As Republicans roll out their new tax bill, once again they indulge their attack on the “death tax,” or as the rest of us call it the “Thing other than Death you cannot avoid Tax.”
I guess we can’t blame two of our Congresscritters for hating inheritance taxes. Who wouldn’t want their kids born with a golden bucket rather than a silver spoon? They are fond of using family farms as an excuse to hack at this piece of ultimate justice, so I’d like to take a moment to talk about two family farms and how these taxes affected them.
Both my wife and my own skandahoovian grandparents came over in 1905 and 1908 respectively, established homesteads on 1/4 cubic mile of earth and sky and proceeded to raise wheat and children, both in great quantity. A couple of my grandad’s brothers came as well and farmed next door. When Social Security came along they were delighted, and I recall them being very proud and making a big deal when they mailed off the annual check. When they died the wealthiest paid 76 percent income tax, and anything over $1.2 million when you died was heavily taxed. Nonetheless the farm passed down unencumbered and the scant savings and “estate” was split up amongst heirs with no problems. By the time my wife’s dad died — who was a decorated WWII veteran — Reaganomics had kicked in, and she was forced to sell his home in town to pay Medicaid “claw backs.” The same sorts of fees and expenses ate up my grandfather’s brothers’ “estates” and none of my cousins are farmers anymore.
By the time this new monstrosity kicks in fully, it will promise that my wife is the last farmer in her line and the last of mine folded up in the past 20. It wasn’t a death tax that killed these farms; it was Citizens United, which has allowed billionaires to buy government and allow corporations and the morbidly wealthy unhindered access to loot the public coffers. When these gigantic tax gifts to the top 1 percent result in growth of our debt, they will use it as an excuse to attack veterans’ benefits, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We are already grossly reducing spending on education, health care, infrastructure and other vital social programs in order to pay for endless wars, feeding a Military Industrial Complex that enriches the few at the expense of the many; how long do we think we can do this?
Both parties are guilty of supporting this Morbidly Obese Defense Industry, so I’m not taking sides on this. I would like to remind everybody that the times our country did best, wages boomed, and nearly everybody was prospering, was when we turned the tools of war into the tools of industry. The top income tax rate was 91 percent for individuals and 58 percent for businesses. Oh, one suggestion for Social Security: Make the exemption from taxes a window and not a ceiling — Normal taxes on income under $200,000, none from there to $5 million, 10 percent on income over that. Social Security could raise benefits 100 percent and still be funded for, well, forever.
I realize this is too long for a letter to the editor, but I hope my status as a member of several of the affected groups will earn me a few extra words. Politicians are fond of using veterans as footballs, as well as farmers, right up there with poor seniors. As a member of all three I resent this every time I hear it, especially from men who found other more important uses for their time and avoided service through duplicitous means. Having “Thank you for your service” recited like a bless you after a sneeze when you talk about veterans’ issues doesn’t help. The greeting that touched me most was from a 17 year-old congressional page who said, “I am humbled by the courage and patriotism you showed by giving me years of your life when I didn’t even know who you were.” I had a hard time finishing my call.
I’m asking as one veteran but I think for many of my fellow VoteVets members, please call you senators and congressman and tell them to leave the inheritance tax alone — $12 million untaxed is enough of a silver spoon! This is the wrong time to cut taxes, it’s time to raise them, and to raise investment in infrastructure and education, not cut them. We’re not asking for years of your time, just five minutes.
Bob Petersen is a resident of Evergreen.