Sunday, June 25, 2006

Death Tax or Wealth Recycling?

I’ve been fired up about GOP efforts to eliminate or weaken the Estate Tax ever since they started floating “Death Tax” rhetoric shortly after the Bush administration hijacked The White House. The accumulate and secure strategy of Bush’s corporate backers has been apparent from day one, making repeal of the Estate Tax look more and more like the final nail in the middle class coffin.

Here’s an excellent post on the absurdity of GOP outrage over a tax on the accumulated wealth of dead people, in order to provide essential services and infrastructure for the living. Ian Welch sums it up perfectly:
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. If you want a tax cut now, you pay for it later - with interest. If the rich want a tax cut now, the middle class will pay for it later, with interest. But I want to say something more about the estate tax. There is no fairer tax. If it were up to me, it wouldn’t just be reinstated to it’s full 1999 level, it’d be increased to tax even more from the richest DEAD PEOPLE.
Taxation is a zero sum game. You can take the money from dead people - who don’t need it or you can take it from living people who do need it.
This view of the Estate Tax has me wondering why we need to bother fighting the “Death Tax” label with alternatives such as the “Bling Tax” or the “Paris Hilton Tax” when it arguably isn’t a tax at all?

A tax is really just a means by which citizens share the cost of an organized society. When you are dead, there’s nothing left for you to share! If the organized society in which you lived afforded you the opportunity to accumulate wealth beyond what you (and probably your children) could possibly spend, then why shouldn’t it be “recycled” so that the organized society can be maintained for those who remain to live in it?

Taxes are dues paid by the living, in order to have a stable economy, services and infrastructure. When you die after having taken more wealth from the economy than you could possibly spend, why not put it back into services and infrastructure and call it what it really is: Economic Wealth Recycling!


  1. Giraffe7:54 AM

    Economic Wealth Recycling! I'd like to see that on shirts, billboards, bumperstickers, people's foreheads. Send to daily kos.

  2. Lost Wages Joe10:04 AM

    I agree with Mr. Welch; the estate tax is the fairest of taxes, and should be raised rather than cut. Why we can't seem to get any political traction with this issue is
    baffling and profoundly frustrating to me. I've had several loud, lengthy arguments with my favorite conservative (Big Al), on this very issue. No matter logically and/or enthusiastically I lay-out my reasoning, I can't seem to budge him from his argument that Baron Hilton's money has already been taxed once, and it's the Baron's God-given right to pass it on to his skanky ho daughters without having it "taxed again". O.K., maybe my arguments have been a little long on enthusiasm and light on logic, but dammit, the Baron's NOT being taxed "again", he's DEAD, and therefore immune to taxation! Paris and Nicky are the one's who would be taxed, on income that they did nothing to earn other than survive their respective lives of drug and alcohol abuse, multiple sex partners, and eating disorders...

    While "Economic Wealth Recycling" may be a more accurate description of the program, I think the "Paris Hilton Tax" has more popular appeal (even if it hasn't persuaded Big Al). Paris is the perfect poster girl to represent the ultimate goal of the Republican party; a return to the Gilded Age.

  3. Very interesting especially when you look at what Warren Buffet said about donating his Billions to charity.

    I can't find the quote at the moment but will post it later.

  4. LWJ - I share your appreciation for the "Paris Hilton Tax" characterization and agree that it's a more compelling argument!

    However, I also like the long-term benefit of moving it out of the category of "taxes" to something with a more positive connotation - like "recycling!" By helping to cement the idea that "you can't take it (all) with you," even into future generations of your lineage, I suspect that it would take some of the luster off of things like, say, war profiteering!

    L-O - I wonder if Warren Buffet has any kids!

  5. Yes he does. Here is a graph from an MSNBC article.

    Buffett said his children have known all along that much of their family’s wealth would be given back to society. “They consider themselves lucky. They don’t consider themselves quite as lucky as if they had a father with a different view.”

    You got to respect that. What a breath of fresh air.

  6. And that's the way it should be. Buffett's estate will avoid billions in taxes by, gasp, putting the money toward charitable causes while he's alive. The government will get their share when he dies, and his kids will remain multi-millionaires. Kind of a win-win-win.