Okay, if a devout communist like me (or so I’ve been described by some of my readers,) dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government (so I’ve been told,) were to argue for restoring Washington’s estate tax, some of you would probably just dismiss me as a devout communist, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government. But what would you say if the most vocal proponent of the estate tax were the father of the world’s richest man?
Taxing the estates of wealthy Washingtonians to provide essential services to the state “is a very sensible, very socially responsible thing to do,” Bill Gates Sr. said Tuesday.
“This is not a tax on wealthy people, it’s a tax on the grateful heirs of wealthy people,” he said. “It’s a tax on what’s left after having lived … a comfortable life.”
Gates was down in Olympia to support Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to restore the state estate tax, which was overturned last month by the state Supreme Court. Gov. Gregoire would tax estates worth at least $2 million, but Gates says there is “a legitimate argument” for a lower exemption. Under the old tax, the exemption would have been $950,000 this year.
Gates points out that due to its heavy reliance on the sales tax, Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. The estate tax was our only progressive tax, and restoring it would help shift some of the tax burden off middle- and low-income households.
Now before you get all foamy at the mouth defending the rights of rich people, I suggest you first read a two-page Estate Tax Fact Sheet produced by the Economic Opportunity Institute, so that we can all at least be informed enough to know why we are calling each other names.
The EOI has also produced a more in depth White Paper on the subject, that I highly recommend. Again, it is mostly just facts — a more detailed historical and technical discussion — but I suppose some of you might get a little apoplectic at some of its policy assumptions… you know, like that concentration of wealth is a bad thing.
If after pointing you towards these two, very informative documents you still insist on backing up your arguments with bad data and faulty assumptions, I will make fun of you. For example, if you make the claim that the estate tax forces heirs off the family farm, while ignoring the fact that there is a “family farm exemption” and that between 2002 and 2004 only 13 of the 5000 estates that paid taxes in Washington actually took the exemption, and that the American Farm Bureau Federation grudgingly admits that they cannot find a single example of a farm being sold to pay estate taxes… well then, your comments really don’t deserve to be taken seriously, do they?
We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. I welcome those of you who vehemently oppose the estate tax to passionately and, um, colorfully argue your opinions. But if you take issue with the facts presented in the EOI documents, I must insist that you cite your sources as thoroughly as they did theirs. Either that, or shut the fuck up.
As to my opinion, well I agree with Comrade Gates’ testimony before the US Senate:
It is appropriate that a special tax be imposed on those who have so fully enjoyed the benefit of the things this country provides: schooling, order, freedom and encouragement to succeed and models of success. In a very practical sense, the wealth that one accumulates derives as much from the environment which this grand nation makes available and it is perfectly appropriate that the cost of its maintenance be paid back in proportion to what is extracted.