5.29.2005

The Paris Hilton Tax

It never ceases to amaze me how people in this country vote and hold positions that are not in their own self interest (Thomas Frank wrote a whole book about it, called What's The Matter With Kansas). One of the reasons for this phenomenon is theat the Republicans have done an outstanding job of renaming things to sound easy to support/oppose. One great example of this is the so-called Death Tax. Death tax? It's ridiculous to tax someone just because they died, you say. I don't want to be taxed when I die, you say. And so you oppose the Death Tax and the Republicans win again.

But wait.

The "Death Tax" is actually the Estate Tax. The Estate Tax affects only the extremely rich, at most the top two percent of incomes in the United States (estates worth over $1 million for individuals, $2 million for couples, $5 million for businesses, and $8 million for farms). The people who "suffer" because of the Estate Tax are not the rich, they are dead, but the children of the rich. Think Paris Hilton. But call it the Death Tax, and suddenly hordes of Americans think it's completely fair for Ms. Hilton to pay no taxes on her inheritance. Believe it or not, things like interstate highways, Medicare, and the military (and the wars it engages in) cost money. If you take away the billions of dollars the Estate Tax raised, that money has to be made up somewhere. Who do you you think is going to pay it? Answer: You. And your kids. And your kid's kids. And why? Because you got snookered by a marketing ploy coined up by Republican strategists. What's going on in this country is a transfer of taxation burden, from the very rich to the middle class. Apparently the middle class is fine with this, because otherwise we'd be marching in the streets.
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