Talk Show Message on a Holiday Friday: Abolish the Death Tax

By November 28, 2008Taxation

Down here in the Tidewater area of Virginia for the Thanksgiving weekend, happened to catch the Neal Boortz radio program. Boortz, of Atlanta, is a libertarian known for his advocacy of the flat tax.

Boortz’s guest host today is Herman Cain, who warrants attention for his highly successful manufacturing career at Pillsbury and later his running of Godfather’s Pizza.

Cain’s topic for the day: The death tax! He’s informing his audience, repeatedly, in passionate terms, that the estate tax drops to 0 percent in 2010 and then returns to its earlier 55 percent rate in 2011.

From 0 to 55 percent: Not to be macabre or anything, but that’s certainly a motivation to get your dying over before January 1, 2011.

Cain provided testimony to the Senate Finance Committee in 2007 on the death tax, relating the story of his father’s climb through hard work to prosperity:

By the time of my mother’s death in 2005, my father’s assets had grown modestly leaving his family with a death tax liability of $1.3 million. My father would have been proud to have known that his hard earnings had been well-managed and used to propel his family to ever greater heights. Somehow, I do not think he would be nearly as pleased to learn that nearly half of it never made it into the hands of his grandchildren.

Yet my father is only one example of thousands. Most Americans who have earned over a million dollars in their life time have done it through hard work and rigorous discipline. It is easy for members of congress to talk about wealth disparity and to gloat about their grand schemes to ensure “fairness.” It is another matter when they confront the individuals whose “wealth disparity” they are actually seizing. Somehow, I get the impression that my father’s story – and the thousands like it – does not fit their expected redistributionist model.

Although the death tax’s fundamental unfairness and its effect discouraging investment are major issues for many small-business owners, including hundreds of smaller manufacturers who belong to the NAM, the issue never really made a mark in the 2008 presidential campaigns.

But unless Congress acts soon to change the law, the death tax could be a defining issue in the 2010 congressional elections. As it should be.

So, yes, surprised that Cain was talking about the issue, but gratified, too. In a time of economic difficulty, there’s a looming increase in an important tax rate, the death tax — from 0 to 55 percent. It SHOULD be talked about.

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