stepping out of the mommy blog…

hat today to do some advocacy.

I was reading this article on tompaine.com about the Senate’s proposed efforts to repeal the estate tax. It occurred to me that it is utterly ridiculous to give a tax cut to anyone, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, while our country is going through a national disaster the way that we are right now. There are many appeals going around to raise funds for the victims of Katrina, but frankly, private charities are only ever going to go so far. Will they be rebuilding the bridges, hospitals, sewer systems, police stations, firehouses, schools, and highways that were destroyed by the storm? No, that role will fall (as it should) to our government at all levels. Will they be providing health care and unemployment income to the many workers who lost their jobs and health care coverage? No, again, this will fall (as it should) to our government. Why on earth would we consider cutting taxes on any group of people when we don’t yet know what the cost of rebuilding will be?

I was inspired to send the following letter to my US Senators. I hope you’ll contact your senators as well–if you need to find contact info for them, go here. This isn’t a rich thing or a poor thing. This is a civilized society thing.

Honorable Senator X & Y,

As I write to you today, the Gulf Coast of our country is flooded, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Clearly, the damage will run into the tens of billions of dollars, and indeed, cannot be measured in mere economic terms. Residents of those affected states have experienced significant emotional and physical devastation as well.

It was with some shock, therefore, that I read that the U.S. Senate is planning to meet next week to repeal the estate tax. Our country is in turmoil, and the federal government will need to step in to rebuild infrastructure in those states that are hardest hit by the devastation. How can the Senate possibly consider reducing a source of income (particularly one that benefits the very rich) when we have no way of knowing what the costs of rebuilding Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are likely to be?

I think it is fair to say, as well, that a greater number of people from those states will need access to government social service programs, too. Hard-working people who have lost everything should be able to get health care, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other services as they rebuild their lives. Why would we cut a source of revenue that could help pay for these programs, to make people’s lives a little easier during this time of need?

I strongly urge you to oppose the repeal of the estate tax, and to use your influence in the Senate to ensure that it is not repealed. It is not right to lower taxes on the richest 2% of Americans–or any other group–while our country is in a state of crisis. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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September 1, 2005. politically motivated.

20 Comments

  1. Captain Platypus replied:

    The money has already been taxed once, taxing it again when a person has lost a loved one seems like a bereavement penalty. There are a number of people in the coast who have lost loved ones and will be subject to this penalty once insurance settlements are divied up, and it hurts the people with less lot more than the rich.

    Just throwing my two cents in.

  2. Jody replied:

    There are further exemptions for small-business and farm estates on top of the current caps on estate taxation. Because the limit is so high, it’s been estimated by (as close as possible to) neutral sources that only 20,000 families will benefit from an estate-tax repeal.

    My mother-in-law was up in arms about paying the estate tax on her father’s estate. Then she found out how high the exemption was, and was shocked. How could she not have known that only the richest people pay this tax? (She asked this of herself.) If a die-hard Democrat doesn’t know how high the bar is set, then there’s a serious information problem at work.

    This used to be a country where inheritated status and wealth were distrusted. Of course, that was before the first Gilded Age (I think it’s obvious that we’re living through another). But at least Morgan and Rockefeller and Carnegie felt an obligation to give back to society. Their disproportionate wealth helped inspire the income and estate taxes in the first place. Where’s the sense of social obligation now? Are we going to go through another thirty-year conservative Supreme Court and mass concentration of wealth in the hands of the few before we reconsider our options again?

    If the double-tax argument had any merit, we wouldn’t pay sales tax when we bought things. After all, we’re buying it with income that’s already been taxed. Then again, many Republicans are advocating for a switch to consumption taxes only. Because regressive tax systems apparently cause them no qualms.

  3. Jody replied:

    Inherited. Oops.

  4. Captain Platypus replied:

    Estate doesn’t just mean mansions and trust funds. Estates include grandma’s broken down trailer and the $250 she has in her check account. Those are the people with less I am referring to.

  5. The Powers That Be replied:

    For your information:

    The amount of money coming into the US Treasury actually increased last year after Bush’s tax cuts. Why? Because supply side economics works.

  6. Jim replied:

    Capt. Platypus – who benefits from the Estate Tax? Certainly not gramma.

    Please apply a little intellectual integrity to your argument.

    And read your history… regressive taxation has NEVER benefitted a society.

  7. guppyman replied:

    Just thowing my 2 cents in, take it for what it is worth….

    Tax cuts stimulate the economy. Every time tax cuts have occured, the governments tax revenues have gone up. That’s fact… look it up. So… It seems like the perfect time for more tax cuts.

  8. rws replied:

    We get what we pay for, and as we continue the bizarre tax-cutting mania that’s taken place in the U.S. since the 80’s, the cost becomes clearer and clearer: less money to maintain schools, libraries, roads, bridges, parks, police, fire departments, less money to help those in need. It amazes me that people seem willing to trade so many aspects of the country’s quality of life for paltry sums of money — as has already been pointed out, the only people who truly benefit from the cuts are a tiny group of the super-rich.

  9. Jim replied:

    Gosh, Capt. Platypus – pussy? – stated his platitude – pussy? – and then ran.

    Kind of the raison d’etre of the right. Say it, get your nads kicked by facts, and run. I guess it’s why they support an idiotic war based on lies and refuse to serve in it.

    Worthless sacks of shit.

  10. Comfort Addict replied:

    It seems quite clear that Captain Platypus is ducking the issue (and wait until the American people get the bill).

    Seriously, I agree with you, Landismom. People who have more should pay more. To those to whom much is given, much should be expected. To continually fight for ever larger advantage is a bald-faced attempt to preserve hegemony.

    Actually, I think that more benefits for the affluent should be repealed. For instance, cap the mortgage interest tax credit so that inhabitants of glory mansions don’t make a killing on the backs of the poor and middle class.

    Here’s a subtle reason (apart from the obvious ones) why estate tax repeal proponents are fighting so hard: to preserve the national ethos that everyone should be rich. In fact, certain politicians spend a lot of time trying to convince middle-class people that they are rich or would be rich if it weren’t for certain people and laws. The arguments run from disingenuous to flat-out wrong but I’m amazed at how many people swallow them whole. They realize only too late, unfortunately, when they’ve been had.

    Thanks for a great post.

  11. landismom replied:

    Captain Platypus–Thanks for dropping by. The point is that it doesn’t hurt the people with less more than the rich–the rich are the only ones who are paying the estate tax to begin with. (Unless you consider someone who is inheriting 1.5 million or more ‘people with less.’)

    And you know what? We all paid taxes already that paid for those highways, and sewer systems, and schools and we’re all going to pay taxes again to fix those things or rebuild them. And we should. I don’t really mind, myself.

  12. guppyman replied:

    Jim Jim Jim…. Did I attack anyone here and start calling them names? Do you know how to have a discussion without dragging your knuckles on the ground? That was a pretty pathetic response from you….

    I could point out how the economy did after Reagan, or how it’s doing now after Bush’s tax cuts, but you would attack both….

    So let’s take a look at JFK’s tax cuts….. Hey wow…. After cutting taxes in the 60’s, revenue went up! (Same in the 80’s)…

    Anyway… Like I said… take it for what it is worth… But a simple look at history will provide the information to you. Try Google…

    And look… I didn’t even call anyone a coward…. 😉

  13. Suzanne replied:

    Thanks for the tip on this upcoming meeting — I hadn’t known about it. Even in pre-war, pre-Katrina days, the repeal of the estate tax seemed like a ludicrous proposal. Your letter has inspired me to write to my own senators.

  14. elise replied:

    Its my understanding that as the laws are right NOW, you don’t pay inheritence tax on the first 1.5 million. I would say if you have more than that you are not poor. Am I wrong?

  15. Jim replied:

    Guppyman, please give us an example of tax cuts stimulating the economy… really, actual fucking facts and numbers instead of right-wing talking points… please… because, checking my history, I see no precedent to bacl up your contention… please… fill us in… history… something… come on, we’re waiting… tick, tick, tick…

    Another right-wing coward….

  16. landismom replied:

    Jim, Guppyman, to your corners.

    Guppyman, I don’t really see what your initial comment has to do with my post. Your point is what–that new potential revenue would replace the lost income due to the estate tax cut? Please articulate a position that is relevant to the initial post.

  17. chip replied:

    Unfortunatley the platypus is repeating the lies of the right wingers.. This is not an tax on all “estates”, as has been pointed out by other commenters already. Anyone who claims it is is hiding from the truth, as the right is wont to do.

    Why do we have an estate tax? Because our economic syste tends towards immense concentrations of wealth otherwise. And countries that have a small number of people/families with the vast majority of the wealth, while the majority of the population have less and less, are the least stable.

    Unfortunately, the most extreme and irresponsible on the right feel that people owe nothing to the societies that made their success possible,a nd are extremely short-sighted and immoral to boot. Thus the push to repeal the estate tax while a tragedy unfolds in New Orleas — a tragedy that Bush still doesn’t seem to be taking to seriously, maybe because the people dieing aren’t his white frat-boy republican base…

    (sorry for the rant lm, I can’t believe that it is possible for me to be even more disgusted with Bush and company that I was before this hurricane, but I am)

  18. landismom replied:

    Thanks Elise, for making me be clearer. Yes, right now the estate tax only applies to estates valued at $1.5 million or more.

    I think, going back to my original post, I want to reinforce the point that I was trying to make, which is that no one should be getting a tax cut right now, while the country’s in a state of disaster. It isn’t the fact that the estate tax affects the rich that bothers me–it’s the fact that the Senate could be so short-sighted as to voluntarily cut revenue at a point when an involuntary revenue cut (and an increase in expenses) are guaranteed.

  19. trilobite replied:

    Jim was impolite. But Guppyman was far from polite himself, in that he opened with a dangerous lie. It’s not coincidence that he hasn’t provided any support — there isn’t any. Tax cuts sometimes raise productivity, they never raise revenue. And tax cuts aimed at the rich don’t raise productivity, tax cuts aimed at the middle class do. Krugman has a couple of books on the subject.

  20. RainbowMomma replied:

    I get your point, and I happen to agree.

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