Where's Strzok? USMCA vs. NAFTA; Quote of the Week

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Good morning, it’s Friday, April 19, 2019, the day when I provide an end-of-the week quote to provide inspiration for the weekend. That’s tricky today, as April 19 is a momentous -- and often lethal -- day in U.S. history.

Many of the most pivotal events have a New England connection: The American Revolution became a shooting war on Lexington Green on this date in 1775; the first blood was let in the Civil War on April 19, 1861 when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacked a train carrying Union troops from Massachusetts. Known as Patriots’ Day in the Bay State, it’s also when the first Boston Marathon was run in 1897.

April 19 is the culminating date of the deadly 1993 government siege at Waco, Texas -- and the bombing by domestic terrorists of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City two years later. 

This is also Tax Week, and today’s quote concerns the mixed feelings Americans have about paying their fair share -- or any share.

First, though, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Mueller “Strzok Out” With His Whitewash Report. Frank Miele assails the investigation for failing to examine the “insurance policy” Peter Strzok and other FBI officials hinted at having in case Donald Trump was elected.

USMCA vs. NAFTA: The Old Deal With New Letters. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek spotlights the new report from the U.S International Trade Commission.

Activists’ Lawsuits Don’t Help the Climate or California. In RealClearEnergy, Theresa Harvey argues that anti-fossil fuel litigation in the Golden State is counterproductive. 

Green Deals Won’t Save the World, But Access to Energy Will. Also in RCE, Jason Isaac discusses the overlooked effects of energy poverty.

Look to States, Not the Swamp, to Solve Political Political Problems. Rachel Barkley explains in RealClearPolicy.

Five Facts: The President’s Power to Reorganize Government. Also in RCPolicy, No Labels has this primer in light of Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Office of Personnel Management.

How Trudeau’s Scandals Are Hurting Venezuela. In RealClearWorld, Benjamin Gedan and Nicolas Saldias lament that the prime minister’s troubles have disrupted Canada’s willingness to shape the international response to the Maduro regime.

* * *

Taxes have always played a distinctive role in the American psyche. Although most Americans tend to view taxes as a necessary evil, there’s never been a consensus about how much we should pay, or even who should pay. Edmund Burke (who wasn’t an American but provided inspiration to our rebellion) gave voice to that sentiment, as have others, including several U.S. presidents.

“The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation,” Andrew Jackson noted in 1832, “that would operate with perfect equality.”
Fair enough, onetime U.S. Treasury Secretary William Simon conceded. But Simon suggested in 1977 that Americans are entitled to “a tax system which looks like someone designed it on purpose.”

(Before I continue, I should give credit where it’s due: These quotes were unearthed by the incomparable Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations.)

Little is new in the debate over taxes. John Adams noted in an 1818 letter to a friend that Founding Father James Otis insisted during the revolution that “taxation without representation is tyranny.” This line is used today by Washington, D.C., residents while agitating for a voice in the U.S. Senate. As early as 1787, Thomas Paine warned of one natural result of a muscular foreign policy. “War,” he wrote, “involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen and unsupposed circumstances ... that no human wisdom can calculate the end. It has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes.”
That is still true today. In addition, the rate of taxation has been debated through the ages. One defender of the Democrats’ longstanding “soak the rich” impulse was himself a very rich man.

“Why shouldn't the American people take half my money from me?” retail magnate (and unrepentant New Dealer) Edward A. Filene said. “I took all of it from them.” Elizabeth Warren, call your speechwriters.

Another longstanding source of controversy is estate taxes. “Nothing is certain,” goes the old adage popularized by Benjamin Franklin, “except death and taxes.” But wasn’t death supposed to end one’s obligation to the taxman? Apparently not, and that’s a touchy subject Will Rogers handled with his customary wit: “I don't see why a man shouldn't pay an inheritance tax,” he quipped in 1926. “If a country is good enough to pay taxes to while you are living, it's good enough to pay in after you die. By the time you die you should be so used to paying taxes that it would just be almost second nature to you.”

But I promised you an Edmund Burke quote, so here it is: Opining on this date in 1774 about taxation in America, Burke wrote: “To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.”

It’s a sentiment every member of Congress can relate to… and it’s our quote of the week.

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.



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