Sunday, May 27, 2012

General Wesley C. Clark and his bizarre apologists.

Marx, Engels, Clark, Hitler, Mussolini: At least the USA stopped one of them without bloodshed.
Way back on 15 June 2003, retired General Wesley C. Clark let spew forth this gem whilst chatting with Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press:
The Bush tax cuts weren't fair. The people that need the money and deserve the money are the people who are paying less, not the people who are paying more. I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation. In other words, it's not only that the more you make, the more you give, but proportionately more because when you don't have very much money, you need to spend it on the necessities of life.
One 'funny' thing about this quote is it was one of the only 2003 video clips of General Clark that is not available on the internet today.  If you search for video with Wesley Clark from 2003, you get all sorts of interesting crap that New World Order conspiracy theorists love, and a little FOX News bashing, but nothing on this, although the quote above is all over the place.  I was unable to find the transcript on the NBC website too, but that might just be me.

So, retired General Clark thinks that this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation?  Seriously? Eugene Volokh made a great response at the time:
Somehow I slept through the class session in American History where they explained just how the country was founded "on a principle of progressive taxation." "No Taxation Without Progressivity," was that the big slogan? (Thanks to Dan Gifford to the pointer; I should also note that columnist Walter Williams also made the same observation shortly after the Clark speech, and I'm sure many others did, too.)
Although I like both Volkh's and Williams' responses, I had a decidedly different reaction.  General Clark was spewing the Communist Manifesto and labeling it USA founding principles.  Progressive taxation has been item two in the handy list Marx and Engels included in the Communist Manifesto since its publication in February, 1848.  It is also addressed as a tax on business and investment income in both Mussolini's Fascist Manifesto and in the German National Socialist's 25 Points of 1920, and in the current American Nazi Party.

While trying to find the video, or just the audio, of Clark's 15 AUG 2003 Meet the Press appearance, I cam across this bit of humor by one Nathan Newman (note, all of the links to his evidence are broken):
September 18, 2003
Volokh Gets It Wrong
US Founded on Progressive Taxation

Eugene Volokh is accusing Wesley Clark of being historically ignorant.

The complaint?

Clark attacked Bush's tax cuts as a betrayal of America's progressive history:

The people that need the money and deserve the money are the people who are paying less, not the people who are paying more. I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation.Volokh snidely dismisses Clark by saying, "Somehow I slept through the class session in American History where they explained just how the country was founded'on a principle of progressive taxation.'"
But it's Volokh who has his history wrong.

For those of us for whom this country was founded in the "New Birth of Freedom" that ended slavery and completed the Constitution with the post-Civil War Amendments, the United States WAS founded on progressive taxation.

In fact, the first progressive income tax was in 1862 to fund the Union troops. From the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):
It was a "progressive" tax in that it initially levied a tax of 3 percent on annual incomes over $600 but less than $10,000 and a tax of 5 percent on any income over $10,000. In 1864 the rates increased and the ceiling dropped so that incomes between $600 and $5,000 were taxed at 5 percent, with a 10 percent rate on the excess over $5,000. Passed as an emergency measure to finance the Union cause in the Civil War, the first income tax generated approximately $55 million in government revenues during the war. Paying the taxes was viewed as part of the patriotic war effort, and the whole country was proud when the merchant prince A. T. Stewart paid $400,000 in taxes on an income of $4 million.So yes, pride in a progressive income tax is EXACTLY what this country was founded upon.
It's worth noting that the Congress assumed it had the power to pass an income tax on that basis and revived it in the 1890s, only to have a rightwing Supreme Court strike the income tax down. This led to passage of the 16th Amendment, further ratifying progressive taxation as a founding principle of our constitutional system.

One thing that conservatives don't understand about America-- liberty was not founded in 1776. It's been a continual process with each generation having to refound this country in struggle -- a little bit of revolution periodically in Thomas Jefferson's phrase. But there is little question that our modern constitutional system was only established with the Civil War, and progressive taxation was at the heart of that effort.

Posted by Nathan at September 18, 2003 05:37 PM
Today I did attempt to respond to this load of crap thusly, but Nathan Newman's website redirected to a "page not found" message:
Okay, in what universe can you possibly read the US Constitution and glean that before the ratification of the 16th Amendment that an income tax was constitutional?  The Congress attempts all sorts of laws outside their powers that they know full well are outside of their powers.

The only way a "right wing" Supreme Court excuse fits is in the same way that Howard Dean criticized the Kelo v. New London decision on eminent domain was decided by a "right-wing Supreme Court": he lied about it.  Maybe he got the idea from you, since that happened a couple of years after you made this post.
Also, the Supreme Court did not overturn the Civil War Income Taxes, the Grant administration successfully lobbied Congress to do so.
Wesley Clark was engaged in the same sort of retread falsehoods as Ted Kennedy did on 12 AUG 1980 speaking on progressive taxation. He engaged in fabrication. Kennedy may not have known that progressive taxation is item two in the list at the end of "Chapter II. Proletarians and Communists" in the Communist Manifesto, but he should have at least known that Progressive RINO Teddy Roosevelt did not invent it and it sure did not originate in the USA. BTW, a progressive tax on capital is the first item under Finance in Mussolini's 1919 Fascist Manifesto and similar can be found in the 1920 German National Socialist 25 Points.

Seeing a General express these bizarre notions is no surprise. After 30 years of service, I became surprised when I met a fellow officer *without* a natural leaning to Commu-Fascism.
 I didn't realize until after reading that my response sounds like Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.


  1. Jonah Goldberg in his book "Liberal Fascism" referenced Dr. Curry's discovery: the Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the Nazi salute. From Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning" Goldberg states "Religion was the glue that held this American national socialism together. Bellamy believed that his brand of socialist nationalism was the true application of Jesus' teachings. His cousin Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, was similarly devoted. A founding member of the first Nationalist Club of Boston and co-founder of the Society of Christian Socialists, Francis wrote a Sermon, "Jesus, the Socialist," that electrified parishes acorss the country. In an expression of his "military socialism," the Pledge of Allegiance was accompanied by a [stiff-arm] salute to the flag in American public schools. Indeed, some contend that the Nazis got the idea for their salute from America." (page 216).

    "The story of the Pledge of Allegiance and its National Socialist roots is a fascinating one. Dr. Rex Curry, a passionate libertarian, has made the issue his white whale. See " (page 440, n. 25)

    "Go get'em, Ahab!" - from fan.

    1. That was a very interesting comment, but it has not one bit to do with my post at all.

      And any notion that Jesus was a Socialist is laughable. Altruism is not Socialism. Jesus never advocated forced giving, He advocated voluntary giving.