Brilliance in Humor and the Dark Side of Politicians


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I seem to remember seeing the actual footage of the Marx Brothers, Groucho in particular, acting out a great piece of comedy, although since I cannot find it on YouTube, it must not have ever happened, right? Others claim it was others, but I don’t think I’d remember Winston Churchill in this video memory quite the same way.

The skit goes something like this:
Groucho: Excuse me, miss, would you sleep with me for a million dollars?
Woman: You’re not so bad looking, so, yeah, for a million I’d consider it.
Groucho: Well, since I don’t have a million dollars, would you sleep with me for a hundred?
Woman: Mister! What kind of a girl do you think I am?!
Groucho: We’ve already established that, miss, now we’re just negotiating…
Delivered with cigar in hand, huge┬ámustache, and large rimmed glasses, it’s a classic.
It came up in conversation recently with my wife, but not for a similar reason as the subject of the bit. Herman Cain reminded me of it, actually.
How does Herman Cain, the 2012 Republican primary candidate for President of the United States reminded you of Groucho Marx, you ask?
Actually, Presidents, candidates, and other politicians often remind me of it. The reason is that their great policy that they come out with is generally accepted by the majority of Americans at the time of its inception. Just take a look at a few paraphrased propositions throughout history:
Woodrow Wilson: My fellow Americans, to be able to afford the programs that will cure this economy, would you pay a small portion–just 1%–of your income if you make more than $20,000 (the equivalent of almost $400,000 in 2010 dollars)?
Populous: Well, the poor need help, and I’m only middle class and won’t be taxed at all with this deal, so it sounds good to me.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: My fellow Americans, to assure that people are cared for after the end of their working years, would you pay 1% of your first $3,000 (about $45,000 in 2010 dollars) of income, with your employer paying an equal amount to provide for the less fortunate among us?
Populous: For the equivalent of about $38 (in 2010 value), I’ll be assured an income after I reach 65? And my parents who are approaching that age will not be a burden to me either? Sign us up!
Barack Obama: My fellow Americans, health insurance is a right. If we all pay premiums, our costs will go down. That’s how insurance works: you distribute the risk. If you already have insurance, you’ll keep your carrier and your doctor.
Populous: I’m already insured, so if you need to force others to buy insurance in order to reduce what I pay, that sounds reasonable.
Herman Cain: My fellow Americans, I propose a new tax structure. Instead of complicated forms and myriad loopholes, let us set the corporate income tax rate at 9%, the personal income tax rate at 9%, and impose a national sales tax of 9%.
Populous: I’d love to only pay 9% income tax and only new products incur the 9% sales tax, so I can control how much tax I pay by controlling my purchases. Sounds good to me.
Of course, Woodrow Wilson eventually left office and Congress and succeeding Presidents saw it prudent to increase the now negotiable rate. Following FDR, Congress raided the Treasury for the trust fund and soon realized they had to bring in more revenues to pay the retirees. Barack Obama’s successors could easily one day make changes to the health care programs, the nature of which can only be speculated. What would Congress do with the opportunity to adjust both a flat income tax and a national sales tax in the years following Cain’s one-day departure from the office?
I like the idea of a flat tax. I prefer the idea of the Fair Tax, the national sales tax, to the exclusion of income taxes. The trouble with the Fair Tax is that you cannot guarantee that there won’t be a return of the income tax one day in the not too distant future. In fact, after thinking this train of thoughts that started with a memory of a video of Groucho Marx, the station at the end of the line is another video, this time out of Star Wars.

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