Hugo Chavez has been amusing himself lately spurning the advances by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Instead, he ought to give her a hug and a Chavista of the Year medal. After all, the U.S. secretary of state has been laboring recently at the task that Venezuela’s strongman considers Job No. 1: making the case for socialism.
Mrs. Clinton spent much of last week on a four-nation tour of Latin America, offering advice on fiscal policy. In Ecuador on June 8, she urged Latin American nations to overhaul their tax systems in order to impose heavier levies on the wealthy and reduce tax evasion. She argued that the rich need to pay their “fair share” in order to reduce poverty and promote economic growth: “We can’t mince words about this. Levels of tax evasion are unacceptably high.”
Apparently, Mrs. Clinton felt compelled to practice a variation of the traveler’s idiom, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” These days, most of Latin America does as Venezuela’s leftist president does, and so did the secretary. She also made an appeal for better relations between the United States and Venezuela but said Mr. Chavez did not appear interested in reciprocating.
The following day in the middle of a speech, Mr. Chavez began crooning a little tune he presumably made up on the spot: “I’m not loved by Hillary Clinton … and I don’t love her, either.”
What’s not to love, Hugo? Redistributing wealth by squeezing the rich is right out of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” and lies at the core of socialist ideology that serves as the basis for the Bolivarian revolution. For the U.S. secretary of state to validate class struggle in Mr. Chavez’s own backyard ought to be music to his ears.
As a reliable player on President Obama’s team, Mrs. Clinton has spent the past 17 months mirroring the policies of her boss - empathizing with the nation’s adversaries and chastising its allies. But when the opportunity has arisen, she has returned to her ideological roots: the redistribution of wealth. Recently, she has spoken in favor of high taxes in Brazil, and last year she urged Pakistanis to pay more.
For Hillary watchers, the secretary’s statist message comes as no surprise. As a teenager in the 1960s, she embraced the social justice tenets of her Methodist church in the Chicago suburbs. While Mr. Obama was still a schoolboy in Indonesia, Mrs. Clinton was studying the ideas of community organizer Saul Alinsky, and she wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley College on his radical tactics. During her years at Yale Law School, she interned at an Oakland law firm well-known for backing radical causes; two partners were former Communist Party members.
Then as first lady in the early 1990s, Mrs. Clinton attempted to craft a plan that would impose federal regulation on the nation’s health care system. Hillarycare proved wildly unpopular with Americans and never came to a vote in Congress. Some of her proposals, however, re-emerged in Mr. Obama’s $1 trillion health care reform bill, which Congress passed in March. Surely, Mrs. Clinton must have experienced bittersweet emotions over the eventual victory of health care reform at the hands of her erstwhile rival and current boss. A majority of taxpayers, however, anticipate nothing sweet from the new law and favor its repeal.
So, the secretary’s pronouncement of common cause with the Latin leftists last week was not simply an exercise in ingratiation. It represented a continuation of her lifelong labor in the fields of statism.
While the redistributionist message still resonates south of the border, socialism’s unsustainable economic model is readily evident in Europe. Unaffordable cradle-to-grave government policies have brought many eurozone nations to the brink of insolvency and have pushed at least one over the edge. Greece’s mountainous debt and riots over attempts to cut spending serve as a harbinger for nations enthralled by socialism’s lethal charms. Closer to home, crushing burdens from overly generous social entitlements and state employee benefits have placed California in similar financial straits.
But old habits die hard, and Mrs. Clinton, like her president, evidently is loath to recognize the bitter fruits of her lifelong statist advocacy. Tax avoidance, which she railed against in Latin America, worsens when taxpayers believe taxes are too high and government is too inefficient. “Better tax compliance is achieved by lowering tax rates and eliminating inefficient and corrupt spending programs so that taxpayers have more confidence that their money is not being wasted,” says tax reform expert and Cato Institute scholar Daniel J. Mitchell.
One could argue that the redistributionist impulse springs from the noble desire to serve those in need. Indeed, Jesus advised, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” But when in secular society the impulse to provide for the needy is uprooted by big-government demand for oppressive taxes, inclinations toward charity morph into resentment.
In her role as America’s pre-eminent diplomat, Mrs. Clinton could do better than confine her advocacy to the dysfunctional policies of statism. Rather than argue that heavier taxes pave the pathway to prosperity, she would be wise to champion the notion that lightening the burden of government can unleash a state of liberty in which human industry flourishes.
Frank Perley is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times.
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Frank Perley, Senior Editor for Opinion, began his journalism career when he joined The Washington Times at its inception in 1982 and has worked as a reporter, corporate executive and editor.
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