From the Sun-Times
Prompted by a reporter's question, 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."
In calling for the tax relief, Keyes appeared to be reaching out to capture the black vote, something that may prove difficult to do, particularly after his unwelcome reception at the Bud Billiken Day Parade Saturday.The former ambassador said his plan would give African-Americans "a competitive edge in the labor market," because those exempted would be cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees and would "compensate for all those years when your labor was being exploited."
I think I almost feel sorry for this spokesman having the reconcile the contradictory positions. But the explanation leave me thinking that the Keyes people seem a little confused about the nature of taxes. Isn't "other people's money" still being used with a tax exemption? Isn't difficult to give one group a tax break without someone else having to pick the tab? How does this connect with his anti-affirmative action stance? Is this again a race v. heritage distinction? And I agree with the Trib, I think the booing at Bud Billiken may just have gotten to him. Update at 9:05 a.m. So, having contemplated this for a half hour, I'm still thinking about it--I suppose mostly because I've never decided on my personal stance on reparations. But thinking about Keyes' inconsistencies, I just don't get the difference between a tax exemption and making reparation payments. Update at 9:30 a.m. I told you I can't keep thinking about this. The whole cheaper workforce thing? Is he suggesting that an African-American could apply for a job and the employer could intentionally pay him less because the employee doesn't have to pay taxes? This is just too odd.
On another issue, Keyes on Monday said he supported reparations for descendants of slaves -- an apparent switch in his position.
Keyes suggested descendants of slaves should be exempt from paying federal income taxes. But in a March 27, 2002, transcript of his show "Making Sense," Keyes -- who wants to abolish the federal income tax for everyone -- suggested that reparations were an insult.
"You want to tell me that what they suffered can actually be repaired with money?" Keyes asked at the time.
Keyes, through a spokesman, said late Monday he does not support reparations if other people's money is used. "If you couldn't get the income tax abolished totally, that [exemption for slave descendants] is incremental progress," spokesman Bill Pascoe said.