Certain issues are simple, and need not be made complicated for the sake of debate. The Death Tax is one of them. Morally, it is sick. As Professor Goldberg rightly points out, "If I give something to my kid, I already paid the tax."
Terry B. and I had a sociology prof at Georgetown freshman or sophomore year, Dr. Mashayekhi, who proclaimed to his captive audience that he believed that ALL human beings should have to start with a clean slate, with nothing. He favored outlawing any sort of transfer of wealth from one generation to another. Needless to say, I'm sure he was looked at by his colleagues as a moderate, not a true radical. On a university campus, when discussing the evils of capitalism and commerce, anything short of the guillotine is ineffective in taking care of the second part of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable."
Death and Whoopi's Taxes
December 10, 2007; Page A18 Wall Street Journal
We don't normally look to Tinsel Town liberals for insights on U.S. tax policy, but Whoopi Goldberg's comments on the estate tax last week deserve more attention.
During a discussion of Republican Presidential candidates on ABC's "The View," which the comedian co-hosts, Ms. Goldberg said, "I'd like somebody to get rid of the death tax. That's what I want. I don't want to get taxed just because I died." The studio audience started applauding, but she wasn't done. "I just don't think it's right," she continued. "If I give something to my kid, I already paid the tax. Why should I have to pay it again because I died?"
Back in 2001, before President Bush signed estate tax reform into law, the death duty topped off at 55% on estates worth more than $3 million. Today the top federal rate is 45% with an exemption of $2 million, and under current law the rate falls to zero in 2010. In 2011, however, the death tax is resurrected, with the top rate restored to 55% and the exemption set at $1 million.
When another co-host, Joy Behar, responded to Ms. Goldberg's remarks by asserting, "Only people with a lot of money say that," Ms. Goldberg shot back, "No, I don't think so . . . It doesn't matter if you have or don't have money. Once you paid your taxes, it should be a done deal. You shouldn't have to pay twice."
Ms. Goldberg has her political facts down. It's not just "people with a lot of money" who oppose confiscatory estate taxes. Billionaires like Warren Buffett have made a crusade of urging Congress to keep the death tax, even as he shelters much of his own wealth from that tax by giving to charity. However, according to polls, some 70% of voters favor a full repeal. And many, like Ms. Goldberg apparently, do so on moral grounds. Death as a taxable event and double taxation offend the average American's sense of fairness.