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Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”  –John Adams

As a follow-up to “Cross of Gold,” here’s Michael Goodwin in today’s New York Daily News echoing my concern about allowing the populist anger of the moment to blind us to the slippery slope of specific, punitive taxation.  Take away line from Jay Leno nonetheless: “‘Here’s something that kind of scared me…if the government decides they don’t like a guy, all of a sudden, hey, we’re going to tax you and then boom, and it passes.'”  If a late-night comedian can see the potential danger here, why can’t a Yale alum?

A Thought for Sunday

“The Christian knows that lasting peace is connected with men abiding in God’s eudokia, his ‘good pleasure.’  The struggle to abide in peace with God is an indispensable part of the struggle for ‘peace on earth’; the former is the source of the criteria and the energy for the latter.  When men lose sight of God, peace disintegrates and violence proliferates to a formerly unimaginable degree of cruelty.  This we see only too clearly today.”  –Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 85

Things Fall Apart

This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.”  –T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

Our runaway spending finally catches up with us.  When will we–Democrats and Republicans–finally learn that we must live within our own means?

What Might Have Been

Finally!  Someone asks the five million dollar question: for all of the dire predictions from the left about the catastrophes that might occur if Sarah Palin became president or vice president, how much worse could it possibly have been than what we have now?  Maybe a successful president actually needs more experience than simply managing his campaign.

Life Imitates Art

Another zinger from Michael Ramirez at Investors Business Daily

Another zinger from Michael Ramirez at Investor's Business Daily

Cross of Gold

If the poor…because they are more in number, divide among themselves the property of the rich–is not this unjust?  …[I]f this is not extreme injustice, what is?  …[I]s it not evident, if this goes on, that they will ruin the state?”  —Aristotle, The Politics, III.10

courtesy, wikipedia.org

courtesy, wikipedia.org

One of the reasons I admire President Washington is his acute understanding of the power of precedents.  From the mundane (e.g. what should we call the president?) to the important (e.g. how many terms should a president serve?), Washington understood that any action taken by the national government had the potential to set a precedent that might not soon be overturned.  Too bad our current leaders lack Washington’s prescience.

After allowing AIG to honor its contractual obligation to provide $165 million dollars in bonuses to executives as part of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” the U.S. House of Representatives voted 328 – 93 to impose a special 90 percent tax on those who received these bonuses and fail to return the money to the federal government before the end of the tax year. My new congressman was leading the charge to reclaim this money. In a press release issued shortly after the vote, Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) stated in part: “…I am proud that we turned justified outrage into real results quickly.” (Rep. Perriello, himself, cosponsored a similar bill that would have taxed these bonuses at a rate of 100 percent.) While I disagree with any company in financial straits issuing bonuses, I also have a problem with the U.S. Congress targeting a special, retroactive tax at specific individuals. Today we might cheer this tax because it reclaims our tax dollars, however, today’s action is tomorrow’s precedent. What’s to stop the federal government from seizing 90 percent of some other group’s income in the future if they feel that it, too, is more than an individual deserves? There is a better way to reclaim the money, as Mitt Romney and Larry Kudlow illustrate, that would not set potentially dangerous precedents for the future.

When legislators, like Rep. Perriello, stoke public anger toward a specific group of people, the results can get out of hand quickly—as we are seeing now. Innocent people are getting caught in the crosshairs because some politicians are more interested in playing politics to cover their past mistakes* than they are in making just, responsible policies.

*After Rep. Perriello voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he defended his vote by saying “…Congress acted quickly, transparently, and responsibly to get something done for American families.” Perhaps Rep. Perriello should have read the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act before voting for it; if he had, maybe he would have discovered the AIG bonuses.

UPDATE: Apparently, it doesn’t take long to establish a precedent.  

J’ai Retourne

For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  –James 1.14

After a week-long break from school (which was dominated by my master’s thesis) and a few days to unpack and get settled in again, I haven’t had time for blogging.  To my regular readers, I apologize for my absence, but it was a much-needed break.  This sabbatical from “Much Abides” has also given me time to reassess the priorities in my life.

Over my vacation, I attended a unit committee meeting of the Republican Party of Bedford.    During the “new business,” one of our former chairmen rose to announce the passing of another former chairman.  This individual dedicated her life to promoting the party, yet only a handful of people in the meeting even remembered her.  It reminded me of the brevity and, as Solomon wrote, the vanity of life.  History is full of stories of people who did important things, but today we only remember a handful of them.  We remember that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and Britannia, but who were his lieutenants?  We’re often convinced that the issues with which we concern ourselves are of utmost importance, when, honestly one millennium hence, who will even remember them?  We are on earth for such a short time and all of our labors pass away with time.

This realization almost made me abandon my interest in politics; what’s the point of dedicating your life to something if all of your efforts will be forgotten mere decades later?  Then I remembered a column by George Will in which he stated that perhaps the best we can expect of our leaders is not to remake the world, but “…to muddle through without breaking too much crockery.”  Our leaders need all the help they can in ensuring that they do just that.  Our world still exists today because billions of ordinary people got up every morning and performed their jobs–whether governing, farming, selling or fighting (i.e. the miracle of the ordinary)–helping civilization continue.  By performing our prescribed role in life, we are helping to leave an immortal legacy: the continued existence of life on this earth.

Now, it’s back to work…we have a world to save.