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Holy Day
April 12, 2005 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Holy Day Monsignor Moose informs all G-d fearing Americans that Wednesday, April 13th is the most sacred day in the Republican moral calendar. Brothers and Sisters and all ye of faith, fall to your knees and genuflect at the altar of the almighty dollar! This is a time for deep and reflective prayer. For tomorrow, the Godly Republican Cardinals will gather in the House to provide eternal life for the blessed sacrament of the GOP - the permanent elimination of the estate tax for the ultra-wealthy.
posted by Postroad (91 comments total)

 
I luuurve the Bull Moose. Seems to me that, like the Daily Show, humor is the best way to tackle all of the right-wing craziness that is happening right now. The Bull Moose does it with a bit more of a DC-insidery vibe than the Daily Show, but he's just as fearless in taking down whoever/whatever is ridiculous in politics. He's been going after De Lay and Abramoff and Ralph Reed for months now. Anyway, glad to see that someone finally linked to him on Metafilter.
posted by billysumday at 2:13 PM on April 12, 2005


Did I wake up on the wrong side of reality? Isn't this country supposed to be off, by and for the people, not just the lords 'n' ladies? And robber barons and carpetbaggers?
posted by mk1gti at 2:25 PM on April 12, 2005


metafilter: off, by and for
posted by quonsar at 2:36 PM on April 12, 2005


Did I wake up on the wrong side of reality? Isn't this country supposed to be off, by and for the people, not just the lords 'n' ladies? And robber barons and carpetbaggers?
posted by mk1gti at 2:25 PM PST on April 12


Nice histrionics.

Now, if you will, please explain how the elimination of the estate tax means this isn't a country for the people or by the people. Please explain how we aren't a country by the people following elections less than a year ago which would seem to indicate the people have control. Please explain how pursuit of an idea that 85% of the people support somehow indicates we are no longer a country for the people. Also please explain how you have a country where there aren't rich people which would seem to be only way to get you to not cry about "lords n' ladies", etc.
posted by dios at 2:42 PM on April 12, 2005


Estate tax: because the government wants in on the will, too.
posted by linux at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2005


Well, Dios, this is a very poor article on the subject and not surprising that it's tone be continued in the commentary.

To my mind, the real concern is missing tax revenue, where shall it be recompensed? Or, more cogently, what services will be cut to make up for the shortfall?
posted by undule at 2:59 PM on April 12, 2005


Now, if you will, please explain how the elimination of the estate tax means this isn't a country for the people or by the people.

Because the vast majority of people have nothing to lost from the estate tax and can only benefit from it. Only the most privileged members of society are affected by it.
posted by Slothrup at 2:59 PM on April 12, 2005


that 85% of the people support

From the link:

"Registered voters surveyed in six states..."
"...1,900 registered voters..."
"...in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, North Dakota, and South Dakota..."
(Not exactly an unbiased base)
"...35 percent of those polled favor complete elimination of the tax..."
posted by joaquim at 3:02 PM on April 12, 2005


Why is it that this government keeps running up the debt yet continues to cut taxes? And why do they keep cutting taxes that don't directly affect me. If they are going to be financially crazy, why won't they let me get in on the fun?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:15 PM on April 12, 2005


Because the vast majority of people have nothing to lost from the estate tax and can only benefit from it.

The vast majority of the country has nothing to lose from lynching minorities, but we sure as hell don't consider that as a justification to keep it.

One could argue that, in fact, the vast majority of the country does lose when Joe P. Billionaire sets up a trust in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid estate taxes instead of keeping his money in the US economy.

Not saying it's a good or bad idea, but that's a weak argument.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:17 PM on April 12, 2005


To my mind, the real concern is missing tax revenue, where shall it be recompensed? Or, more cogently, what services will be cut to make up for the shortfall?
posted by undule at 2:59 PM PST on April 12


Good point. But the tax isn't fair. It has to go. That it will be difficult to do the right thing doesn't make the right thing not worth pursuing. I think the beast needs to be starved a bit in order to become leaner and more efficient.

Slothrup, so even if 85% of the country supports an issue, then your argument is that it is more democratic to oppose the issue if you deem that the people are just plain too stupid to know whats good for them?

joaquim, if you have contrary numbers, then show them. But I find your questioning of a poll unpersuasive on the ultimate question of whether it is supported or not. All the polling I have seen suggests that it is. If you have something different, then please share.
posted by dios at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2005


There must have been some rationale for the estate tax in the first place. Was the argument for it disproven?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:29 PM on April 12, 2005


Invoking "billionaires" to make the case for an estate tax is disingenuous. Billionaires have teams of tax attorneys & accountants working exclusively for them - they get around the estate tax through the creation of partnerships designed to protect wealth.

The estate tax is increasingly hurting middle-class people who are penalized for having worked & saved their entire lives. If you own a plumbing business and have 10 people working for you and have saved and funded IRA's you are likely to be hit by the estate tax. Unfair.
posted by mlis at 3:35 PM on April 12, 2005


Many billionaires don't support the repeal... That's good enough for me. If the people affected by a tax are in favor of keeping the tax, then I don't see why we can't support them in their efforts.

<snip>
"The estate tax," [the signed statement by 120 billionaires] says, "exerts a powerful and positive effect on charitable giving. Repeal would have a devastating impact on public charities."

Mr. Buffett, the Omaha investor who ranks fourth on the Forbes magazine list of the richest Americans, said in an interview that he had not signed the petition itself because he thought it did not go far enough in defending "the critical role" that he said the estate tax played in promoting economic growth, by helping create a society in which success is based on merit rather than inheritance.

Mr. Buffett said repealing the estate tax "would be a terrible mistake," the equivalent of "choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the eldest sons of the gold-medal winners in the 2000 Olympics."

</snip>

The estate tax is a great way to redistribute wealth -- it directly fills the state coffers and indirectly, it encourages the rich to set up non-profits.

On preview to Dios: Unfair? I guess so. I'm for progressive taxation, though, so I guess I'm just for unfairness. I want the people who use the most of the government's resources (the courts, the corporate protections, the military -- how else will they secure their holdings or opportunities abroad?) to pay the most for it.
posted by zpousman at 3:39 PM on April 12, 2005


Is the argument for the estate tax that it constitutes income for the beneficiaries, so eliminating it means income taxes on the estate are waived?
posted by cali at 3:40 PM on April 12, 2005


So aside from whether an estate tax is fair or not, it is being eliminated, right?

In light of that, undule has the most pertinent point: This tax is currently bringing in money to the government. That will end when the tax ends (2010 by the current plan, but decreasing each year until then).

How will the government afford this $7 billion/year tax cut? (Got my numbers from the Washington Post editorial.)
posted by raedyn at 3:41 PM on April 12, 2005


It's all in the semantics; if they can call it "Death Tax", we can call it "The Born Rich Tax" (or "Paris Hilton Tax", for more vivid imagery). Apparently, opponents of the Inheritance Tax want their parents to make money the old fashioned way.
posted by wendell at 3:42 PM on April 12, 2005


The estate tax is increasingly hurting middle-class people who are penalized for having worked & saved their entire lives. If you own a plumbing business and have 10 people working for you and have saved and funded IRA's you are likely to be hit by the estate tax. Unfair.

First of all the estate tax will "hit" this guys children not "he or she who worked and saved thier entire lives for it"

Second, haven't you heard there are now only two countries in the industrialized world with a worse distribution of wealth than we have in the U.S. Those being Russia and Mexico. Chew on that a while.....Maybe instead of eliminating a "tax the wealthy would'nt pay anyway, we should be focusing on closing those loopholes that allow them to get away with this sheer greed.
posted by SweetIceT at 3:47 PM on April 12, 2005


Not saying it's a good or bad idea, but that's a weak argument.

You're right, of course. It's about as weak an argument as the claim that a hypothetical 85% level of support would make the elimination of the estate tax a good idea.

Slothrup, so even if 85% of the country supports an issue, then your argument is that it is more democratic to oppose the issue if you deem that the people are just plain too stupid to know whats good for them?

See thedevildancedlightly's response for a refutation of this. There's a reason why our government is a republic and not a democracy.

But the tax isn't fair.

I haven't seen any supporting arguments that I find particularly compelling.

Look, the bottom line is that the government has a single important function: social and economic stability. The bulk of the money that government spends is in support of this goal. The consequences of a lack of stability are visible in nearly every African country, and even in the recurring economic collapses experienced in the late nineteenth century in this country.

The problem is that providing this stability is expensive, and the money has to come from somewhere. So, we impose taxes to raise the money. And in choosing where to impose taxes, we try to be "fair" by the following definition: those who benefit disproportionately from this stability should also pay a disproportionate amount of the costs.
posted by Slothrup at 3:49 PM on April 12, 2005


dios, don't be disenginous -- that (pretty flawed geographically) poll shows that 35% want the tax eliminated.

50% want it reduced by about a factor of two, to 15%. That's um, not really the same thing as "85% of americans support it."

Also, from the link:

<snip>

Pollock said an unreleased poll finding revealed more than 70 percent of respondents said they planned to accumulate an estate sizeable enough to be subject to the tax if the tax is retained, even though only a fraction of estates currently pay the tax. IRS data showed 2.3 percent of estates were large enough to be subject to the tax in 1999, the last year such information is available.

</snip>

Man, there sure are A LOT of deluded people in North Dakota who seem to think they'll have 1.5 million dollars net when they die. If we moved the number to 3.5 million (each, 7 mil for couples), it's going to go down even further.

Actually MLIS, the reason that billionaires don't really care as much is that many of them become big-time philanthropists. Most plumbers who only have a paltry 3 million don't. Also, I like how people who run plumbing businesses are middle class -- they may be hard workers, they may be true americans, they may be nice folks, just like you and me, but they're NOT middle class. Not by any stretch. The median and mean income in the United States (for families!) is below $50,000. census.gov.
posted by zpousman at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2005


If the people affected by a tax are in favor of keeping the tax, then I don't see why we can't support them in their efforts.

Billionaires are not the ones affected. See my explanation above.

It's all in the semantics; if they can call it "Death Tax", we can call it "The Born Rich Tax". . .

Propaganda. Is the plumber in my above example born into an old-money family? No. Neither is the police officer who works a second job mowing lawns and eventually grows it into a landscaping business with 10-15 people working for him. But keep it up with the amusing distortions.
posted by mlis at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2005


Dios, this is from your first sentence: "...elimination of the estate tax...". You then provide a link with the phrase "85% of the people support". Here are my numbers. They say that 50% of 1900 registered voters in 6 states support elimination of the estate tax. I'll stand by my numbers. Try doing the same with yours.
posted by joaquim at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2005


Buffet is not the only wealthy person to oppose the repeal of the estate tax.

I know of at least one organization of wealthy people dedicated to stopping its repeal. Check out Responsible Wealth, who are closely affiliated with United for a Fair Economy

Last year, the leader of RW toured with Bill Gates, Sr. on a book tour for their co-authored book Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes.

Talking about this stuff in Silicon Valley, btw, is like pissing into the wind.

Thanks, Postroad, for your post. Now I regret that I didn't post it first. Should have thought about it yesterday when I got the RW email call-to-action email yesterday.
posted by rw at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2005


Is a plumbing company owner (one with 10 or 15 employees) middle class? No. I'm not making any judgements about that person, though it was nice of you to say that it was a "nice ol' police man" who worked two jobs. Everyone thinks they're middle class, and everyone thinks they'll be hit by this double taxation. But most wont. Nearly all won't. (2.3%, remember).

So, these people are clearly rich. And some, even many, of them have earned that wealth. And that's great. We're not trying to fuck up Mr. Hypothetical Policeman's life. Let him buy a Lexus with the money he earned and saved for retirement. Let him buy a boat. Let him buy a boat for his kids (though he'll pay the gift tax on that). Let him set up a trust for his grandkids. Cool. But what about if he's got too much money to spend? It won't hurt him any -- it's the question of what to do with the remainder. And I say something simple: Split it with the government 50/50. That's not a hard thing to comprehend. And it seems pretty much inline with our Country's hopes and aspirations not to have an overclass that is perpetually wealthy. The founding father's went to great lengths to stay away from the European model of a landed gentry and to keep the US a land of opportunity.
posted by zpousman at 3:59 PM on April 12, 2005


Let's keep the estate tax, and repeal all federal aid to everyone in the Red States, because it's all socialism anyway!
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2005


Poor poor kids, what ever would they do if they ended up with only half as many millions of dollars as they thought they might get.. if one of those poor souls has to actually work for a living, I may just die of a broken heart.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:24 PM on April 12, 2005


Parental love causes one of the fundamental paradoxes of politics: no
society can be simultaneously fair, free, and equal. If it is fair,
people who work harder can accumulate more. If it is free, people
will give their wealth to their children.
But then it cannot be
equal, for some people will inherit wealth they did not earn. Ever
since Plato called attention to these tradeoffs in The Republic, most
political idealogies can be defined by the stance they take on which
of these ideals should yield.


From Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works

Welcome to the Land of the Free!
posted by sophist at 4:44 PM on April 12, 2005


sophist,

Where all men are created equal.
posted by effugas at 4:51 PM on April 12, 2005


I find the tax unfair from the perspective of the Gov't already got its greedy mitts on that money the first time around. Why should they get a piece just because I happen to die? I resent that.

The government wastes our money in so many ways, I am always for eliminating any taxes, especially those that tax people twice.
posted by chaz at 4:51 PM on April 12, 2005


The federal government will make up for this loss of revenue. They'll make up for it by cutting funding to states. Most states, already in a serious budget crisis, will have to make cuts and/or raise taxes. State taxes tend to be very non-progressive, and hurt the poor worst of all. Oklahoma is one of the worst cases I've seen. Tax rates hover between 8 and 9 percent in many areas, including groceries, clothing, and other necessities.

Of course, that's why the federal government can get away with this. They tax the rich more than the poor, but states compete to get rich people to live there (and invest that massive wealth), so they tax the rich less, leaving the burden on the poor who can't just pack up and leave.

I'll consider an elimination of the estate tax as reasonable when sales tax on necessities and other highly regressive taxes are repealed. After all, let's not ask 8 percent more for simple groceries from a guy who works two jobs.
posted by Saydur at 4:56 PM on April 12, 2005


So does elimination mean that:

1. A future Paris Hilton, who in this hypothetical, never sells her name or face or what-have-you for income, that all her money came from her father/mother/uncle/family.

2. Her father/mother/uncle/family had income and paid tax on it to finance, in part, the military who defended them, policed the world etc., on their behalf while they were alive in the land of the free.

3. This future Paris Hilton, having inherited all her money from this father/mother/uncle/family, would never pay any tax on it, and thus have has ass defended by the government for free? Or is the argument that she pays her share of the military via some kind of tax that can get to her money that is chillin' in a Swiss vault?

4. Assuming she then has children, and their money is still in this Swiss Vault, do they pay anything to fund the military?

Or does massive taxes on the earnings of her investments pay for her share of rations and bullets?
posted by asparagus_berlin at 5:14 PM on April 12, 2005


They say that 50% of 1900 registered voters in 6 states support elimination of the estate tax. I'll stand by my numbers.

And I'm standing by the wrong numbers. Let me just step over here to where it says "35% of 1900..."
posted by joaquim at 5:15 PM on April 12, 2005


I can't understand such vehement opposition to taxation. Clearly the money raised in taxes is spent on the people (even if you think some of this spending is misguided).
It seems a reasonable way to collect taxes to target those least affected by the tax, and here is a good example, namely dead rich people.
posted by bystander at 5:26 PM on April 12, 2005


As was pointed out above, dollars hide. The estate tax doesn't hit much in the way of dollars. Your hypothetical robber-baron's child has the family fortune tied up in tax dodges for generations. Business assets can't hide. This is the tax that kills the family farm, for example. The vehement opposition is about it being a direct punishment for being on the path of "the American dream."
posted by loafingcactus at 5:33 PM on April 12, 2005


Here are some interesting charts on tax burden and income distributions over the last century. One of the take home messages seems to be that the richest 20% or so have had their incomes grow drastically over the past 20 years while everyone elses has stagnated.
posted by euphorb at 5:43 PM on April 12, 2005


The estate tax doesn't hit much in the way of dollars.

Wha? The cost of eliminating the estate tax entirely for ten years would by $745 billion, or nearly a trillion dollars with interest payments thrown in. Further, what I don't understand is why this is an either/or debate. The current estate tax exemption is set at $1 million. If the concern with the estate tax is really about the burden on upper-middle class families, than increase the exemption to $3.5 million, as one of the current Democratic counter-proposals suggests. The cost of such an increase would be only one-third that of eliminating the tax entirely, while at the same time solving the problem of unreasonable tax burdens on those who are marginally over the current exemption threshold. Those who argue that we shouldn't have an estate tax at all need to pony up that lost trillion dollars in revenue.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:49 PM on April 12, 2005


Chaz- If you want to keep your money, don't die.
Oh, wait. You want to give it to your kids.
Wait, no. Then you'd just give it to them and they'd pay the gift taxes.
You're not being taxed. The people who are benefiting from your death are. Wouldn't you prefer to give people less incentive to wish for your death?

I say we keep the "Born Rich Tax" and knock off all this bullshit whining about the 2.3 percent of people that most likely benefitted from large inheritences anyway.

MLIS: God, are you all hopped up on goofballs? Somehow, in your mind, the top 2.3% isn't just the rich?
And if you want fair, make the kids earn the money. There's nothing unfair about that. Raise the inheritence tax to 100%, and let people start from scratch. Then we'll have that meritocracy we always wanted.

Loafing: Name one family farm that's been lost because of this. Just one, real, honest-to-goodness family farm. No, not one of those agri-industrial swaths, but a simple farm full of cornfed people. C'mon. I dare ya.
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 PM on April 12, 2005


MLIS,

The estate tax is increasingly hurting middle-class people who are penalized for having worked & saved their entire lives. If you own a plumbing business and have 10 people working for you and have saved and funded IRA's you are likely to be hit by the estate tax. Unfair.

Depends on how you define middle class. Since 2001, to be subject to the estate tax, an estate must exceed $675,000 ( and that's per person). How many middle class people have esates like that? So yes, it's more than billionares paying, the millionares have to pay also.

On preview - monju-bostasu, the $1 million exemption doesn't kick in until 2006.

Less than 2% of Americans have to pay esates taxes. They may not all be billionaires, but they are, for the most part, rich people. No family farm has ever been lost to the estate tax.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:53 PM on April 12, 2005


And if you want fair, make the kids earn the money. There's nothing unfair about that. Raise the inheritence tax to 100%, and let people start from scratch. Then we'll have that meritocracy we always wanted

I assume you're .. . well, you're just farting that out. I can see both sides of this issue and the government redistribution of wealth -- across the board -- is a bit of problem, IMO. The whole idea of this tax is to get the dough back into the hands of the poeple, by diversion into services of some kind. Does that actually happen? Or does shit just get more expensive in response?
posted by undule at 6:01 PM on April 12, 2005


I find the tax unfair from the perspective of the Gov't already got its greedy mitts on that money the first time around. Why should they get a piece just because I happen to die? I resent that.

This is a stupid argument. Money is taxed over and over and over again as it changes hands. You tax people, not money.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:03 PM on April 12, 2005


It's not a stupid argument by any means, and we don't tax people, we tax income and reserved capital -- which belong to people only in so much that they are capable or willing to pay taxes. It's a tautology, sure, but it's the way of the world.

It's an interesting read, this thread, as it really does come down to how you feel about redistribution of wealth. Should it be accomplished by coercion? Or should it be accomplished through philanthropy, investment, trickling down and all that stuff? Two very basic and opposed views here, and not much reconciliation of the two.

Yeah, I know, that's obvious. But sometimes stating it can be helpful?
posted by undule at 6:12 PM on April 12, 2005


as it really does come down to how you feel about redistribution of wealth.

So income earned through inheritence is different from income earned from work, and is in some special category that should make it exempt from taxation? Or is any argument about progressive taxation destined to fall victim to the 'you just want to redistribute all the wealth' canard?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:31 PM on April 12, 2005


Wow, so you aren't really interested in talking about this at all are you?

*plonk*
posted by undule at 6:53 PM on April 12, 2005


undule, i asked a yes or no question. To repeat:

So income earned through inheritence is different from income earned from work, and is in some special category that should make it exempt from taxation?

Well?
posted by Space Coyote at 7:06 PM on April 12, 2005


How many middle class people have esates like that? So yes, it's more than billionares paying, the millionares have to pay also

and the $675,000aires -- couples who own modest Manhattan homes that didn't have the sense to establish an AB Credit Shelter Trust. Of course, better leave liquid assets to the kids, since the feds want payments in ninety days.

So let's funnel more money into insurance companies and estate lawyers!
posted by Kwantsar at 7:08 PM on April 12, 2005


and the $675,000aires -- couples who own modest Manhattan homes

and those who reach that amount still pay... $0! Note to all who are debating the wrong side of a tax argument and know it: The world understands marginal taxation rates, even if you pretend not to.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2005


Wow, so you aren't really interested in talking about this at all are you?

I had the same thought.

Since 2001, to be subject to the estate tax, an estate must exceed $675,000 ( and that's per person). How many middle class people have esates like that? So yes, it's more than billionares paying, the millionares have to pay also.

As Kwantsar points out, in many areas of the US $675,000 gets you a 1800 square foot Raised Ranch with a one car garage and less than a 1/2 acre of land. Throw in some investments, some savings, and you are above $1,000,000 easily. Are people in this category "rich" or "millionaires"? Only in the sense that someone earning $35,000 a year will have earned $1,000,000 in 30 years.
posted by mlis at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2005


Only in the sense that someone earning $35,000 a year will have earned $1,000,000 in 30 years.

Someone who earns $35,000 over 30 years will have nowhere near $1 million in their estate when they die. Oh, and what Space Coyote said about marginal taxation.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:35 PM on April 12, 2005


So income earned through inheritence is different from income earned from work, and is in some special category that should make it exempt from taxation?

Well?


Well, if I absolutely must play your snarky game, yes they are different. One is money earned from inheritance. The other is earned from work.

And? I fail to see what that proves? I would presume that in your mind, their being different means that they should be taxed as if they were the same? Or are you saying that money is all the same no matter how it's gained and any transfer of such should be subject to taxation? I mean, WTF, speak clearly.

It's all beside the point, anyway. I was merely pointing out that this conversation is ultimately about redistribution of wealth. Opinions on the proper way to go about redistributing wealth aside, I fail to see what your point is supposed to be . . ? I suspect you are hostile to the term for some reason -- if so, I fail to see how you could discuss this issue in any reasonable manner. But, I'm simply making an assumption.

Again: You either think the government has a role in redistributing wealth through the mechanism of taxation or you don't -- those are the orbits around which this conversation revolves.

Consider your inner troll fed.
posted by undule at 8:11 PM on April 12, 2005


Not being a lawyer or an accountant I'd have to agree with Space Coyote, income is income - tax it. Change the rate if need be, but tax it.

Just an observation - I notice that some opposed to the tax altogether focus on the flow of the money leaving the person(s) who accumulated wealth, not those who inherit. While some who are for the tax look to those who receive the inheritance.

It seems that the concept of the tax is in keeping with other aspects of sudden influx of wealth. If you win the lotto most everyone knows that you lose nearly half to the government. If you get a bonus at work, that is taxed at a different rate then your regular pay.

Eliminating the tax seems to be disingenuous to the idea of an income tax. IMHO, the fact that the money comes from, presumably, a family member should have little or no bearing on how the money is taxed.
posted by tvjunkie at 8:23 PM on April 12, 2005


MLIS: God, are you all hopped up on goofballs?

I refuse to eat the goofballs.
posted by mlis at 8:30 PM on April 12, 2005


Where are all these people bitching about fairness when it comes to regressive payroll taxes? Oh, yeah, they don't care, because they aren't going to be poor and poor people are only that way because they are bad bad lazy people.

The inheritance tax *is* about wealth redistribution. And I'm okay with that. Realative wealth equality is the hallmark of a civilized nation (well, that and national healthcare).
posted by dame at 8:32 PM on April 12, 2005


Dame, when the discussion about regressive payroll taxes, or the new bankruptcy law takes place, I will be there to argue that they are mean-spirited and unfair. I might ask of you, where are all these people complaining about abusive tax shelters that shield the assets of people with $50 million - $4 billion?

. . .because they aren't going to be poor and poor people are only that way because they are bad bad lazy people.

Yes, because *clearly* that is what has been said about about poor people in this thread.
posted by mlis at 8:52 PM on April 12, 2005


Less than 2% of Americans have to pay esates taxes. They may not all be billionaires, but they are, for the most part, rich people. No family farm has ever been lost to the estate tax.

If my parents were to die tomorrow, I would get hit with an estate tax rather heavily.
My parents were blue collar and are middle class. They just happened to buy a home in southern california at the right time and got really friggin' lucky in one or two other ways. They busted their asses to get me an education and pay down their mortgage because they don't like owing money, my mom still shops on double coupon days and ONLY double coupon days, and my dad still mows his own lawn and washes his own cars while wearing a wife-beater. Have you ever read "The Millionaire Next Door?" Those are the kind people whose children get stung by this. Sure, Warren Buffet can lay off a tax accountant that he pays a quarter million per year, but this is very personal to me because a pretty healthy percentage of my parents' inheritance to me will go poof to the gubment... and they'd meant it as their legacy to me, as something that would live longer than they would.

What you also don't realize is that inheritance taxes help get rid of small family businesses like that plumbing or landscaping business we were batting around earlier. They're often paying their creators a decent salary, but not a great one, and there usually isn't a whole lot of liquid capital (it's all tied up in expensive equipment... trucks, tractors, buildings, etc.) in the business. It's pretty easy, if you own a building and some trucks and commercial lawn tractors to hit that magical $675k limit. When several dozen thousands of dollars of that capital have to get paid out in cash within 90 days, the inheritants will often decide to liquidate the whole business as opposed to trying to carry on with x% less.
For those of you who are at the same time decrying the inheritance tax as something only the rich face and the elimination of small, family-owned businesses... why don't you give that a second think?

On top of that, I think that just about everyone in here who gripes about "the rich" is hiding their jealousy behind liberal sentiments. That disgusts and insults me... I come here for the open discussion, not for closed-minded "I'm never going to have as much money as he will (not that I care about money!), so I say take it from him and spend it as I see fit!" bitchfests. Why is involuntary redistribution of wealth right? What makes it right? I have never seen that answered besides "Well, *sniff* ALL civilized nations are that way!"
posted by SpecialK at 9:06 PM on April 12, 2005


Disclaimer - I stand to inherit monies, but from an Asian country - although I refuse to accept large 'gifts' and may turn aside the inheritence.

What I don't understand, from this thread, is - are the people against estate taxes against it because they want to have more of their older relatives' (whom they might have gamed into writing their wealth to them [opposers] in their [relatives] wills) money when the relatives die, or because it's more of a social issue - "rich people ought to be able to do with their wealth as they see fit?"

Wealth disparity is a huge problem in the US (see recent school shooting, &c), and is likely a problem in Canada, although here it's not quite as bad - I'm rather torn; it'd be waaaaaaaay cool to inherit a lot of money, but on the other hand, I don't deserve it (although my relatives would want me to have it to enhance their genetic propogation) and it *could* be better used to fund public programs.

The dilemma is, what use is the monies going to be used for - war, social assistance, education, debt reduction, &c? I wouldn't have any voice on how *these* monies would be used nor would the deceased.

In general, I think that inheritances should be taxed at some level, but it's the loopholes that really need to be closed, my benefiting from them or not.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:15 PM on April 12, 2005


Preview let me down - SpecialK has a good point - assets vs liquid cash; perhaps the solution is to have a higher threshold for various types of non-liquid assets and a lower threshold for more liquid assets?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:19 PM on April 12, 2005


If you're dead, why do you need the money?
posted by bshort at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2005


Those are the kind people whose children get stung by this.

On what planet is receiving an inheritance of $800,000 instead of one of $1,000,000, or whatever the marginal rates work out to, being "stung"?

I bitch about it because ditching the estate tax means the feds lose money, money that they'll have to get by taxing actual no-shit middle-class or poorer people, or by throwing the burden onto the future. If we were swimming in surpluses and would be for the foreseeable future, fine, we could talk about dropping a tax like that, or limiting it. But in this fiscal environment, it's unsound, wicked, and immoral.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:51 PM on April 12, 2005


I'm against estate tax because it's taxation without representation. You know, being dead and all.
posted by postmodernmillie at 10:48 PM on April 12, 2005


On what planet is receiving an inheritance of $800,000 instead of one of $1,000,000, or whatever the marginal rates work out to, being "stung"?

Until 2006, the limit is $675k. Most of my peers' parents' houses have more equity in them than that. What that means is that when my friend Emily's mother dies and leaves Emily her house in the next few years, Emily had planned to move into her mom's home a little ways out in the country (because it's paid for) instead of continuing to rent her apartment in Oakland. Unfortunately, since the home (and more importantly, the several acres of land it's on) has appreciated in value to approximately $800,000, and her credit's kinda dinged up due to getting a bachelor's and masters from a small left-leaning school in Portland and a few late-20's run-ins with credit cards when she started her own business... she won't be able to pay the cool hundred thou and change that she'll owe in estate taxes when her mom leaves her the house. Say bye bye to the house she grew up in, although she might finally be able to pay off her college loans.
Sure, it's not something that'll be PAINFUL per say, 'cept for the loss of her mother who she loves dearly, but losing the house she grew up in because she has to pay out to the gub'ment so that they can go shoot babies in Iraq kinda hurts, y'know?

Or the example I gave above of a business owner who leaves his son or sons the family business. It's easy to build up a million dollars in assets these days. It's not so easy to squeeze a couple hundred thousand in cash from those assets to pay an inheritance tax.

But in this fiscal environment, it's unsound, wicked, and immoral.

I got an idea! How 'bout we stop this unsound, wicked, and immoral war? That'll give us a nice cool trillion in surplus. But that's a whole other thread.

I'm really curious why eliminating a tax that's really going to hit our generation when our parents die is wicked, unsound, and immoral? I would think that we'd normally apply those words to killing baby seals, or maybe child pornographers, or maybe someone that made millions of dollars by spamming my inbox. Revoking a tax? Unsound, I can understand.

Oh, wait, that's rhetoric. Shouldn't have taken your mouth-frothing literally. Sorry. I'm a centrist, I'm kinda logical, and I get so confused by you left-wingers and your rhetoric sometimes...
posted by SpecialK at 11:25 PM on April 12, 2005


I see a lot of good arguments about the $675k limit (which with current real estate prices is indeed a problem). But I'm still waiting for the valiant arguments for those poor, poor, hardworking police officers with more than $3.5 million in assets. I'm really having a hard time with that one.
posted by dopeypanda at 12:05 AM on April 13, 2005


Near as I can tell, you're significantly off on your friend's calculation. Her taxes would be in the range of $35--50K, as near as I can tell from the marginal rates charts from 2000/01. I'm sure your friend could quickly secure a mortgage against the property for an amount that resoundingly puny compared to the value of the house.

I'm really curious why eliminating a tax that's really going to hit our generation when our parents die is wicked, unsound, and immoral?

Because that lost funding is going to be made up for with other taxes. Estate taxes currently bring in around $25--30 billion/year, or at least did until the recent futzing.

That $25--30 billion a year is going to come from somewhere. Maybe it'll come from more general taxation, in which case we're getting rid of a tax that the richest few percent pay in order to increase the taxes of everyone else, which is wrong. More likely, it will simply mean more borrowing, which is the same as general taxation a while down the road. Either way, the net effect is that poor and middle-class people have less money, and the richest few percent have more. Which is, well, unsound, wicked, and immoral policy, to effectively take from those who don't have in order to give back to those who have in abundance.

It would be one thing if we were running surpluses and knew that we were going to be eliminating taxes that weren't needed for fundraising any more. But that's far from the case.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:30 AM on April 13, 2005


Much has been written about why the Estate Tax exists; here's a nice little summary from someone named Dennis J. Ventry, right here.

Second, the estate and gift tax is hardly immoral from the standpoint that it subverts the values of a liberal, democratic state. On the contrary, it reinforces the philosophical foundations of the very first liberal, democratic state, the United States. As historians and political philosophers have shown, the founding fathers worried that political equality would conflict with individual liberty. They reconciled this tension through the familiar concept of "republicanism," which upheld the ideal of civic virtue. Republicanism, with its emphasis on communal responsibilities, mitigated excessive economic liberties as well as the "tyranny of the majority." That is, republicanism struck a balance between the right to property (or Lockean liberalism) and democratic ideals of equality.

With regard to taxation, this compromise resulted in a tax system that taxed wealthy individuals despite a national aversion to infringements on individual liberty. The state protected individuals who pursued personal wealth and property through labor and reason. But the state prevented individuals from asserting entitlement through birth. That is, it tolerated persons who created wealth, but not those who inherited it; the latter reflected the distinguishing characteristic of an aristocratic society.

posted by davejay at 1:16 AM on April 13, 2005


Oh, and this from the same source, which I respectfully submit in response to the whole "why should the wealthy pay so much more" argument:

In this historical context, wealthy individuals owed a debt to society. Their success depended on the ability of the society in which they lived to sustain economic and political order.

So yeah, you get to live in the good 'ol USA, where you have the opportunity to make an achingly huge pile of money. Then, when you die, you give a huge pile of it back to the government so it can keep on providing the same opportunities for other people, including your children (you wouldn't want them to sit around all day doing nothing, would you?)
posted by davejay at 1:19 AM on April 13, 2005


Eat the Rich!

Money earned by work = taxable

Money not earned by work = sacred

Born better than you. F*ck all that land of opportunity bulls*it! Stupid Founding Fathers and their Stupid Estate Taxes! [/snark]

How on earth can poor people be so gullible as to avidly defend their own economic oppression? Socioeconomic discrimination is the root of most all discrimination. Redistribution of wealth is EXACTLY what the Founding Fathers had in mind and for damn good reason!
posted by nofundy at 5:05 AM on April 13, 2005


SpecialK: That argument's specious and you know it. Hey, here's something— Your friend Emily's mom can always give (or sell at $1) her house to Emily. Emily would, then, presumably not kick her mother out, and she'd be responsible for the property taxes just like she would if she'd inherited it.
You're not a centrist on this, you're a libertarian ideologue. Please, remember that.
Oh, and I'm all for closing the loopholes. But that's not the bill facing the legislature, now is it?
posted by klangklangston at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2005


Your friend Emily's mom can always give (or sell at $1) her house to Emily. Emily would, then, presumably not kick her mother out, and she'd be responsible for the property taxes just like she would if she'd inherited it.

Well, no. That would be assessed as a gift, and subject to gift taxes and/or subtracted from the unified credit. That loophole has been closed for a very, very long time.
posted by trharlan at 6:21 AM on April 13, 2005


They say that inheritance elevates privilege above merit. But this is a false distinction that asserts an egalitarian view of merit. It is also very dangerous because it puts government instead of the private sector in charge of deciding who merits what.

The adage says that wealth corrupts; perhaps, but wealth has no monopoly in this regard. It is easy enough to lead a worthless and parasitical life without an inheritance; I have seen neither argument nor evidence which suggests having an inheritance increases this possibility.

I am in favor of the repeal of the estate tax on all of the much larger estates that people other than myself will leave and that people other than myself will inherit. This is because I understand how I and all other wage and salary earners benefit from capital owned by other people, capital that will be substantially increased in its amount and thus in the benefits it can give if the inheritance tax is repealed.

The existence of the estate tax this century has reduced the stock of capital in the economy by approximately $497 billion, or 3.2 percent.
posted by trharlan at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2005


Klang,

I live in NYC so I'm only speaking on the laws here but I'm pretty sure it's the same as the rest of the nation. You cannot sell a house or even a car to a family member or to anyone in fact to escape the taxes. The govt will only allow a "fair market value". I know this because my parents already tried giving or selling to me at a really low rate. They would've been taxed for the "profit" on the house (buying price - selling price) and they would've taxed me on the buying of the house. I'm not an expert but this is my experience.

I'm with SpecialK on this one. I think we shouldn't tax the money our parents meant to leave for us. Both my parents are waiters and they work really really hard for that money. They've invested in real estate so they have 2 modest homes. But they are by no means RICH and they do not enjoy many luxuries. Never owned a new car and still buy coach tickets.

But I think there is a point in which inheritance should be taxed at a certain rate. like the $10 million mark or something and at graduated rates for inheritances over that.
posted by pez_LPhiE at 6:54 AM on April 13, 2005


Also, has no one in this thread noted that the stepped-up basis on inherited assets disappears when the estate tax goes away? It's a significant point.
posted by trharlan at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2005


In the instance with Emily above I am inclined to say "tough" - when my mum dies she will leave a fairly large house - it's been in my family 60 years but it's just a house. I'd rather take whatever money is left after taxation and either use it to buy my own smaller house or use it for other purposes. Why should I get a 4 bedroom house in primo condition worth a fortune when I haven't earned it?

Isn't having money you haven't earned just a sense of entitlement in a society that prides itself on individual effort in pursuit of success?
posted by longbaugh at 7:14 AM on April 13, 2005


Why should I get a 4 bedroom house in primo condition worth a fortune when I haven't earned it?

Why shouldn't your mum be able to give the house to the person of her choosing-- she has earned it?

Isn't having money you haven't earned just a sense of entitlement in a society that prides itself on individual effort in pursuit of success?

Isn't being able to dispose of your assets in the manner you choose the just policy, in a society that prides itself on individual autonomy?
posted by trharlan at 7:30 AM on April 13, 2005


SpecialK I'd bet Emily could get a 100K morgage on a property valued at 800K if she declared bankrupcy the week before and was scheduled to serve 5 years in prison the week after. Who wouldn't assume an 8:1 payoff risk?
posted by Mitheral at 7:39 AM on April 13, 2005


tharlan are you against gift taxes as well?
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2005


Mitheral-- The only tax I would "support" is an LVT. I am slowly drifting away from anarcho-capitalism and towards Georgism.

But, in our current framework, if we must tax estates, I think the best case could be made that those (non-spouses) receiving any/all gifts and estates should be subject to income tax on the value of the gift or inheritance, but that the estates themselves should be unburdened. I think our current system-- replete with its layers of abstractions, attorneys, accountants, brokers, ILITs, CRTs, CRATs, CRUTs, et cetera-- is a bloody stupid morass of deadweight losses and a drag on sensible capital allocation and formation.
posted by trharlan at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2005


trharlan - it just seems wasteful for me to receive a 4 bedroom house for nothing when frankly I don't need it - I'd rather £500,000 of the £750,000 value in the property was invested in the society around me so that we can all benefit. £250,000 is way more than I'd need to purchase a house suitable for me and my family.

My mum's wishes don't really come into it as she would be dead. Unless she stipulates in her will that I must live in the house it doesnt really make a whole lot of difference what she wants. She can give the house to a tramp if she wants to - it's no business of mine and it's certainly not something I have earned just by being a member of her bloodline.

Not trying to be obtuse or anything - I've never really had much money and don't expect to ever have much money (don't see the need to be honest) so I really don't see what the complaints are except simple greed.
posted by longbaugh at 8:05 AM on April 13, 2005


I could get behind your tax it as income idea as long as it was progressive. Taxes in Canada sound a lot simpler than the US. I know our income tax systems is _way_ simpler than the US'.
posted by Mitheral at 8:12 AM on April 13, 2005


I'd rather £500,000 of the £750,000 value in the property was invested in the society around me so that we can all benefit. £250,000 is way more than I'd need to purchase a house suitable for me and my family.

Well, then, inherit the house, sell it, buy your house, and give the remainder to charity. Or are you more concerned with what others do with their windfalls?

My mum's wishes don't really come into it as she would be dead.

What if she gives you the house while she's on her deathbed? You want to tax it then?
posted by trharlan at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2005


Trharlan: Why is it wrong to pay taxes on the gift? It's not. The Born Rich tax is the same thing.
And there is no false distinction in saying that merit should come from an equal start. In fact, that's the best way of judging merit.
Get off of it. This is coming from someone who is opposed to all taxation, and the Born Rich tax is just another dodge within the quiver.
posted by klangklangston at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2005


Call me a commie lefty pinko type person but yeah, I am concerned that other people are inheriting huge sums of money or massive properties that they don't need (and frankly don't deserve). I would very much like to see everyone given a decent part of their family fortune but I see no reason why they should gain every advantage of wealth without having worked for it.

I will be donating a fair portion of any money I get to charity simply because I don't want or need large amounts of money. I have known a lot of spoiled rich kids in my time and I don't believe for a second that any of them "deserve" the money that their parents earned. The fact that most of the parents earned their money by fucking poor people over also gets my goat but what are you gonna do? Revolt?
posted by longbaugh at 8:47 AM on April 13, 2005


longbaugh: I understand what you're saying, I think-- That those who inherit don't deserve their inheritance. But it seems to me that to take that position necessitates taking the position that those who bequeath don't deserve to bequeath. That's problematic, IMO.

Whether rich people "earn" their money is an altogether different debate.

klangklangston: I have no idea what you're trying to say.
posted by trharlan at 9:01 AM on April 13, 2005


Inheritance taxes on asset are in essence triple taxes. Income is taxed before it can be used to buy the asset. Income produced by the asset is taxed, and income used to maintain or improve the asset is taxed before it can thus employed, slowing the net appreciation of the asset. And, finally, the appreciated asset is taxed again at death.

Here's the mental exercise.

You get a job with a $25,000 higher salary. You pay tax at a marginal rate of 30% (state and local) on that income, so you're left over with $17,500. Being prudent, you don't increase your consumption. You put the net in a bond fund yielding 5%. The government taxes each year's income at 30%; you reinvest the net in the fund. After ten years, the bond fund will have $23,850.70 in it. Then you die. The government assesses a 55% estate tax.

Over the years, the government has collected $23,339 in taxes leaving your heirs with only $10,733. Had the original income, appreciation and bequest all been tax free, the asset would be worth $38,783 to the heir. So, the bottom line is the effective total tax rate 72%.
posted by MattD at 9:11 AM on April 13, 2005


Thanks for being understanding there trharlan - that's a pretty good summary of my opinion. I still disagree somewhat with the statement that those who bequeath don't deserve to bequeath in that I feel that giving some money to your heirs is reasonable, I just think there should be an upper limit to prevent the formulation of a landed gentry class. Bill Gate's plans for his children are a good start but even so he has given them somewhere in the region of $10 million each so it's not like they will ever want for anything in their lives.

MattD - but with any luck* the government has spent that $23,339 on stuff that is beneficial to you, your family and others around you and you have still landed $10,733 that you didn't actually work for. I know that's not really what you mean but it's another perspective.

*this is extremely unlikely.
posted by longbaugh at 9:36 AM on April 13, 2005


After ten years, the bond fund will have $23,850.70 in it. Then you die. The government assesses a 55% estate tax.

Except they wouldn't because this amount is <$675,000.
posted by drezdn at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2005


Harlan- It's not wrong to require those who recieve gifts to pay taxes on them. Inheritence is a gift.
The more egalitarian a system, the more accurate the assessment of merit.

MattD: OH NOES! AND IF THEY SPENT THAT MONEY THEY'D PAY SALES TAXES!
Your argument ignores that each sum is different money. The money invested is not the same, though it may be equivalent, as the money you recieve back when cashing out the investment. Otherwise, you might as well argue that since every dollar is circulated through sales, and since taxes are paid on every sale, as every dollar buys something the taxation rate approaches 1.
Or, you can choose to think of that money as new to the person who inherits it, who should be pleased to recieve anything for free instead of feeling entitled to the benefits of their parent's labor.
Elimination of the Born Rich Tax is another entitlement for the grubbing hands of plutocrats.

On preview: Thanks Drezdn. I missed that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2005


So, the references to the "Born Rich Tax" & Bill Gates continue even though the estate tax does not hurt those who are born into old money (or even just wealth).

Trying to have an honest discussion in Metafilter is like trying to find an honest man in Congress.
posted by mlis at 10:38 AM on April 13, 2005


From trharlan's link:
Buffett and Soros are very gifted men. They have the special talent to create vast sums of wealth in their own lifetimes. But not everyone has such talent. Others need the extra help that family money provides. Far from increasing opportunity, then, estate taxes block opportunity for people who have less entrepreneurial talent than these one-generation wonders. By advocating such taxes, these men are trying to establish a monopoly of wealth at other people’s expense.
Something tells me that Buffett has a firmer grasp on capitalism than this man.
posted by Ptrin at 10:47 AM on April 13, 2005


But it seems to me that to take that position necessitates taking the position that those who bequeath don't deserve to bequeath

No, it just necessitates taking the position that when you bequeath, the State might take a slice depending on how much you bequeath to who. No different than the State taking a slice of many other transactions. By your logic, sales taxes somehow imply that people don't deserve to buy food or dvds, and payroll taxes imply either that you don't deserve to be paid or that your employer doesn't deserve to pay you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2005


I think you've taken that out of context, ROU. I simply stated that one necessitated the other:

those who inherit don't deserve their inheritance. But it seems to me that to take that position necessitates taking the position that those who bequeath don't deserve to bequeath. That's problematic, IMO.

And a gift is hardly a transaction in the same sense as the other two (goods for money, labor for money).
posted by trharlan at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2005


Fine, but estate taxes don't depend on the recipient or giver "deserving" anything or not any more than sales, income, property, or payroll taxes do. It's one source of income among many, useful primarily because its effects are generally limited to the well-off, and its elimination means that less well-off people will bear that burden instead.

And a gift is hardly a transaction in the same sense as the other two

Money or goods change ownership. Transaction enough for me. s/transaction/transfer if that makes you see it any differently.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2005


Let's tax the Great Invisible Hand instead! :-)

To see people advocating some blue sky "perfect capitalism" arguments always avoids the nasty truth: The societal deck is already stacked against the poor and for the rich regardless of how many fools think they can will break through that barrier.
Ideology that serves the wealthy is almost always to the detriment of the poor, and that includes most all humans. The greedy wealthy do not know game theory, just daddy's credit card number.
posted by nofundy at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2005


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