“let’s suppose you and I have been summoned to God’s office, and while we wait for Her to admit us, we hear Her grousing about how the market has beaten up Her holdings pretty badly. She calls for one of her assistants to fetch Her the next two souls to be sent to earth. When they arrive, She poses them this test:
‘One of the two of you is going to be born in the United States, the other somewhere else. The one of you who will be born in the US will have a good chance to do some good and make a good living, the other not so good.
I’m going to give you a slip of paper and a moment to think about it, then I want you to write down what percentage of what you amass you’ll give away when the time comes to return.’
And with that She leaves them to it. And you and I look at each other, and wonder how they’re going to do it since both of them will write down 100%.
That’s what’s it’s worth to live in America.”
Wm. H. Gates Sr told this today as part of his talk on reforming the estate tax. A touch mawkish, perhaps, but his point was understood by most. Some of those present didn’t understand progressive taxation and some struggled a bit with the notion of being indebted to their predecessors instead of entitled by them. But that’s how this country got where it is: every generation until recently has invested in making things better, from railroads and water systems to highways and electricity.
The other interesting note was how few people will actually feel the estate tax, how few people actually build up fortunes in the millions, and yet the whole issues was supposed to be about small family farms and shops that would have to be sold to satisfy the grasping claws of the taxman. Turns out that was a straw man: no family farm has been sold to cover the burden of the estate tax, but pitching the message as “the death tax” and raising the specter of losing the family legacy was enough to convince our mindless congresspersons to revoke it.
According to what Chuck Collins and Bill Gates Sr told us, there are plenty of folks who will find their fortunes subject to the estate tax, yet they’re in favor of keeping it and/or reforming it, rather than dropping it.