A distressed Harry Reid, the Democrat US Senate Majority Leader, opened a vein in the well of the senate a few days ago. Pity and concern for the auto workers' union poured out.
The bloodletting on behalf of the Big 3 auto makers was, as it turned out, an entirely useless gesture, because soon to be ex-President George Bush a day later hinted he would give the auto workers everything they wanted – and then some.
Congressmen and others allied with the auto workers' union wanted a no strings attached bridge loan of $14 billion to tide the Big 3 over until a new administration, possibly more accommodating, was installed in Washington. More responsible legislators wanted either a) the Big 3 to declare bankruptcy so that the companies could trim the fat from their paunches, reorganize their business practices and emerge from the process leaner and more prosperous, or b) to assign a “car czar” to oversee the process or reorganization before bail out loans were made. The bridge loan is the equivalent of an economic “bridge to nowhere.” Some analysts are suggesting that the $14 billion won’t last but a few months.
The lame duck president cannot run for office again, thanks to term limits and whatever parsimonious deity looks after the economic affairs of the country.
By the time he leaves office, Bush, who ran for president during his first term as a tight fisted conservative not overly concerned with foreign affairs, will have in concert with the congress expropriated from US taxpayers around a few trillion, leaving behind in his wake two hot wars, one winding down in Iraq and another heating up in Afghanistan.
As Reid was bleeding on the floor of the Senate and speculating that the Wall Street roller coaster would be taking a nose dive the next day, owing to the parsimony of senate Republicans who nixed the bridge loan, the lame duck president undercut his forces in the senate, such as they were, who had finally said “No” to indiscriminant bail outs.
Bush said he would make an effort to find the $16 billion somewhere, probably in US Sen. Chris Dodd’s pants. When it seemed likely the unions would get their no strings attached bridge loan, Reid stopped bleating and bleeding, Dodd stopped caterwauling, and everyone went home to enjoy their Christmas turkey.
The Christmas holiday could not have come at a more propitious time. While the congress is adjourned, beleaguered tax payers may enjoy in peace and quiet a few bill free days and contemplate such discussions as Reid recently had with Jan Helfeld, who was trying to get the Senate Majority Leader to acknowledge that tax contributions were forced and not discretionary.
Reid: I don’t accept your phraseology. I don’t think we force people [to pay taxes].
Helfeld: Taxation is not forceful? It’s voluntary?
Reid: No, in fact, quite the contrary. Our system of government is a voluntary system.
Helfeld: Oh? If you don’t want to pay your taxes, you don’t have to?
Reid: Oh, for sure you have to pay your taxes…
Helfeld: Or the government will force you to pay, or they’ll fine you or imprison you.
Reid: We have a voluntary system.
More on point and much more brief, brevity being the soul of wit, is Mark Twain’s remark: "The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin."
The telling interview with Reid has made the rounds far less frequently than a newer YouTube video showing an enraged Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at a visiting Bush and gleefully reproduced on blog sites managed by the kind of people who can listen to the Reid interview without unlacing their shoes.
It is indeed a topsy-turvy world. The speaker of the greatest deliberative body on earth can insist in an interview that the tax money now being shoveled in the direction of the Big 3 auto makers is voluntarily contributed, and there is not a smile in the house. But let an enraged journalist throw a shoe at a president and we cackle ourselves hoarse. Would it be out of place to suggest that some Iraqi customs should be adopted to protest the idiocies of those who authorize the tax man to strip us even of our skins?