Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Estate tax

Misinformation and intentionally perpetuated ignorance fuel the fierce battle for the repeal of the estate tax. Republicans started calling it the "death tax" in 1995, when studies showed that "death tax" polled better than "estate tax." But is "death tax" really accurate?

Just think about the term for a second. Calling it a "death tax" makes it seem as though everybody is going to be taxed upon their deaths, but that's simply not true. The average estate which had to pay the estate tax was $2.7 million. That's a hell of a lot more than the average American has at the time of his or her death.

Moreover, the permanent repeal of the estate tax will end up costing $290 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years. So how have they done it? What have the conservatives done to trump up such widespread support (firmly more than a majority no matter how the question's asked) for repealing a measure that affects so few?


That's right, they've appealed to lower- and middle-class Americans' concept of fairness. "Neither rich nor poor should have to be taxed upon their deaths," they say, and Americans gobble it up. Never mind that this is a tax that only affects the top 2.1% or so of the population; it wouldn't be fair to treat them differently.

But is it fair for economic policies to let the rich keep getting richer while the poor get poorer? Wait, that's not harsh enough. Policies let the rich get richer while the poor get blamed for getting themselves poorer. They're told that it's their fault, and that anybody can make it, and that extenuating circumstances aren't excuses, because everybody should have enough cash in reserve to take care of themselves. If they don't, then they're just not trying hard enough and don't deserve to be taken care of anyway.

These tax cuts, in the face of massive (and increasing) federal spending, are reckless and greedy. The opposite of fiscal responsibility.

In the '80s it was "Greed is good," right? So voting with your own economic interests was the thing to do. Well, the top earners still do. Why, then, do they insist on pushing some artificial doctrine of fairness onto the middle and low earners? Because the top earners don't have enough votes to democratically make things happen in their own economic interests. So they have to rely on misinformation and ignorance to get other people to vote against their economic interests.

Sorry, this was rambling. I hope it made sense.