Tuesday, August 17, 2004
CHICAGO -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes has just released a statement clarifying what appeared to be a surprising position he took at a news conference yesterday.
"I think a cogent argument could be made for reparations in principle," Keyes is quoted as saying to reporters yesterday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Chicago Tribune expanded:
Keyes gave a brief tutorial on Roman history and said that in regard to reparations for slavery, the U.S. should do what the Romans did: "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 response from conservatives was immediate. "Who downstate will now vote for Keyes?" wrote IllinoisLeader.com reader Randall Mead of Springfield today. "I certainly won't."
This afternoon, Keyes released the following statement, clarifying his position:
I have consistently opposed the effort to extort monetary damages from the American people. As I have argued in the past, the great sacrifices involved in the Civil War represented the requital in blood and treasure for the terrible injustices involved in slavery. In this form the so called "reparations" movement represents an insult to the historic commitment that many Americans made to the end of slavery, which included the sacrifice of their lives.
I have also consistently maintained that the history of slavery, racial segregation and discrimination did real damage to black Americans, left real and persistent material wounds in need of healing.
In various ways through the generations since the end of slavery, America has tried to address this objective fact, but without real success. This was at least in part the rationale for many elements of the Great Society programs of the sixties, and for the original and proper concept of affirmative action developed under Republican leadership during the Nixon years.
Unfortunately, the government-dominated approaches of the Great Society, which purported to heal and repair the legacy of historical damage, actually widened and deepened the wounds. They undermined the moral foundations of the black community and seriously corrupted the family structure and the incentives to work, savings, investment, and business ownership.
The idea I have often put forward to address this challenge involves a traditionally Republican, conservative and market-oriented approach: removing the tax burden from the black community for a generation or two in order to encourage business ownership, create jobs and support the development of strong economic foundations for working families.
This has the advantage of letting people help themselves, rather then pouring money into government bureaucracies that displace and discourage their own efforts. It takes no money from other citizens, while righting the historic imbalance that results from the truth that black slaves toiled for generations at a tax rate that was effectively 100 percent.
I have also made it clear that while I believe that the descendants of slaves would be helped by this period of tax relief, my firm goal and ultimate objective is to replace the income tax, and thereby free all Americans from this insidious form of tax slavery. It is well known that this is one of the key priorities of the Keyes campaign.
In response to Keyes' statement, conservative Jack Roeser of Family Taxpayers Network told IllinoisLeader.com, "I expect Keyes would say this is one of those interesting subjects to be talked about among people sharing ideas. Reparations is an impractical concept. Everybody in every category has been wronged in one way or the other, and you cannot single one out."
Roeser continued, "Keyes is a man of ideas, and I expect he gets into discussions like this that are proper in their proper place, but that he would never vote for reparations. The problem with American politics is that people don't get into deep discussions."
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