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And they apparently did not pay their back taxes until their appointments were in jeopardy from public disclosures. That raises disturbing questions: Would we have known about such tax dodging had our best and brightest not wished career advancement in government? And would they have ever paid up if they had not been caught?

Take your pick - on the one side, we have free-market capitalists who took huge amounts of money as their companies eroded the savings of tens of millions; on the other, we have supposedly egalitarian liberals who skipped paying taxes. The result is the same. Our best educated, wealthiest and most connected in matters of finance proved our dumbest - and our political leaders were less than ethical in meeting their moral responsibilities as citizens.

If ordinary Americans were to follow the examples of Wall Street and Washington elites, the nation would neither collect needed revenue nor invest its capital. All that is a recipe for national decline and fall.

Victor Davis Hanson is a nationally syndicated columnist, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.