Tell it, Kevin!

Kevin Drum:
Clearly, the Republican Party is the party of common sense. After all, if you give a few hundred dollars a month to the poorest of the working poor, it’s only fair that you also give several million dollars to the richest of the idle rich.

Ol’ Calpundit is back in mid-season form, eviscerating the GOP with a flick of his keyboard. Like all the true greats, he makes it look easy.

Clearly, the Republican Party is the party of common sense. After all, if you give a few hundred dollars a month to the poorest of the working poor, it’s only fair that you also give several million dollars to the richest of the idle rich.

Note, class, how much less effective that last sentence would be without the contrast of “working” and “idle.” Those words not only strengthen the cadence but also remind the reader that the estate tax is, by definition, a tax on people who are receiving money that they have done nothing to earn.

Ninety-nine times in a hundred, an extra adjective weakens a sentence, but the Master found the hundredth time.

Go, and do thou likewise.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

15 thoughts on “Tell it, Kevin!”

  1. This confusion between taking less from people, and actually giving them something, seems endemic on the left. Like everything less than 100% taxation was some sort of gift…

  2. This is a gift, to the rich. The estate tax is said to cost the government about $300 million, which will 'demand' a spending cut elsewhere (those silly liberals are spending AGAIN). I'm fairly certain that those cuts will prevent working people and the elderly from paying their heating or AC bills while farm subsidies will remain stable.
    This was a great plan by the Republicans in Congress, no matter what the Democrats do they are going to be on the wrong side of this issue. I'd suppose the best thing to do is vote for the bill at the moment so as not the give the Republicans leverage in the elections. Then when the Dems take back the house, raise that tax right back up.

  3. Taxes pay for services. The issue of "taking" less is no more pertinent here than it is with the fees on a Mutual Fund. The rich benefit overwhelmingly from institutuions that enable them to accumulate, enjoy and pass on their wealth.

  4. Words have meanings. Taking less isn't "giving", no matter how much you might think more should be taken.

  5. Circular argument, Brett. The money isn't being "taken" from the heirs unless you assume that in the default way of things they'd get the entire estate.

  6. There's nothing circular about it at all, Matthew. The only way a reduction in the tax would be considered "giving" is if the government already had the estate in it's posession. You can't "give" what you don't already have. And the government does not start out with the whole estate, and then give some of it to the heirs as a generous gesture. It levies a tax against the heirs who are already at that point in possession, the property having passed directly from one owner to the other.
    What you're doing is understandable from a rhetorical perspective, but it's still an abuse of language.

  7. I don't know why we're wasting time debating trivia like whether government is an intrinsically abusive and oppressive confiscatory force, or on the whole an institution for good and the well-being of the commonwealth, when Mark's post presents an issue of real moment:
    Shouldn't the 'thou' in the last paragraph be 'ye', since he's addressing a group (class, from 3rd par; I know Mark's courses enroll more than one person each semester), since he's appropriating a familiar phrase and not quoting explicitly? And is this kind of mistake not the kind of thing that shakes societies to their roots?

  8. But the Rich are worth more! So they should have more and get more. Come on. Isn't that clear by now? It is not a question of whether or not they are idle. They have the right to be idle, they have…inherited it.

  9. Isn't it time we stopped this ridiculous and pointless game of verbal patty-cake as to whether a tax cut is "giving" something to someone? The question is simply how much different types of people should pay in taxes, as well as how much different types of people should receive as gifts. And the estate tax is — entirely — a tax not only on the super-rich (as opposed to the merely rich), but on the IDLE super-rich… that is, on the people in this
    country who deserve, more than anyone else, to be taxed. So who the hell cares whether we're giving them something they're not morally entitled to get, or letting them keep something they're not morally entitled to keep?
    Granted that parents have some moral right to provide gifts to their children, but there are moral limitations on this right when those gifts become so large that they start seriously hurting OTHER people's children in the process. (And I believe tHAT a few weeks ago Mark quoted that infamous socialist Andrew Carnegie, who favored a 100% inheritance tax: "I would sooner gift my son with a curse than with the corrupting effect of a large estate which he did not earn." (But then, Carnegie was an unusual capitalist; he also supported Aguinaldo's rebellion in the Philippines, and remarked on the "moral obligation of any man who becomes rich through his wits to live humbly.")

  10. "that is, on the people in this
    country who deserve, more than anyone else, to be taxed. "
    Ah, now the stupid rhetorical trick is cast aside, and we can get to the real issue.
    On what basis do the wealthy, more than anyone else in the country, deserve to be taxed? Now that you're admitting that it really IS a tax, and not just a decision not to give a gift?
    What exactly is it that makes somebody someone who deserves to pay?
    I hope it isn't just the fact that they've got money, because that's just Willie Sutton's "That's where the money is!".

  11. On what basis do the wealthy, more than anyone else in the country, deserve to be taxed?
    The basis is that they receive far greater benefits from the current social order than just about anyone else and therefore it is worth much to them to preserve it. Of course, if they can get suckers like you to pay their share instead, I guess I can see why they would prefer that.

  12. Bill Gates and I exist in the same social order; Why is he a billionare, and I merely middle class, if it was the social order, and not Gates, which was responsible for all that wealth?
    Government is merely one strand of a whole web making up that social order. For instance, you can't create wealth if you're starving… Why are farmers not entitled to a "progressive" percentage of everyone's wealth? They're just as essential to the creation of wealth as police or armies, after all. And quite a bit more essential than many things the government does.
    And yet, all the other strands of that social order, the farmers, the bakers, everyone else providing materials or services essential to wealth creation, merely gets paid for the service they provide, irrespective of whether that service enables you to create a fortune or bupkis.
    The big Mac that fuels my design of an extrusion die, and fuels some coder's design of a vastly successful new application, costs us both the same, because it IS the same in both cases, we just did different things with it.
    In the same way, the cop on the beat deserves to be paid no more for stopping Gates from being mugged, than for stopping a homeless person from being mugged. Because the cop didn't create a million dollars, he stopped a mugging. And stopping Bill Gates from being mugged is precisely the same service as stopping me from being mugged.
    Sorry, you're just rationalizing. The wealthy don't owe a bit more than you. You just like taxing them to the hilt because YOU get a better deal, if the services you receive are paid for by taxes levied on somebody else.
    You can only buy people's votes if you get the money from fewer people than benefit from the money. That, and that alone, is why the wealthy get such a raw deal: Because robbing Bill Gates only loses you Gates' vote, while the loot lets you buy the votes of numerous poorer people.

  13. And what was the adjective that inflected the master's reasoning so effectively with regard to the invasion of Iraq?

  14. Man, tell me about it, Bill Gates is getting SCREWED. It must really suck to be him.

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