Friday, April 15, 2005

About the Paris Hilton Tax

The estate tax! My congressman is fond of calling it the Death Tax, but given that it only affects 2% of estates per year, I think I might start calling it the Paris Hilton Tax. Or maybe just the Spoiled Rich Kid Tax? That deserves some thought. Because as Jonathan Weisman over at the Washington Post explains, nasty names and propaganda - not facts - have convinced some Americans that a permanent repeal of the Sugar Daddy Tax is in their best interests.

"There's been a sustained, determined campaign of misinformation that in the end has left the American people with a very different notion of what the estate tax is and does than actually exists," [Representative Earl] Pomeroy said.

Admittedly, we should probably give some thought to the fairness of the Botox Tax: Is it fair to take more dollars from rich people than from poor people? (And how do we balance the desire for fairness with the desire for ... oh ... a financially solvent government?) But I think that most of us have already made up our minds on this issue. We're OK with an income tax, even if the percentage of the tax increases as one's income level increases.

So I'm forced to disagree with Frank Luntz, a Republican quoted in Weisman's article, when he says:

"The public doesn't believe people should be taxed at the time of death, whether they are paupers or billionaires. Compromise is very difficult because the public doesn't want it to exist."

Wrong! The public does care about the size of the estate being taxed. But the public has been deceived into thinking that the bad old guv'ment is taxing granny's cute little house and her china tea set and her Gomer Bolstrood armoire. And as you might expect this opens the door for vote-grubbing-dunces who run stupid scare ads and use this as a campaign issue and eventually drive the government further into debt.

Maybe those sorts of people will go down with Tom DeLay. That would be nice.


life_of_bryan said...

We were just arguing about this at lunch today. I guess the ideal situation would be to live in this great country and enjoy all of its benefits without paying a single dime (some folks enjoy this lifestyle, but that's another conversation). But since the govt needs funds to deliver its services, protection, benefits, etc., it is necessary for them to charge a tax on certain transactions & exchanges. Death is apparently another of these taxable events, which I'm not sure I'm entirely against. It seems like an odd avenue to pursue for revenue, moreso out of convenience than anything else (dead people can't gripe or vote, so why not take their money). On a superficial level I feel the urge to question the rationale ("Explain why it is 'right' for you to tax me upon my death"), but I'm not sure there's a direct line of logic there, other than "We need X amount of funds to provide these services, so we will tax A, B, & C activities accordingly."
I don't have a strong opinion about this, as I have naively convinced myself that it doesn't impact me....when in actuality repealing the law will have a much greater effect on me than enforcing the current law (although indirectly, since the govt service will cease, or the money will have to come from somewhere else). The real question you should ask yourself is "If I disagree with the inheritance/estate tax, then where would I rather the money come from?" because we all know the govt activity will be "funded" somehow, whether via tax revenue or deficit spending (again, another conversation).
I've come to feel that taxes are a reality that I may not like at times, but they are a necessity. I can't argue the taxable status of certain events...let's just try not to make them excessive, ok?

life_of_bryan said...
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life_of_bryan said...
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Matthew said...

More food for thought: There's a decent editorial at the Salt Lake Tribune arguing that those who make the most should pay the most.