Tuesday, May 23, 2006

And now for a word about the estate tax (Part 2)

Part 1: Gratitude
Part 2: Hard Work

Conservatives are fond of telling us that handouts erode our desire to work hard, and they are right: Look at Paris Hilton. Trust fund babies, like her, are an affront to the dignity of work, and proof that inherited wealth, like welfare, has an awful tendency to corrupt morals. [Refer to Europe, a History of] In short, the argument for an estate tax is an argument against an American aristocracy.

It's also a hedge against socialism. As Peter Beinart has recently pointed out, "Twenty-first-century America is not the model of social mobility we would like to believe. More than in past decades--and more than in parts of Europe--today's Americans stay rich or stay poor, prisoners of their birth rather than agents of their own destiny." When opportunities for advancement are reduced, the masses give up, and turn to government succor. The early progressives understood this, and used the estate tax to democratize opportunity, in effect, protecting the capitalist system itself.

In this country, we reward hard work and merit. We give no special status to those with inherited wealth. And we provide everyone with the chance to compete fairly in the capitalist enterprise. Repealing the estate tax, threatens to undermine those very noble national principles.

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