislation as an oak tree on the White House lawn – may his memory never fade.”
Herb pines for the old days when the feudal aristocracy granted tax exemptions to whole towns and villages for acts of heroic loyalty: say, if a local saved the kingdom by pulling his liege lord out of the duck pond, or diverted the vil-
Calvin Coolidge passed about as much legislation as an oak tree on the White House lawn – may his memory never fade.
lage cesspool into his liege lord’s enemy’s well, or stuck a sword in the hindquarters of his liege lord’s enemy. It was a well-established tradition. Joan of Arc’s hamlet of Domremy went tax-free because of her heroic feats. Naturally, as word got around, tax-oppressed peasants vacated the neighboring towns.
My friend had a dream, he tells me, where he, a mere citizen, was allowed to stipulate a few presidential qualifications:
1. If the candidate ever uses the term “sharing” (political lingo for stealing) in campaign oratory, he must spend a week as a bedpan orderly at City Hospital – in the gastrointestinal ward.
2. Calculus is not a prerequisite, but simple arithmetic is a must. Particularly subtraction. He must understand that if a citizen has ten dollars in his poke and the government takes three, only seven remain. The understanding of the principle of addition is not necessary, since government does nothing that involves addition.
3. The candidate must have made an honest living for at least ten consecutive years. Every year of lawyering counts as negative five years.
4. He must have prepared his own tax return without the benefit of professional tax accounting assistance for at least three consecutive years. Financial penalties or jail time are convertible to credits for requirement #3.
5. Before inauguration, he will spend six months studying “The Road to Serfdom” by Hayek and “Freedom and Capitalism” by Milton Friedman. There will be a test, and a minimum score of 90°!c> is necessary before investiture.
Then my pal woke up and read the paper and wished he was in dreamland again. “What happened to the good old days?” he laments. Herb passionately believes that the president should go to funerals, run the Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn, and hold a press conference once a year to answer any charges about eggs hidden in abnormally high grass. And that’s all.
“That’s the way it was,” says Herb.