The debate continues over whether to repeal the estate tax (better known as the death tax).
Proponents of repeal say that:
- The tax is being imposed a second time on wealth that’s already been taxed;
- The tax causes owners of small businesses and farms to liquidate their property in order to pay the tax;
- Talented people will continue to work long after they’ve earned more than enough for themselves only if they know the additional earnings can be passed on to their children; and
- The tax collects very little because people wealthy enough to pay it are wealthy enough to arrange their financial affairs in ways that avoid it.
Defenders of the tax say that:
- Inherited wealth turns heirs into loafers;
- Inherited wealth gives the children of the rich an unfair advantage in life; and
- Beyond a certain level, rich children already have enough, and, thus, the inheritance can do more good if made available to society as a whole.
These arguments — on both sides — are interesting, but they all ignore the most important question: If the heirs aren’t entitled to a rich person’s money, who is? Who should receive the money instead?
If the inheritance is taxed, the money will go to the politicians for their use — to keep themselves in power, to reward their friends and to punish their enemies.
Why should we believe that people like George Bush, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich or Teddy Kennedy will use a wealthy person’s money in ways more beneficial to society than the heirs would?
Where your money goes
The politicians have used money taxed away from you and other people to decimate what was once the best health-care system the world has ever known. They have used your money to make education less and less effective. They have squandered your money on unwinnable “wars” against poverty and drugs.
Could the heirs of Rockefellers, Gettys, or Gates have done more damage to society?
Do we want these guys to have your money?
Republicans often push for a tax cut of some kind with the argument that lower taxes will stimulate the economy and provide greater revenue to the government.
Hot diggety dawg! Just what we want: more revenue the government can use to interfere with medicine and run up the prices of prescription drugs, the way it’s run up the prices of hospital stays and health insurance; more resources with which to continue the destruction of American schools; more ways to get people and institutions hooked on the government dole.
How about smaller government?
Libertarians would prefer to see a tax cut so massive that it can’t possibly produce more revenue — that it will in fact cause far less revenue to be available to the government. Then maybe we’ll get what neither Republican nor Democratic politicians have the slightest interest in today — a reduction in government itself.
We want a government so small that it can’t monitor your e-mail, can’t snoop in your bank account, can’t tax your income, can’t tell you how to live.
Unfortunately, the best argument for the complete repeal of the estate tax rarely is raised. It is that people who earn money have demonstrated by their ability to earn the money that they’re far more competent to disburse it than politicians are.