Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The dead rich get richer?

The House of Representatives is considering making the repeal of the estate tax--what the Republicans have taken to call misleadingly the "death tax"--permanent. This is a fiscal and political travesty of the highest order, as noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report. The estate tax, which at its highest peak only affected the very wealthiest of people (estates under $1 million were exempt even before Smirky was given the keys to the Empire, thereby affecting only the top 2% of all Americans anyway, according to voluminous places, but I found it first in this LA Times article from 2000), was hardly designed to be punitive, even if the estate holders were stupid enough not to have made arrangements to gift away and donate the bulk of their holdings before dying.
My biggest problem with repealing the estate tax, among many, is that it rewards the wrong people--already rich heirs and heiresses. These people have already been given tremendous advantages in life due to the accidents of their births; in our capitalist society, the best of everything is only available to those who can afford it. Schooling, medical care, cultural events, and most of all, the time to indulge one's appetites for anything--good or bad--can be had by these fortunate sons and daughters. That some of them turn out to be spoiled beyond repair is not my point, however easy it would be to simply point to MTV's show "Rich Girls" or Paris Hilton and sigh disgustedly. If these men and women are incapable of achieving their own fortunes after having received society's bounty from birth, why should we then allow them to sponge off their dead parents' money for the rest of their lives as well? It's not as if the after-tax remainder of any estates over the eligibility limit is chicken feed; who really needs that much money to live a decent life? Leaving one's wealth to one's children is a nice gesture, I suppose, but wouldn't it be nicer to have left them with the desire to better the world regardless of their economic status?
Our nation was built with the understanding that inherited wealth and inherited stature was inherently corrupting, hence our Constitutional lack of a monarch or any peerage. (Remember that from elementary school history or civics classes?) Why do Republicans want there to be one now? Or is this just another example of selfish greed nakedly exposed for what it is and sold to the vast majority (to whom this kind of wealth is only a dream) as being somehow unfair? What is unfair is that this estate money, made fairly--or, even worse, not--from the work and sweat of many, many more people than who benefited from it during the owner's lifetime should never see it put back into the economy in any productive manner at all.


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