(Quoted by William F. Buckley in an op-ed piece -- since he doesn't attribute, I can't do any better. I only place this here near-verbatim because even with a trillion-dollar proposed tax cut, the Alternative Minimum Tax debacle is still around, and probably getting worse)

"The following parable just came in from a friend, via the Internet. It's possible everyone else in America has seen it. On the other hand, it's also possible that only my friend and I have seen it.

Every night, 10 men met at a restaurant for dinner. At the end of the meal, the bill would arrive. They owed $100 for the food that they shared. Every night they lined up in the same order at the cash register. The first four men paid nothing at all. The fifth, though he grumbled about the unfairness of the situation, paid $1. The sixth man, feeling generous, paid $3. The next three men paid $7, $12 and $18, respectively. The last man was required to pay the remaining balance of $59.

The 10 men were quite settled into their routine when the restaurant threw them into chaos. It announced that it was cutting down its prices: Now it would charge only $80 for dinner for the 10 men. This reduction wouldn't affect the first four men -- they would continue to eat for free. The fifth person decided to forgo his $1 contribution to the pool, and the sixth contributed $2. The seventh man deducted $2 from his usual payment and now paid $5. The eighth man paid $9, the ninth, $12, leaving the last man with a bill of $52.

Outside of the restaurant, the men compared their savings, and angry outbursts began to erupt. The sixth man yelled, "I only got $1 out of the total reduction of $20, and he" -- pointing to the last man -- "got $7." The fifth man joined in the protest. "Yeah! I only got $1 too. It is unfair that he got seven times more than me." The seventh man cried, "Why should he get a $7 reduction when I only got $2?" The first four men followed the lead of the others: "We didn't get any of the $20 reduction. Where is our share?"

The nine men formed an outraged mob, surrounding the 10th man. The nine angry men carried the 10th man up to the top of a hill and lynched him. The next night, the nine remaining men met at the restaurant for dinner. But when the bill came, there was no one to pay it.

Well, parables do have their weaknesses. But they can be useful. Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce had the habit, in search of analytical clarity, of chopping off seven zeroes to illustrate her points. Thus the population of the world was 800 (read 8 billion) and that of the United States, 30 (not 300 million).

By these devices, it is true, clarifications are more nimbly arrived at. As the parable above informs us, 10 percent of the American people (the 10th dinner guest) pay 59 percent of all the taxes. The lowest 40 percent pay none. The fifth quintile, 1 percent; the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, 3, 7, 12 and 18 percent of the taxes.

The parable, of course, then brings in the drama: The proposed tax reduction of President Bush would reduce income taxes by a total of 20 percent, and the benefits of that reduction are distributed along the lines suggested for the 10 diners.

And yes, the protests arise, reaching maximum volume in the matter of relieving the 10th man from his customary contribution of $59 toward the common meal, to a contribution of $52.

OK, but the drama is then taken to what one might call a fourth act, which is one too many. The 10th diner isn't going to be lynched, because his survival is too necessary to the other nine diners. What they will do is attempt to diminish the reduction in his allocation of his benefits from the reduced dinner price and spread it among themselves. They'd like to see the 10th man continue to pay 59 percent of all taxes. That way it doesn't hurt.

Ah, but the parable writer obviously believes that it would hurt, in the long run. Because if that 10th diner tires, or is crushed into diminished productivity, he won't have the $59 to contribute to the pool, and that would be very, very inconvenient. Perhaps even life-threatening. If the restaurant has to go without that critical subsidy from the 10th diner, it might just have to reduce the rations paid out.

Granted, if the parable were refined even further, it would have to ask, What was it that caused the 10th man to be so obliging in the first place? Were they threatening to lynch him if he didn't put out? Did the 10th man plot to protect himself? Was he the critical voter in Florida in November 2000?"

(William F. Buckley, April 27, 2001)

The parable of the tenth man as a metaphor for paying taxes in the United States is inept. First, on statistical grounds it uses numbers that exclude taxes paid most heavily by the middle class and poor - Social Security and sales taxes.

Second, it fails to ask a most important question: who benefits most from government? Is the military really here to defend you - or the trillions of dollars and real estate owned by the wealthy? Does a penniless beggar care if the government is capitalist, socialist, or communist?

A family earning right at the poverty line has little chance of accumulating wealth. They live from paycheck to paycheck. While we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on law enforcement - they're probably living in the worst crime areas. Who are the police protecting?

Is welfare an altruistic program or a means of keeping the peasants from revolting? How many charitable donations would still be given if they weren't tax exempt?

Here's a neat trick: during the Reagan administration I was a married soldier in the army - my family qualified for food stamps. After the big tax cut, my paychecks decreased - even though I'd been promoted. The increases in Social Security taxes outweighed both the higher pay from my promotion and my tax cut - even though my family was living under the poverty level.

I'm especially amused by Libertarian arguments; every piece of land in this country is owned by force or threat of force. When they come to this realization and are willing to hold that *all* land ownership is a crime, we might be able to start talking.

An interesting example of revolution, or killing the tenth man, is Nicaragua. After the Sandinistas took power they almost immediately began using the wealth the country produced, which until then mostly flowed into the bank accounts of a few dozen families, to start building homes, schools, hospitals, and roads - not to mention ending the drug trade. This was a bad example to be setting in the third world -- at least in the eyes of US foreign policy makers. We funded the Contras war, placed economic sanctions on Nicaragua to hinder their economy, illegally mined their harbors, etc., etc.

They took us to the United Nations and World Court, where they won. But we simply disregarded the verdict and continued on our merry way. The brief period of progress for the masses ended when the Sandinistas relinquished power voluntarily and a US backed government resumed control.

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