The G.O.P’s True Colors: Green, Green and Green

U.S. HouseForget the neoimperialists, or the wingnut religious freaks. As was indisputably demonstrated last week, the G.O.P. is all about screwing the poor at the expense of the rich.

Oh, it’s certainly possible for rational people to latch onto a few additional planks in the G.O.P. platform. After all, they’ve managed to reel in just about every otherwise unconnected interest group into their so-called “big tent” (just as long as you recognize that you’re not actually welcome these days unless you’re a Bible-thumping mouth breather). Hell, even I can sympathize with some of the more Libertarian ideals they profess to promote — the key word there being “profess.”

But repealing the inheritance tax? Sorry, but there is no good argument whatsoever for this, other than kissing the ass of the American aristocracy. This is as abhorrent as so-called “bankruptcy reform” movement — just step two in the process to create Alphaville-style “urban fortresses” between the rich and the poor.

As reluctant as I am to make black-and-white characterizations, there is most assurely evil in the House of Representatives. We’ll see how far that cancer has spread beyond the House in the near future.


At 11:49 AM, Tom Bridge said...

There is absolutely NO good reason for the Feds to take half your estate when you die just because you're rich. None. Zip. Zero.

At 12:16 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

Bullshit. They're not taking "your" estate. You're dead. Game over.

There is no good reason for anyone to be able to freely pass that much wealth onto their heirs. All that does is perpetuate the aristocratic class we supposedly did away with in this nation.

Yeah, they can drag out the old "family farm" and "small business" myths -- and that's exactly what they are: myths. Notice how the proponents run for cover when asked to produce just one example of such a business or farm affected by this? This is nothing but a plutocracy creating a whole new generation of Paris Hiltons.

Yes, capitalism is, on the whole, a beneficial system. But we have checks in place (or we're supposed to, anyway) to counter its excesses. Even under a pure Libertarian ideal, your rights stop at the point where you're infringing upon those of others. And theft -- which is what pure capitalism engenders -- is pretty well recognized as just such an "infringement."

You don't have an absolute claim on wealth built on the backs of others (and nobody can credibly advance the argument that someone earned that much money simply by "working hard"). And your heirs -- who didn't do a damned thing for it -- sure as hell don't have anywhere near as solid a claim as you do.

Fuck them. Not a shred of sympathy from me. Or from a lot of the rest of the people who aren't part of that top two percent.

And if I'm doing the math right, there are one hell of a lot more in the latter group. And they're starting to get pretty damed pissed off.

Think this is a viable long-term solution? The violence in Sao Paulo would tend to counter that argument. The best-built walls aren't impregnable.

At 5:08 PM, Tom Bridge said...

Except for the fact that the government has no legitimate reason to interfere between the passing of assets between two parties on the event of their death. I'm without question the product of my grandparent's affluence, but without the nasty Paris Hilton side effect. If I want to set aside $250,000 each for my Grand kids to go to school (roughly analogous to what my grandfather did for us) and learn and prosper, I should have EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO. WithOUT the goverment's interference, even if I have 20 grandkids. I am providing for my family and the government should have NO PART in that, Bill. You're interfering in my family and I would like you to STOP.

The government's role is to protect us, not steal blindly from us.

At 5:16 PM, Tom Bridge said...

ESPECIALLY not to fund our corrupt bureaucracy. I'm okay with localities and states taking pieces to fund their vital records department, but the feds should get no cut of it. If I do well in life and I die, the feds shouldn't get to touch that. At all. It's my family's wealth, not the gov'ts.

I sympathize with the "cycle of the rich" but that's a failure in PARENTING, not a failure of SOCIETY. They're different structures, entirely.

At 5:56 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

Well, I'll agree that nobody's about to mistake you for Paris Hilton... :-)

But no, I argue that it is not, ipso facto, your family's wealth. The implication would appear to be that you earned it, all by your little old lonesome, and nobody else had anything to do with it.

Again, I say bullshit. That's the price of living in a society -- damn right you have to pay something back. And those who benefit the most must repay the most. Hey, you live off on an island by yourself, with no interaction with other people, then you can argue that society didn't contribute to your wealth (which, having nobody to trade with, would probably consist of leaves anyway). But otherwise, no dice.

Gripes about the corrupt bureaucracy are certainly warranted -- but yes, the government's role is to protect us. Capitalism is, almost by definition, stealing. The notion that one can earn money not by any labor of one's own, but by simply already having money, can hardly be considered legitimate solely on its merits. There's a reason moneylending -- i.e., usury -- was outlawed by the Catholic church for most of its history. As a necessary evil to maintain overall societal well-being, fine. But we stop at allowing you to perpetuate that.

You want to provide for your heirs? Fine. But you're goddamned right we're going to put limits on that. We'd be idiots not to -- we'd just be allowing your heirs to rise to the level of despots. You want to get them started? Again, okay. But beyond that, they're going to have to succeed on their own. Along with the rest of us.

The "cycle of the rich" has nothing to do with parenting -- all parents will do whatever they can to help their children -- nor is it a failure of "society" as a whole. It is entirely a failure of the capitalist system. No, I don't advocate the dismantling of the system. In the end, Marx was a shortsighted fool: The state of pretty much any communist state will aptly demonstrate that. But unbridled capitalism is just as deadly -- nations like Brazil and South Africa end up with statistically everyone just as poor as in communist nations, with the exception of a very small minority in which wealth is concentrated.

Until that majority kills the minority. And doesn't shed a tear in doing so.

Relative economics is a zero sum game. Your "providing" for your heirs necessarily prevents someone else from doing so.

So no -- unless you want to go live on that island, I'm not about to stop "interfering." But more importantly, neither are the millions of other people being crushed by such flagrantly plutocratic policy decisions.

At 10:56 PM, Tom Bridge said...

I pay my price for living in society each and every day. I pay more than a quarter of my salary to the Feds. I pay 5% or so of my salary to the State. I pay a percentage of the value of my home to the county in which I reside. Those are the prices of society. Taking it away from me after my death instead of letting my family make use of what I have left behind for them is the most dishonest and cruel thing to do to a family.

Sorry your Daddy died, now GIMME HALF HIS MONEY! It's for the POOR. And The CHILDREN. Don't feel bad.

Fuck that. Society takes much more from the rich than it ever provides for the poor, Bill. Before you ask for more of that from the rich, show some fucking benefit for the poor.

Now, let's get to your usury claims. I have money invested in the stock market. In exchange for giving the company capital to work with, they choose to give me a share in the ownership of the company. For example, let's take my GE stock. I own part of GE. They have my money, I have a sheet of paper that gets traded around on the stock market at Wall St. Because they make money and pay dividends, my shares can appreciate or depreciate with the value of the company and the strength of the economy. My money can work for me, and create more money by putting it in the right hands. You know all about this, Bill, it happens in your industry all the fucking time.

It's the way the system works. BUT, it can take those are less wealthy, but able to think on their feet and make smart decisions about the money that they've been TRUSTED with, and turn it into a pretty penny themselves.

The reason the Catholic Church outlawed moneylending was that the interest rates at the time were absolutely vile, we're talking 50% or so, and not necessarily always calculated in a fair, equitable and transparent fashion. Banks today are pretty clear about the way in which they lend capital to individuals and what happens should you miss a payment, etc. This is wholly different than usury.

Now, that all aside, the bankruptcy law the republicans have shoved down congress' throat is a pile of shite, but the death tax is NOT. It's a way of helping your family for generations down the line and there is NO CRIME in that. In fact, people that are able to do so ought to be able to do so without paying a penalty for being successful; no more than they have been for their career. At some point you have to stop relying on the rich to bail your ass out.

At 9:46 AM, Bill Coughlan said...

The inheritance tax has nothing to do with providing specific benefits to the poor. Though hell, yeah, I'd applaud a government that did so. But the Republicans are adamant that providing anything to the poor is completely antithetical to their core beliefs. They've systematically destroyed or dismantled anything that could remotely be considered a benefit to the poor -- and they're damn well trying to do so with social security.

(Kind of funny how the party that claims they're all about Christianity goes out of its way to oppose the whole "take what you have and give it to the poor" bit. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Hmmm...)

The inheritance tax is (in addition to being a revenue source, granted) a measure of countering one of the most grotesque side effects of capitalism: The creation of self-sustaining aristocratic dynasties. Which is a goddamned injustice. Is it -- legally speaking -- a crime? Hell, yes -- up and until a bill gets signed into law that changes that. And I will fight that with every fiber of my being.

And yes, I understand how the stock market works; I've got several investments myself. My ass certainly doesn't need any "bailing out." As an individual, I am obviously going to do what most benefits me -- and my family. But the notion that the stock market can magically make poor people into millionaires is a crock of shit. It's the lie of the "American dream" that they've been stuffing down our throats since we were kids, brianwashing us with the one success story out of a thousand miserable failures. Everybody believes he's better than the average guy, that he's going to be the one who succeeds when, statistically, there's not a chance in bloody hell.

Sure, the market can make people wealthier. Anything is possible. But I'd sure as hell bet on the already wealthy gaining one hell of a lot more wealth than the poor.

As for the change in usury laws, I've read a number of historical (and theological) arguments that contest (or at leat call into question) the notion that falling interest rates made a difference in the notion of "usury." According to those arguments, usury was defined as any lending of money for interest. Today, yes, the legal definition of usury implies outrageously high interest rates (like the credit cards marketed to the poor, for example), but it's not a cut-and-dried case that there was ever a fundamental difference in the definition.

In the end, I still don't have a shred of sympathy for the lazy-ass descendants of someone who -- through good or ill -- earned money. I said it before, and I'll say it again: Fuck them.

At 10:55 AM, Tom Bridge said...

What we had in the British system of Aristocracy is a class of wealthy landowners who literally controlled the actions of their peons because they owned the land they lived on, were their primary employers, etc. That's not what's happening here, and I don't think you can couch it in such terms and be successful.

We're not the British Aristocracy.

Let's also look at your claim that success aside from being born with wealth is rare beyond belief. My grandfather was born in the 1890s in Southwestern Ohio to a poor family. He worked night shifts in the factory when he was in junior high, and started an irrigation business in the 1910s. It was mostly a failed venture, and nearly bankrupted my grandfather. In 1928, he formed Brown-Bridge Mills with his friend Herb Brown and they went into business making adhesive paper. It was a young industry, and they turned their ingenuity and experience into the company that invented the peel-off stamp. So don't tell me that hard work can't pay off. Don't tell me it's wrong for them to care for their families and try to prevent them from having to work the overnight shifts ever again.

But the Feds want to take away half their worth when they die.

That's bullshit.

At 11:24 AM, Bill Coughlan said...

We don't have a British-style aristocracy? Now who's being naive? Your first sentence describes exactly what's going on in this country.

No we aren't the British Aristocracy. We're the American aristocracy. The only difference is a title and a national origin.

And I didn't claim that wealth without wealth isn't possible. In fact, I said exactly the opposite -- anything is possible. And anyone can trot out an anecdotal case (though, for some reason, the G.O.P. hasn't been able to find one for their "family farm" argument). What I said was that it's statistically negligible.

The very fact that you're here indicates that you've got a success story to tell. But look at the numbers. The actual statistics. Hell, the very notion that we're able to have this conversation, in this forum, makes us statistical outliers.

I also never said that it's wrong for your grandfather -- who succeeded, good for him -- to care about his family. Again, I said exactly the opposite -- it's basic biology for a parent to want to care for offspring. What is wrong is for our society to allow absolute, unlimited provision.

You get wealthy? Okay, fine -- at least in terms of this particular argument. But you can't take it with you. And beyond a certain, reasonable level, your descendants have no more claim on your fortune than anyone else. They didn't earn a penny of it.

We'll allow you to give them something. We'll even allow you to convey a reasonbale edge to them. But we will not allow them to coast through life through absolutely no effort of their own.

Sorry, but they're going to have to work just like the rest of us. They're not exempted because of some social-Darwinist argument that they're inherently better than everyone else.

I'm not railing against the successful. But I don't give a rat's ass about people who want to coast on their coattails. If they're truly better than everyone else, then they'll succeed, too, right? If not, then they sure as hell didn't deserve special status.

At 11:37 AM, Tom Bridge said...

The problem here is that you're separating out a certain class of people for extra punishment. Is it not bad enough that these people more taxes in a year than you or I pay in a lifetime? Our society exists only because they pay their taxes.

This is why I'm a flat tax advocate: 15%, with a floor of $30,000 a person. Make $29,999? No tax for you. Make 30,001? Pay the feds $4500. Make $150,000? Pay the feds $22,500. It puts the same burden on every person in the marketplace, and keeps people honest because there's no 44,000 page tax code to hide the loopholes. Keep things like the earned income tax credit for specific things: mortgage interest, educational expenditures, child care, health costs. But let's not pretend we're not hitting the rich for more than their "fair share"

Especially after death.

At 12:44 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

I've never liked the "fair share" characterization. One person's definition of "fair" isn't the same as another's. Frankly, it was more of a sales technique than an accurate description. An effective one in the hands of a Bill Clinton, but it still always made me cringe.

Be that as it may...

The "flat tax" is nothing but an ungodly windfall for the wealthy. Pretty much everyone's taxes would go way up. Strange how you don't hear proponents talk all that much about that.

Our tax structure is not solely about revenue for the government. It is also geared to level the playing field between haves and have-nots, at least to some small degree. Is that "fair"? Depends on your definition.

And I'm not singling out a class of people for "punishment." I'm refusing to allow a class of people to reap an obscenely out-of-proportion benefit at the (literal) expense of all of the other classes of people. Which is what an unchecked capitalist system does.

It's a necessary evil, true. But that doesn't mean we should let it develop unfettered. Killing some bugs to protect crops may provide a benefit, but killing all bugs would wipe out life as we know it. Just because a little of something is good, it doesn't necessarily follow that a lot of it is also good.

The argument that these people pay more in taxes in a year than we pay in a lifetime makes exactly my point for me. I'm supposed to feel sympathy for someone who makes so ludicrously much that he pays more than I do? Break out the world's smallest violin. My heart's breaking for the poor son of a bitch.

It is most assuredly not "bad enough."


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