It’s undoubtedly too soon to begin getting your hopes up yet, but there are signs that the new GOP controlled Congress may finally be getting down to some of the regular business we were promised during the election. Plenty of fire and brimstone has been flying around both chambers over matters of foreign policy and big ticket items, but some mundane issues of importance to conservatives are still waiting on the back burner. Today, one of these should be moving forward. We’re going to have yet another vote on repealing the death tax and it’s got both teams pretty fired up.
The House is gearing up to vote Thursday on repealing the estate tax, an issue that has energized the base in both parties — and that Democrats and Republicans see as a political winner.
Republicans are making the vote the centerpiece of their agenda during a week when millions of taxpayers face the annual IRS filing deadline and anti-tax groups regularly hold protests. For the GOP, repealing the estate tax — or the “death tax,” as they’ve long called it — is more than just a proposal favored by their supporters in the business community.
Republican leaders insist it’s patently unfair that people pay taxes as they accumulate wealth through the years, only for their heirs to pay additional taxes on that wealth after they die.
It’s already being pointed out that there aren’t enough solid votes in the Senate to break a filibuster on this issue, to say nothing of override a veto, but that’s hardly a reason to run away with your tail between your legs. The death tax is not just offensive to some of the fundamental principles of the country, but it’s simply bad policy. When an individual works their entire life and somehow manages to accumulate wealth which has already been taxed each and every step of the way, turning around and taxing the entire nest egg yet again when they finally shuffle off this mortal coil is not only offensive, but constitutes double taxation which should be outlawed. More than that, the story of success in America is not just the tale of any one person’s achievements, but the opportunity to pave the way for your family and offer them a better start in life than you yourself had.
That is doctrinal anathema to the Left however. Some liberal opponents are hiding behind the fig leaf of saying this change will result in lost revenue which will not be made up elsewhere. There may be some truth to that which merits debate, but when was the last time you heard a liberal express any honest distaste for a deficit? Their real reasons are far more cultural than mathematical, and the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore pulls away the mask briefly and admits what most of us already knew. The Left loves the death tax not because it’s good policy, but because they want to stick it to both capitalism and perceived capitalists. (Emphasis added.)
[P]rogressives should be quite aggressive in welcoming this debate. They have plenty of ammunition, including the passionate arguments of the father of the federal estate tax, Theodore Roosevelt. And they really do need to counter the mythology of the small struggling business or farm being taken away by a socialistic Uncle Sam. This is all a cover for the real beneficiaries, the wealthiest people in America, who hardly need the kind of protection against taxes in death they’ve managed to secure in life. Large inheritances are and have always been an enormous factor in long-term inequality, and an offense to the presumed morality of capitalism, in which material rewards follow market utility or economic “virtue,” not birth lotteries.
Beyond that, it’s fun, if not especially charitable, to mock the tears of the undeserving heir at the indignity of having to share his or her windfall with the commonwealth.
There it is in a nutshell. How much revenue the government collects, the state of the federal deficit or the morality of double taxation aren’t of any concern to Ed Kilgore and his ilk. In the end, the true evil in America is the specter of wealth and success. Purporting to speak for “the commonwealth” in their unwashed masses, liberal spokesmodels are mostly upset at anyone who buys into the “perceived morality of capitalism.” This underpins virtually every argument we have on economics and tax policy. Liberals have their own vision for America and it is one where success is something to be ashamed of and which should be punished wherever it is found. If everyone can’t have everything, then we should all share in the pain regardless of personal merit. The Left embraces socialism wholeheartedly, but most of the time they are at least embarrassed enough about it to lie and come up with some other argument as cover. Kilgore is, in a way, providing a refreshing bit of honesty here.
That doesn’t mean that the effort to repeal the death tax will come without cost. As Noah explained last night, good policy is not always good politics and it would be foolish to completely ignore that warning. It is true that populism is a powerful totem, and during tough economic times it’s easy to wave a red flag in front of the masses and urge them to take up their pitchforks and torches against those they perceive as “the rich.” But everyone with any interest in honest work and the ambition to make a better life for themselves and their family eventually realizes that their own success will become the target if they embrace such policies.