Monday, April 18, 2005

Mark Kleiman seems to be making the claim (or at least supporting those who are) that the estate tax is good because it protects against the evil of bequethed wealth... which isn't surprising, coming from a liberal...

It's not for society to pass judgment on what is a "good" use of one's money. If I want to spend my money on big screen TVs, beer and chips, that's my choice. If I want to give it to charity, that's my choice. If I want to waste $25 million or so trying to defeat Bush, I'd be stupid, but isn't being stupid one of those 'unalienable rights' our founding fathers were all so excited about? If I want to save it and give it to my kids, that should be my choice (it's certainly fine with them). Once earned, one should be free to decide on their own what to do with that money. Society should be neutral on how one spends their money - and taxing estates is not being neutral (for what it's worth, I oppose charitable deductions and the mortgage interest deductions as well - society shouldn't be trying to influence my spending decisions by offering up deductions).

Liberal support for estate taxes also flows from the fact that they are at heart jealous people. They hate, just hate, that some people have more money than others. They hate that some people have more power than others. They hate that some people are smarter than others. Income inequality wasn't some concept that conservatives came up with. Neither was 'tax the rich' a motivating cry for the right. It's no surprise that liberals oppose the idea of beneficiaries getting a 'head start'. Liberals oppose handed-down wealth. Liberals oppose legacy admissions into college. They oppose using SATs to determine college admissions. They oppose anything and everything that smacks of someone getting an edge over someone else.

Getting rid of estate taxes is not where I would have started with the next round of tax cuts. It doesn't affect enough people to have a real impact on the economy. It's a pipe dream to think that getting rid of the estate tax is going to put a dent into the wallets of K Street lobbyists. I would have gone for something big, really big... like taxing 401(k)s, IRAs and corporate pensions at capital gains rates instead of ordinary income. But, since I think the estate tax is ridiculous, I won't complain if it disappears.... so long as the Bush Administration doesn't stop there.

Oh, and for the record, my kids would be affected by the estate tax... were my wife and I to die at the same time... which we're not planning on doing anytime soon (knock on wood)... so abolishing the estate tax is not something I'm advocating for the sake of my own wallet... or, to put it more properly, for my kid's wallets...