Friday, November 10, 2017

Instead of cutting estate tax, we should limit amount that can be inherited. Heirs do nothing to earn inherited money

By Marc Jampole

What did someone inheriting $20 million or $2 billion do to deserve the money?

The same thing my son did to have his unmeasurably high math abilities. The same thing LeBron James did to grow to 6’ 8” and attain genius level highs in natural speed, quickness, eyesight and stamina. The same thing Adele did to have such a good ear for musical notes and an enormous breath capacity.

Absolutely nothing.

It’s true that Adele and LeBron James (and my son) worked hard to harness their natural abilities, and that’s why they’re paid so much.

But what does an heir do to deserve the money they collect? Take care of the person with the big bucks? But isn’t that what poor people do, too? Take care of their own. Regardless of income level, isn’t that part of the connection between parent and child, brother and sister, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews?—a connection that is also a contract of mutual care and concern. Even if we take the cold-hearted role of the economist and consider the inheritance solely as another economic exchange, the value of caring does not equal billions or even a few million dollars. All of the health care, home care, financial, legal, grooming, transportation and entertainment services provided for an elderly individual don’t add up to billions, let alone a few million dollars for the average senior, so the absolute ceiling of what an heir “deserves” for care is relatively low.

The argument about the inheritance and taxation of assets and property upon the death of an individual cuts to the heart of the central debate in this country since World War I: Do individuals owe anything to society and how much can society do to control the fates of individuals?

Conservatives want individuals to have unfettered rights, especially in the marketplace, while projecting the individual into what she/he owns and granting individual rights to corporate entities. Behind their exaltation of individuals and individual property rights over all else is the idea that individuals work for what they have and therefore deserve to do with it what they like, unencumbered by rules, taxes or social responsibilities.

Yet no matter how hard the average person works, he won’t be able to play basketball as well as LeBron James or sing as beautifully as Adele. (No matter how much you love or hate her material, no one can deny her vocal abilities.) Both the clerk in the supermarket where I shop and my son the engineer work extremely hard, but my son makes many times more because of a talent he had at birth.

But anyone can inherit, if they’re lucky. All you have to do is have the right family.

Thus, even if you are a strong believer that those who get rich deserve it because of what they did, how can you be opposed to a tax on inheritance? How can you even be in favor of the notion of inheritance?

One of the most selfish, self-serving parts of the Trump GOP bill to lower taxes on the ultra-wealthy—to be paid for by higher taxes on the middle and upper middle classes, higher deficits, and deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and a broad range of other government programs—is the proposal to end all federal estate taxes. Currently, estates under $5.45 million for individuals, double for the married, pay no federal inheritance tax. Both House and Senate versions call for removing the cap and exempting all inheritance from federal taxation.

We should be moving in the other direction by raising the estate tax above the current cap to 100%, with 75% of the proceeds payable to the federal government and the rest to the governments of the states in which the individual lived during his adult life, on a proportional basis.

When individuals are alive they have the freedom to give their assets away to whomever or whatever they like—assuming they pay the proper taxes. But once dead, their assets and property should revert to all of society in the form of its representative, the state. Naturally many personal possessions should be kept in the family and some of those possessions have market value. Thus some amount should be exempt from confiscation at death. I think $5.45 million should do it, when you consider that 99.98 of Americans are worth less than that at death.

By all means, we should keep the $5.45 million exemption, so that families can pass on cherished houses, works of art and other personal property that they haven’t already disposed of. But everything above a cap of $5.5 million should revert to the state at death. The net effect of this move will be to force people to unload their assets before death, which will enhance tax revenues sooner but by a smaller amount than waiting. But the principle of working for what you get and only getting what you deserve—something held dear by the right—will be upheld.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The ultimate hypocrisy is Trump GOP response to Las Vegas & Texas church shootings & New York truck mayhem

By Marc Jampole
When a mentally ill ISIS supporter plows a truck into bicyclists in New York, killing eight
and injuring 15, Donald Trump calls for the ending of an immigration program that has
given our country hundreds of thousands of highly productive and patriotic Americans
over the years.
But when mentally ill gunmen perpetrate horror after horror, all Trump and the GOP can
do is ask us to pray and blame it on mental illness. Not a word about making it harder
for the mentally ill to purchase guns. Nothing about prohibiting automatic rifles,
expanding the national no-gun registry, prohibiting perpetrators of domestic violence
and people on the government’s terror list to buy or own a gun, extending gun waiting
periods and making them apply to gun shows or making people take gun tests to own a
gun license.
Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Charleston, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook.
Those are some of the biggest shootings over the past few years. And so far in 2017,
there have been 307 mass murders committed by firearms in the United States. Most of
these were not acts of terrorism. All of them involved guns. Some of these mass
murders could have been prevented by more restrictive gun laws. Others, like Las
Vegas and Sandy Hook, would have been much less destructive if automatic weapons
were prohibited.
Survey after survey shows that most people—and most gun owners—want greater
restrictions on gun ownership. And yet, state legislatures and the Congress refuse to
pass any law restricting gun ownership and in recent years sought to expand gun rights.
As a group, legislators have displayed a craven disregard for life and a dismissive
disrespect for voters. A persistent theme in news media coverage is the fear that
candidates have of offending the voters. More often than not, however, and certainly in
the case of gun control, candidates and legislators don’t care a gnat’s hindquarters
about the voters’ wishes. What they care about is pleasing their corporate masters. The
gun industry was one of the first industries to recognize the value of investing in the
political process. It would be more accurate to write that politicians worry about what
their constituencies think, and leave it to the insiders to understand that big money
interests and not the voters are the constituencies being referenced.
The hard facts support gun control. While a federal law prevents federal dollars from
supporting research into gun violence (yes, Congress did that!), enough research does
exists to demonstrate without a doubt that the more guns in a society, the more deaths
and injuries from gun violence will occur. The causes are various: self-inflicted, friendly
fire, accidents, mass murders. But very few gun deaths and accidents occur in defense
of life and property. The conclusion is obvious: the more we restrict guns, the fewer gun
deaths and accidents we’ll have.
The facts disprove the main argument of the gun industry that owning a gun keeps you
safe. You may feel safer with a gun in the house or strapped to your side, but you have
actually put yourself at greater risk of injury or death.
Of course, gun ownership is not the only issue in which Trump and the GOP talk and
act against the facts. On immigration, education, the environment and taxation, Trump
and the GOP persist in spewing myths, lies and disproven theories.
There is a second edge to the Trump and GOP hypocrisy, which the events of the past
few weeks have sharpened. When a Muslim or immigrant commit a mass murder, it’s
terrorism. But when a red-blooded American commits a mass murder, it’s the act of a
lone looney. Make no mistake about it: this racialization of mass murder is another
attempt to distract us from the real problems. Sowing resent against Muslims and
immigrants helps to create an us-and- them world in which poor and middle class white
Christians learn to hate and fear people of color instead of hating and fearing the group
that is really hurting them—the rich folk who want to curtail social welfare, infrastructure,
healthcare and education programs that help poor and middle class white Christians
more than any other group.