Aristide in the CFA? Under Lock and Key??
Jude Wanniski
March 7, 2004

 

Memo To: Dick Gilder
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Plea for Help

Dick, I am writing to you out of desperation, hoping you and the Political Club for Growth can do something about the poorest countries in the Western and the Eastern Hemisphere at the same time you pursue the noble goal of making the USA even richer than it is. For the last several months I have been posting memos here on the crazy tax systems in Black Africa and in Haiti, hoping to generate a spark of interest from the politicians. Iíve tried Karl Rove, who you know well, and written a number of times to Charlie Rangle, arguably the most influential black man in America by virtue of being the ranking Democrat on the House Ways&Means Committee. They just canít seem to get interested, so maybe this really is a job for the private sector and the Club for Growth, which you founded for the purpose of making the USA richer. Please, Dick, ask Dusty Rhodes and the Club's board to consider raising some money to make the poorest countries at least rich enough so they can stop dying like flies of starvation, disease, AIDs and civil war.

What has me so exercised on this Sunday afternoon is that I just got an e-mail from Action International, a left-wing peacenik with close ties to former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. It seems they sent a delegation Friday to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries in Black Africa, to meet with overthrown Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It turned out that although they had in advance advised the CFA Foreign Minister they would be coming, they were turned away at the Palace of the Renaissance where he is being held, they say, ďunder lock an key.Ē A press release by Action International reported:

"We were stopped at the gates by a guard who contacted a Central African Republic official inside the building. A representative of the Central African Republic came out to speak with us," Ives reported. "We asked to go in to visit President Aristide and were told we could not. We asked if he could come out to see us, and we were told no. We asked if we could send in a note or our phone number, and we were told no. The official then told us that he had spoken with the Minister of Defense and that Aristide was not allowed to receive visitors."

Mr. Ives also reported that he placed a call to the cell phone that the Aristides have been using to place calls to their friends, attorneys and the media. "Mildred Aristide answered the phone. I said, 'Hello Mildred, this is Kim Ives, we are here.' At that point, the phone line went dead. We have tried to call many times since then but there has been no answer." Brian Concannon is also a member of the delegation, acting in the capacity of President Aristide's attorney. Standing outside the gates of the compound where President Aristide is being held, Mr. Concannon requested to meet with President Aristide alone for a consultation. This was also denied.

"The world has been told that President Aristide is free to come and go, and that he has simply chosen not to leave," said Sara Flounders of the International Action Center. "The fact that our delegation has been denied all forms of contact with President Aristide confirms, in fact, that he is being kept under lock and key, at this point not even able to communicate by phone."

"The U.S. and French governments chose to take Aristide to the Central African Republic, a formerly colonized and impoverished country," said Johnnie Stevens of the International Action Center. "The Central African Republic, similar to many formerly colonized countries in Africa and around the world, has been isolated and underdeveloped because of the past policies of France, the U.S. and other colonial and neo-colonial powers. The U.S. and France should be paying reparations to the Central African Republic."

Now I know this sounds pretty strong, Dick, but you and I have talked for 25 years about how the International Monetary Fund has been responsible for impoverishing a good part of the world with its destructive policies. Haiti should be an island paradise, but it has lived for decades under the IMF boot, which keeps it impoverished by forcing it to live under a confiscatory tax system that is among the worst in the world. It is pretty plain that Aristide has been a flop on his own, but why would he be shipped off to the Central African Republic? Maybe it was providential, in that it led me today to check out the tax structure for the CFA. Where Haiti has a 25% personal income tax bracket that hits at $5555 per year, in the Central African Republic the 25% rate is encountered at an annual income of $949!!! Here is the progressive schedule, converted into U.S. dollars using the CFA franc @ 527 to the dollar.

Slices of Income in F.CFA... Rates (%)
0- $341.................... 0
341-$569................ 10
569-$949................ 20
949-$1382.............. 25
1382-$1802............. 30
1802-$2277............. 40
2277-$2846............. 50
2846-$3795............. 60
above $5692............ 65

You see what I mean? And Iím not even going to tell you about the CFA business taxes in detail, except that capital gains are taxed as ordinary income and the corporate tax is roughly equivalent to the personal schedule in its progression, although it does stop at 46% (including surcharges). In todayís news, I find that the government is telling the press that Aristide is not behaving himself, but he will stay put. In a separate story, the government announces that because it cannot balance the budget, all government employees will have to take a pay cut. Whatís new?

If you donít think itís worthwhile to raise questions with our Political Establishment why this is allowed to continue, I donít know where else to turn, Dick. Iíve tried to interest the fans of my website in the issue, hoping they might call their congresspersons about why we blowing up part of the world with bombs and a much bigger part with crazy economic policies. But there seems to be only a big yawn. My missives to members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their staffs has also hit a brick wall. I thought for sure Charlie Rangel would rouse himself, but no dice. What you could also do after you kick this around with Dusty and the Clubís board is place a call to President Bush. I know you donít like people to know that you sat next to him for several years at the board meetings of the Texas Rangers, when you still owned 10% of the team, so he knows you pretty good. Heíll take your call, Iím pretty sure. I hate to ask this favor, but Iím getting desperate. If you do start a campaign, you can count on me for a cash contribution as well as more of these memos.

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Dear Website Fans: Please send this memo by e-mail to as many of your friends as you think might take an interest. You can also go to the link provided by Action Central, http://www.capwiz.com/votenowar/issues/alert/?alertid=5296001&type=ME, plug in your zip code, and find a list of the contacts in that area. You get to add a message too. I suggest you mention this memo and provide the link. It will only take a minute and will not make you rich, but it might help some poor soul live a little longer.