Take heart, oh desperate masses of this great state. The budget shortfall will not go unresolved! There is a heroic effort being mounted by One Wisconsin Now ? a progressive political advocacy group ? to reinstate the estate tax, also known as the ?death tax.?
The death tax is leveled on the estates of deceased individuals and taxes actual money, as well as assets such as small businesses, farms and private land holdings. The people who support this legislation are undoubtedly at the forefront of the struggle for the public good ? champions of the poor, the elderly, children and cash-strapped students struggling to get an education.
Unfortunately, because I obviously hate poor people, the elderly, children and cash-strapped students, I must, on principle, oppose the reinstitution of the inheritance tax in Wisconsin. Such is the extent of that vicious and unrelenting hatred that, instead of favoring the death tax, I enthusiastically support cutting down on spending programs simply so that this noble attempt to rescue the helpless poor can remain untouched by legislators scrambling to make up the state?s $300 million deficit.
Despite the best intentions of the utopians, however, the numbers just don?t add up. A report submitted by Daniel Miller of the Joint Economic Committee demonstrates that on the federal level, a death tax has the effect of reducing the stock of capital in the economy by approximately $497 billion. The death tax raises little money in the short-term as well, the report states, because any revenue gained from the death tax is lost by a corresponding drop in income tax revenues.
Finally, the Economic Committee?s report explains that massive amounts of environmentally sensitive land ? 2.6 million acres of forest in 2001 ? have been harvested by those being taxed in order to come up with the money.
Scott Ross, the executive director of One Wisconsin Now and something of an amateur economist himself, disagrees. Mr. Ross recently stated in a press release that the repeal of the inheritance tax for the state?s wealthiest individuals was an ?absurd? tax break for ?the state?s next Paris Hilton.? Mr. Ross continued his assault against inherited wealth by declaring that his group wanted to ?make sure that people are aware that this pot of money is just sitting out there.?
If by ?sitting out there,? he means ?being invested in the economy of Wisconsin,? then he would be right.
It so happens that his bogeyman, Paris Hilton, won?t inherit the vast bulk of the money from the Hilton fortune. Almost all of hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton?s estate went to the charitable foundation in his name, which is worth $2.5 billion and has distributed $450 million since receiving the bulk of Conrad?s estate after his death. If Paris Hilton is the necessary but unpalatable echo of men like Mr. Hilton, then pass me another plate of drunken degeneracy.
The problem is that if the death tax is reinstated, this money would not go from the pockets of donors to charitable organizations, and then to the people who need it most ? the poor and hungry ? but rather, it would go toward government programs of dubious benefit.
And, of course, as with every other argument against unnecessary taxes, the only reason to oppose penalizing wealthy individuals for kicking the bucket would be a direct representation of all that is greedy and unwholesome in this country. There couldn?t be any other reason for opposing the death tax.
It wouldn?t be because the prophets of progressivism merely want this money and Wisconsin?s wealthiest people have actually earned it. It wouldn?t be because there is an alternate vision of America, an America where it is the most sacred right of individuals to dispose of every last dime of their money as they see fit.
None of those justifications for opposing the tax could possibly be correct. The true culprit must be the miserly indifference of the rich toward the agony of the poor. So the state Legislature must do what is wrong, but easy. That venerable body must ignore the advice of the Daniel Millers of the world, who have proven that the death tax not only fails to accomplish its stated goal of reducing the deficit, but at the same time makes future deficits more likely, thereby bringing about the economic equivalent of a gas chamber.
As envisioned by Ayn Rand, a magnificently progressive vision of Wisconsin is within our grasp because One Wisconsin Now and its affiliates will frame this debate in ways that make it seem like the opposition to the death tax is morally comparable to simultaneously butchering everyone under the age of 10, over 70, or anyone with an annual income lower than $35,000. It is a Wisconsin that defies every principle of economics to impose its twisted idea of ?the higher good.? It is a Wisconsin that takes from each according to his or her ability, and gives to each according to need.
Lenin would be proud.
Sam Clegg ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and economics.