Slavery came to a bloody halt under Abraham Lincoln’s administration; another form of it is arguably reappearing under Barack Obama’s.
Speaking to a Minnesota audience on Aug. 15, 2011, the president made this comparison, according to White House reporter Keith Koffler:
“Everyone thinks that Lincoln had it tough,” Obama said. “But let’s not forget that his opposition was confined to one region of the country. Secessionists only controlled 11 states in the South. Today, I’m beset from all sides. Tea party extremists operate in every state and control the government in a majority of them. We live in perilous times. The fate of the nation is at stake.”
The following December, he made another Lincoln comparison during a “60 Minutes” interview, in which he described himself as the fourth best president in history.
“I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history,” Obama told CBS’s Steve Kroft.
Now that Obama has won his second term and no longer has to make such comparisons, others have picked up the mantle for him.
New York Times columnist David Brooks debated E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post on National Public Radio Friday about the president’s handling of the “fiscal cliff” talks. I know — what could the Times and Post possibly find to debate about? But debate they did.
Dionne disagreed with Brooks’ assessment that Obama was too hardline with respect to taxing the wealthy and entitlement reform.
“I think it’s a good start,” Brooks said of the talks. “I think that we got so used to the idea in Washington that President Obama makes preemptive concessions before the other side puts anything concrete on the table, that we can’t believe that he’s just being a normal negotiator.”
Preemptive concessions? I can’t recall the president doing anything but digging in his heels with a “my way or the highway” attitude. A normal negotiator? So far, Obama has refused to negotiate. He had his Treasury secretary present his plan to congressional leaders with no provision for negotiations — take it or leave it.
But Brooks finally reached “Twilight Zone” status when he made another Lincoln comparison:
“Lincoln stood his ground on the fundamental principle that we needed the 13th Amendment and needed to ban slavery. In fact, he was willing to have a Civil War on that question.”
Brooks pushed the wrong button on that one.
When debating the slavery issue with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln paraphrased Genesis 3:19 in emphasizing man’s natural right “to eat the bread which he has earned by the sweat of his brow.”
The president is now calling for the top marginal income tax rate to increase by 4.6 percent. He’s calling for capital gains taxes to increase 5 percent. He’s demanding that interest and dividends be taxed as ordinary income, which could raise them by just shy of 25 percent. Finally, he’s asking that estate and gift tax exclusions drop from $5 million to $1 million, and that the rates increase from 25 to 55 percent.
Arguably, then, what we earn by the sweat of our brow is not just used to purchase our own bread but increasingly more the bread of others. Although some form of taxation is necessary to run a government, excessive taxation has long been equated to slavery, so much so that a Wikipedia page, “Taxation as Slavery,” has been dedicated to the concept.
There’s no question but that taxation, no matter how onerous, pales in comparison to true slavery. They each, however, have something in common. They allow others to live off our own labor.
Since the president’s re-election on Nov. 6, secession petitions have sprung up from all 50 states.
Lincoln risked the possibility of secession and a civil war to make slavery a bitter memory in the United States. Is Obama risking the same in order to revive that hated practice?