The word for this week is ″death tax,″ which is the loaded term used by opponents of what is properly called the estate tax.
The estate tax is the only institutionalized check we have to stave off concentrated power, which is exactly what the founders of this nation hoped to guard against.
In making a preserve-the-estate-tax case over the years, some readers have asked: ″Sean, are you a Marxist?″ If it’s Marxist to observe that the estate tax is what keeps this 400-year-old experiment in democracy from turning into a land of peasants and serfs being lorded over by a class of aristocrats with ″impervious piles of wealth″ (Bill Gates’ words, not mine), then call me Karl, comrade.
So-called ″death tax″ opponents have a penchant for red herring polemics – the estate tax punishes success, hurts ″small″ family businesses and has even led to the farm being taken away from ″small family farmers.″ Gasp!
I’ve yet to find an ounce of evidence for this alleged large group of working people harmed by an estate tax. Meanwhile, I got in touch with actual multi-millionaire members of Responsible Wealth to find out how ″Marxist″ they are.
Darius Ross, for example. Ross, a 41-year-old entrepreneur with 19 years of experience in real estate acquisition and development, is the founder and managing partner of D. Alexander Ross Real Estate Capital Interest, LLC – a boutique of high-net-worth investors involved in real estate and commercial acquisitions.
Of the approximately 5,000 top commercial real estate asset holders in America, who control about $400 trillion in assets, only 100 are black. It’s just one stark example of the extreme concentration of wealth and economic disparity.
″Our people are talking about buying their first home, and (the wealthy) are talking about buying mega-developments,″ he said.
Many people mistakenly think they’re not directly affected by the outcome of the estate tax debate.
″But tax money is what funds needed programs, including first-time home buyer programs. If we lose the estate tax, there won’t be that mother buying her first house. She’ll be renting for the rest of her life. This would create a permanent underclass,″ Ross said.
I asked him if he felt his success was being punished by the estate tax.
″How do you punish successful people? That’s not the way the game works. I can always come back (financially) because I understand the hustle. That’s true of anyone who has been economically successful in this country.″
As you read this the Senate is preparing to vote on the proposal to permanently repeal the estate tax, as if we aren’t facing record budget deficits.
Currently, only those who leave estates greater than $2 million, or $4 million for couples, must pay the tax. In 2006, it is estimated that 0.27 percent of all estates in the U.S. will pay estate tax. Repealing the estate tax is estimated to cost $1 trillion over the first 10 years of full repeal.
″We are currently facing a large list of multi-billion-dollar obligations, including up to $1.3 trillion for the cost of the war in Iraq, $3.3 trillion in interest on the national debt, and $797 billion to pay for the Medicare drug benefit,″ says Steven C. Rockefeller, chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. ″To reduce the nation’s revenue stream by $1 trillion″
166 in order to enrich a small group of multi-millionaires and billionaires is fiscally irresponsible and bad social policy.″
Rockefeller is a signer of the Call to Preserve the Estate Tax, a project of Responsible Wealth (http:
47 ), spearheaded by William Gates, Sr., head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and father of the richest man on the planet.
Sign up. Get involved. Or get hustled.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columnist. E-mail him at [email protected].