Today's Note From a Madman and a Brand New Madwoman
Monday, December 27, 2004
by Marcella DeSimone
Conservatives have made a concerted effort to manipulate
language in such a way that it makes policy they dislike seem inherently bad and
policy they're behind in the best interests of the American public.
The first time you hear a clearly ridiculous phrase, it sounds just that - clearly ridiculous. Once the speaker takes it seriously enough to keep repeating it, people tend to think it sounds less and less ridiculous. Then they start to think it makes sense and eventually forget completely what the phrase actually means, especially if they're not engaged in a dialogue with anyone about it.
So, I thought I'd write a translation column so that we can
keep this disingenuous behavior on our minds. First up, "death tax,"
once referred to as the estate tax.
According to Cornell University Law School, New York, the
taxation of property held by a person at the time of their death is one of the
oldest and most common forms of taxation. Such a tax can take the form, among
others, of estate tax (a tax levied on the estate before any transfers).
"An estate tax is a charge upon the decedent's entire
estate, regardless of how it is disbursed. An alternative form of death tax is
an inheritance tax (a tax levied on individuals receiving property from the
estate)," according to Cornell. "Taxes imposed upon death provide
incentive to transfer assets before death.
"Gift tax laws are generally designed to prevent
complete tax avoidance by this route. The Federal Estate Tax is integrated with
the Federal Gift tax so that large estates cannot be shielded from taxation by
lifetime giving. Many states also impose an estate tax. Generally, the Gift Tax
applies to any transfer made without receiving value in return and without
regard to intent."
What's the point of a tax that seems on its surface to
penalize the wealthy? Because when people in this country become extremely
wealthy, they usually do it standing on the shoulders of publicly funded
entities, such as state schools, the Internet, government grants and so on. The
estate tax is meant to allow the rest of society to benefit from the wealth it
helped create, and also to keep the wealth of the nation (and consequently the
political power) from being concentrated in the hands of a select few.
Politicians who want a permenant repeal of the estate tax are
basically suggesting that once a person benefits disproportionately from the
system, they should be able to keep the money entirely to themselves, rather
than sharing the wealth with the rest of the taxpaying society, without whom
they would not have become rich.
This "death tax" is being phased out through the
pleasantly named Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. The
law requires that the federal estate tax be phased out in 2010 for one year.
Then, the estate tax will return as it existed before the 2001 bill was enacted
because of a sunset provision in that legislation.
How did conservatives get such a bill passed? By paying for a
study that basically says that when rich people can't horde the wealth this
society helped them create, they're forced to do bad things to keep the money.
According to the 1998 House Joint Committee Study "The Economics of the
Estate Tax," the estate tax obstructs environmental conservation. The need
to pay large estate tax bills often forces families to develop environmentally
The study also says that the existence of the estate tax this
century has reduced the stock of capital in the economy by approximately $497
billion, or 3.2 percent, and:
The distortionary incentives in the estate tax result in the
inefficient allocation of resources, discouraging saving and investment and
lowering the after-tax return on investments.
The estate tax is extremely punitive, with marginal tax rates
ranging from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent in some instances.
A Conspiracy Theory? Yeah, Why Not?
By Noah Greenberg
Ten years ago, as a small business owner in New York City, I
decided to get health insurance for all of my employees (there were 5 employees
and 3 partners) My partners and I went with HIP (Health Insurance Plan of New
York, with locations in New Jersey) for the employees and the Oxford Freedem
Plan for us (the 3 partners). During our best year, we invoiced almost $2
million. As the years went by, we were hit with increases of 10%, 20% and
finally a 33% Oxford increase. With our industry doing more and more business
abroad, we either had to cut back or perish. We laid 2 workers off. We put
everyone on the same insurance plan. We laid another worker off. Finally I,
myself, left the business. Being the only married partner, and with another
direction to go (I'm a Network Engineer), the business had a problem paying for
my health insurance, a whopping $1094 per month.
I drive approximately 32,000 miles each year, mostly in
regard to my job. My auto insurance in New Jersey for 2 cars is approximatey
$2,000 per year. My wife, who drives less than 10 miles to work 5 days a week,
and I have no traffic violations or accidents in at least 7 years. Even with
promises of lower insurance rates, somehow my rates seem to go up every year.
This June, my daughter will turn 17 years old. I wonder what my rate will be?
Almost every week I receive a letter from a doctor stating
that they have an overdue bill in regards to either me, my wife, or one of my
two children. I spend, on average one hour each of these bills 2 or 3 times a
week and sometimes feel it might be easier to just pay the bill, which I'm sure
would be beneficial to everyone, except myself. At the end of the day, the
doctor's office blames the insurance company; the insurance company blames the
doctor's office; they both, more than likely, blame me; and I end up having to
do this insurance dance about multiple times a week.
Who's making the most money?
Who never goes out of business?
Who can afford to sponsor golf tournaments and tennis
THE INSURANCE COMPANIES, that's who.
They raise medical malpractice premiums of good doctors when
the stock market goes down and don't decrease them when the market goes up.
I want a rebate.
Stupid Quote of the Day
"This is an historic moment for democracy in Ukraine,"
- Secretary of State Colin Powell, at a State Department news conference referring to the election of Viktor Yushchenko as the new Prime Minister of the Ukraine after an unfair election was overturned. The election was overturned due, mostly, to the outcome of exit polls that showed Yushchenko the winner, but gave the vote to Viktor Yanukovych, Russian President Vladimir Putin's choice.
When do we get such an historic moment in the U.S.?
When is this guy going to stop dropping the ball? OH NO! Condoleezza Rice is picking it up!
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