Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two-Thirds of Americans Oppose Death Tax

Over at the Fiscal Times they are marveling over the unpopularity of the estate tax. Properly, writes Eric Schurenberg, Americans ought to love the estate tax, because only two percent of families pay it. Then there are the loopholes, like the first million of assets, and this:

In addition, expenses for your funeral, any charitable bequests, and every cent you leave your spouse are all tax-free. In 2008, according to estimates by the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center, the wealthiest 1 percent of households paid over 80 percent of the $23 billion the tax raised; the top tenth of a percent alone accounted for 46 percent of the total.

Such a deal!

In fact, two thirds of Americans oppose the "death tax" including 55 percent of Democrats. They just don't think it's fair. So how do progressives reverse the sentiment of ordinary Americans and persuade them of the truth, that a "robust" estate tax is fair? Schurenberg turns to Bill Gates, Sr.

“American society has made it possible for wealthy men, women and their families to have an elegant life, first-class education, and virtually unlimited options about where to go and what to do. Society does have a just claim on these fortunes."

Actually, it is freedom that makes this possible. Because in most societies, the elegant life is reserved for the political elite.

In reality, it is not "society" but the robust efforts of jumped-up nobodies like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford and Sam Walton that make it possible for all of us to live our comfortable lives. Society and people in general get a huge benefit from the fortunes of rich men, because riches these days come from serving the consumers really well. Think Steve Jobs and Apple.

It's understandable that progressives want to recapture the fortunes of rich men. Progressivism is a philosophy of power, and progressives since the French Revolution have revolted against the idea of wealth and power independent of the political elite.

But the pressing need these days is for people of independent means who can challenge the power of the politicians and the activists. That doesn't mean we need a new cabal of feudal barons making trouble in the hinterland.

But it does mean that we need a class of people who can be summoned to testify before Congress and have the courage to tell the solons to go take a jump in the lake.

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