Why and How All Large Estates Should Be Taxed to Death

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

All non-taxation of estates at death is feudal; it’s systematic continuation of feudalism, into our own era.

Here’s a good example to show this: U.S. National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) reporter Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, headlined on August 25th, “For Brazil’s 1 Percenters, The Land Stays In The Family Forever,” and she reported that, in that country, the aristocracy own half of the land, and that whenever a building on their land is sold, 2.5% of the sale price must go to the land’s owner, the heir-aristocrat, in a perpetual tithing-system to the hereditary Portuguese aristocracy (including the Roman Catholic Church), who have descended from the Portuguese colonizers to whom Portugal’s king had granted the land 515 years ago, in payment for their having conquered the native Indians and stolen their land for the king. The king didn’t give them all of what these conquistadors had stolen for him, but only what he felt they deserved for their services, of theft from the people who had previously owned the land, or lived on it. (Among the receiving aristocracy was the Roman Catholic Church, for its services assisting these thefts, by approving them — declaring them to reflect God’s will.)

Back in that time and territory, there was little in the way of paper deeds, etc.; there wasn’t even much in the way of writing-implements and paper, with which to record ownership; so, these “thefts” (which NPR’s reporter carefully declines to call by that clear term, saying instead — paraphrasing what she was told by one of the aristocrats — “back then, it made sense: It was a way of supporting the whole colonial enterprise,” which was an enterprise of stealing the natives’ land, which fact, again, she doesn’t explicitly assert to be the case, because she doesn’t want her audience to understand what she is actually talking about — what “the whole colonial enterprise” actually consisted of, which is something that all aristocracies, including America’s aristocracy and the big donors to NPR want to hide — and so a Brazilian aristocrat instead explains the rationale for it, as best he can, in this “journalism”) — these thefts  were therefore unrecorded, just as was everything; and this is the reason why “supporting the whole colonial enterprise” can even be presented as having been good, instead of criminal, which it actually was. The victims were conveniently ignored by historians, with few exceptions, such as David E. Stannard’s magisterial 1992 American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, which book reconstructs some of this disgusting history, throughout the Western Hemisphere, and not only in Brazil. As Stannard said in his Prologue, “We must do what we can to recapture and to try to understand, in human terms, what it was that was crushed, what it was that was butchered. It is not enough merely to acknowledge that much was lost. So close to total was the human incineration and carnage in the post-Columbian Americas, however, that of the tens of millions who were killed, few individual lives left sufficient traces for subsequent biographical representation.”

In Europe, the recording of deeds went back as far as ancient Rome, but in “the New World,” invading Europeans created everything anew, with no regard for rights of people who had long been living there before them: natives were instead treated more like slaves, when they were not ignored altogether, or simply slaughtered to clear land.

So: Portugal’s king established Brazil’s entire feudal system, which still drains the country. Burdened by such ongoing siphoning-off of the nation’s productivity, Brazil competes at a disadvantage in international markets, but this is a disadvantage that’s shared by many other nations, too. It’s shared in every nation that allows children to inherit their parents’ estate tax-free or else at a lower taxation-rate than applies to earned income, so that heirs are tax-advantaged there, over people who earn their living instead of having had it given to them. Earned income should always be taxed at a lower rate than unearned income. But, in a feudal system, unearned income is taxed less than earned income is.

The basic principle of feudalism is hereditary rights and obligations. Aristocrats, unless they are first-generation, have inherited rights from their parents, and serfs and slaves have inherited obligations to aristocrats. That’s what feudalism is. Adolf Hitler passionately supported the principle of hereditary rights and obligations, to such an extent that he even believed every descendent from Jews has inherited an obligation to be exterminated by “Aryans,” “God’s people.” He also believed that Russians and other Slavs have an obligation to relinquish their land to Aryans, and to become Aryans’ slaves. Fascism is to the industrial age what feudalism was to the agricultural age, and Hitler was a fascist — a neo-feudalist. As Hitler-biographer David A. Meier wrote: “His favorite game to play outside was cowboys and Indians. Tales of the American West were very popular among boys in Austria and Germany. Books by James Fenimore Cooper and especially German writer Karl May were eagerly read and re-enacted. May, who had never been to America, invented a hero named Old Shatterhand, a white man who always won his battles with Native Americans, defeating his enemies through sheer will power and bravery. Young Hitler read and reread every one of May’s books about Old Shatterhand, totaling more than 70 novels. He continued to read them even as Führer. During the German attack on the Soviet Union he sometimes referred to the Russians as Redskins and ordered his officers to carry May’s books about fighting Indians.”

Hitler’s ideology of feudalism/fascism was based on heredity. (He knew nothing about genetics; he attributed “race” to “good blood” and “bad blood”; the gene-concept never even made its way into his comments. For example, he thought that Jews had “poisoned blood,” or else some microbial contamination in their blood.) One end of feudalism/fascism is racism; the other end of it is aristocracy, hereditary superiority. Feudalism/fascism is the ideology of exploitation. Aristocrats are the people whom the fascist legal system treats as having the right to exploit all “Untermenschen.” (As Shakespeare wrote: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. … Rome, thou has lost the breed of noble bloods!” The author of the Shakespeare plays was himself a feudalist.)

Whereas democracy is based upon compassion and equality of rights, aristocracy is based upon contempt and inequality of rights: it’s based on humiliation — it is the zero-sum society. But it’s even worse than that, because the people who occupy the positive territory in it, the aristocracy, are far fewer in number than the people who occupy the negative territory in it. Feudalism/fascism is run by the ‘elite’ for the ‘elite,’ not for the public. The public, in it, are instead merely tools that are used by the ‘elite’ — victims to be used, exploited; and, in order for aristocrats to do that, the public need to be humiliated — they must accept  their ‘inferiority’ to aristocrats.

In most countries that are trying to get beyond feudalism/fascism, estate taxes are imposed upon large estates in order to prevent this sort of thing — feudalism/fascism. However, 18 billionaire families in the United States financed a decades-long propaganda campaign to end all estate taxes, and as a result, estate taxes are the only form of taxes that virtually all segments of the U.S. population want to eliminate entirely.

The U.S. situation is instructive: In April 2006, Public Citizen, Congress Watch, and United for a Fair Economy, placed onto the web a new, massive and scorching study, exposing who was conning America into abolishing the estate tax, and how they were doing it: “Spending Millions to Save Billions: The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax.” This study documented that just 18 billionaire families were the initiators and the main financial backers behind the decades-long propaganda campaign to eliminate the estate tax. The study’s chapter headings were indicative: “The Super-Wealthy Families Behind the Campaign to Repeal the Estate Tax,” “How the Super-Wealthy Families Have Fought for Repeal,” “The Anti-Estate Tax Campaign Has Relied on Stealth, Deception and Dishonesty,” “The Super-Wealthy Families Have Pumped Millions into Campaigns and Political Committees,” “Profiles of the Super-Wealthy Families,” and “Myths About the Estate Tax.” A table was included, “Estimated Estate Tax Obligations of Families Identified in this Report.” It showed, for example, that the Cox family (the owners of 100% of many newspapers) stood to save $9.7 billion, out of their estimated $24.8 billion assets. The Koch family (owners of 100% of Koch Industries) stood to save $9.4 billion, out of their $24 billion. The DeVos and Van Andel Families, co-founders of Amway Corporation, were also listed, and, “In 2005, Forbes pegged co-founder Richard M. DeVos’ net worth at $3.4 billion,” and, “Their family heirs would save an estimated $1.3 billion if the estate tax were repealed.” The Mars family (owners of 100% of Mars candy company) stood to save $11.7 billion, out of their $30 billion. And the Walton family (owners of 40% of Wal-Mart) stood to save $32.7 billion, out of their $83.7 billion. A different table was headed “Top 20 [political] Recipients from the Super-Wealthy Families,” and though it didn’t calculate the percentages going respectively to Republicans and to Democrats, 81.5% of the total went to Republicans, and 18.5% went to Democrats. The Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle,  was defeated by these families, and replaced by their man, Republican Senator John Thune. The conservative Democratic Senator from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln (the “Senator from Wal-Mart”) “ranks No. 3 among all members of Congress in contributions from members of the super-wealthy families and their companies, … trailing only Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).” 72% of Sen. Lincoln’s cash from these families came from the Waltons. Under the heading “Aiding President Bush’s Election and Re-Election,” the report said “The families used their financial resources and their connections to assist President Bush in winning election in 2000 and re-election in 2004.” In 2001, Karl Rove organized the Tax Relief Coalition of a thousand business organizations, and the man he put at the head of it cited “repeal of the estate tax as the coalition’s top priority.”

Here are the 18 billionaire families (and their companies): Allyn-Soderberg (Welch Allyn Inc.), Blethen (Seattle Times), Cox (Cox Enterprises), DeVos & Van Andel (Amway/Alticor), Dorrance (Campbell Soup), Gallo (Winery), Harbert (Harbert Management [investments]), Johnson (Black Entertainment Television), Koch (Koch Industries [oil]), Mars [candies], Mayer (Captiva [oil]), Nordstrom [dept. stores], Sobrato [real estate], Stephens [investments], Timken [bearings], Walton (Wal-Mart), Wegman [food stores]. These 18 families have been dedicated to destroying American democracy and replacing it by an aristocracy in which only unearned income is received tax-free, and all of the burden of financing the government is laid upon the backs of workers.

On 19 January 2006, faireconomy.org headlined “2006 Estate Tax To Affect Fraction of One Percent of All Estates, a New Low,” and reported: “New information released today by United for a Fair Economy (UFE) indicates that the rise in the estate tax exemption level from $1.5 million per person to $2 million ($4 million per couple) means that less than one third of one percent of all estates — or 0.27% — will be affected by the federal estate tax in 2006. All other estates, or 99.73%, will be able to pass on 100% of their assets to heirs tax-free.” Moreover, “The share of estates taxed will fall to 0.16% in 2009, when the exemption rises to $3.5 million.”

What had been 2%, and then shrank to 1.27%, quickly became only .27% of American estates being subject to the estate tax, during George W. Bush’s Presidency.

But polls still showed that Americans wanted estate taxes eliminated entirely; they wanted all earned income to be taxed, and all unearned income to be tax-free.

Consequently, as barbaric as Brazil might seem to be, the wealthier countries are basically no different: they all pretend to be not feudal, not fascist, but their basic mentality still remains feudalist/fascist.


How, then, can we end feudalism, end fascism? Here is my general proposal:

All unearned income must be taxed at the very highest percentage; all earned income must be taxed at a lower percentage than any unearned income. However, this must be integrated into an income-taxation system that has progressive taxation-rates, especially because the higher one’s income is, the easier it becomes for that person to add any specified additional amount to the wealth he already owns — money begets money. That’s not equality of opportunity; it’s the exact opposite.

The recipient of a gift or inheritance (i.e., unearned income) from some other entity (typically from a parent) should thus pay tax on it not at his/her earned-income taxation-rate, but instead at a taxation-rate which is 10% higher, with the maximum rate being 90%. During America’s most productive, and world-leading, period, 1951-1964, the top marginal taxation-rate on income was 91%; so, a 90% top rate is reasonable in every respect, for any type of income. However, unlike in the U.S., where capital gains were taxed at only 25% during that period (and which difference, 91% to 25%, greatly advantaged one way of earning income — which mainly is rich people’s way of earning income — over other ways of earning income, and thus was very regressive), capital gains should be granted no advantage over other earned income. All legitimate earned income should be taxed at the same rate. Furthermore, in order to facilitate the transfer of businesses, at an owner’s death, to present employees of those businesses, so that no undue incentive will be provided to replace these people who are already trained for their jobs, the government should, when a business-owner dies, offer to lend recipients of a business whatever is needed in order to pay estate taxes on it, and the interest-rates on those loans should be the ordinary rates applicable for such collateralized loans. This offer will avoid providing favoritism to the former owner’s children or favorites, while, at the same time, removing any need to fire or lay off existing employees in the firm (including the owner’s heirs). It would be like an Employee Stock Ownership (ESOP) plan.

If any person uses what are categorized as being “tax-avoidance techniques,” then the individual would be committing a felony if the person additionally applies “tax-avoidance techniques” to reduce taxation of gifts/inheritances. For example, moving assets abroad to avoid or reduce gift/inheritance tax, would then constitute a serious criminal act for such a person. A recipient or donor of unearned income would safely be able to move abroad, but not avoid taxes by means of moving assets abroad. Furthermore, any person who would commit such a crime would thereby automatically empower the country where he’s trying to avoid taxes, to take ownership of all of his/her assets and businesses, and sell them off to the public via online auctions.

This is not at all about increasing the amount of taxes; it’s about who pays what proportion of the costs to provide the services that the government provides. Many of the government services that provide the legal system and the roads and infrastructure that enable and increase the wealth of the wealthy are paid by the public. Replacing feudalism/fascism by democracy will reduce the public’s taxes, because the wealthy will be paying the share that they always ought to have been paying but did not. To the general public, this will be a tax-reduction.

If politicians (such as Bernie Sanders in America) are serious about wanting to establish equal economic opportunity and to end the existing rigged system, then they will have to endorse this proposal or one similar to it, and fight to achieve it, because the aristocracy will not allow feudalism/fascism to end without a fight — a fight which has not yet been waged. If there is no fight, which realistically would be a very intense one, then feudalism/fascism will simply continue on.

Feudalism/fascism must end. The basic principles to replace feudalism/fascism with democracy and an authentic equal-opportunity society must be established, and all aristocratic rights must end in order for that to be able to happen. Therefore: who will lead this war by the public, against the aristocracy — the war to end feudalism/fascism, and to establish democracy and equal opportunity? Who? And when?

The country that wins this fight will have a booming economy. Patriotism will become the norm, because equality of opportunity will seriously be the objective — and the policy. Furthermore, since the existing wealth-distribution is so heavily skewed, even nations that now are cursed by their sovereign debt, and so are bad investments and thus unlikely to improve under the existing system, will now become enabled to eliminate their debt (via this estate/gift tax system), without destroying themselves by being forced to sell their governments to aristocrats (privatizing, such as in today’s now-hopeless Greece, which has become totally in the grip of aristocrats). Such countries, freed from aristocracy, will thus increasingly be the most attractive ones for foreigners to move to, with free public education, highways, infrastructure, health care, and everything else that productive enterprises need. Firms won’t need to pay for those things, because the government does. Such countries will increasingly dominate the future, not only because of the public’s patriotism, but because investments will be maximally productive, minimally wasteful.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • kimyo

    it’s always binary with you. your setup: the rich vs. the poor.

    you ignore the elephant. there was a time when corporations ponied up 1/3 or so of federal tax revenue. let’s restore that first before firing up a class war, eh?

    2/3rds of US Corporations Pay Zero Federal Taxes: US Uncut Movement Builds to Make Them Pay Up

    Bank of America hasn’t paid a nickel in federal income taxes for the past two years, and in fact raked in an additional $1 billion in tax “benefits.” The bank is enjoying these profits after accepting $45 billion from taxpayers, which the company then got to count as a deduction when they paid back the money.

    This is why two-thirds of corporations in America pay no federal income taxes. If they were forced to, we’re told, the whole country would suffer. Jobs would be lost, salaries slashed. Thank heavens we’ve avoided such calamity by allowing corporations to shape legislation in their favor.

    In 2010, Bank of America handed out $2.2 million in campaign contributions to Congressional representatives and PACs (36 percent went to Democrats, 64 percent to Republicans). By throwing around that much cash, huge companies like BoA have a big say when it comes to crafting legislation that permits them to escape paying taxes, according to US Uncut organizer J.A. Myerson.

    tax the heck out of corporations and at the very least you’d choke off the flow of funds to hillary et al.

    • cettel

      Corporations aren’t real people; and only real people are really taxed.

      There can be no progressive taxation of a corporation. A low-income and low-wealth stockholder might be uncommon, but should be taxed at a far lower (if any) rate than a wealthy or high-income stockholder should be taxed. The entire tax-structure needs to be changed. Not even “non-profit” corporations should exist. All corporations are designed to shift liability, including tax-liability, away from aristocrats and onto the public. The tax-system is a system; and no one part of it should be changed; it needs instead to be replaced wholesale. In order for that to happen, the basic principles must first be laid out clearly — and they have not been.

      • kimyo

        here’s kimyo’s simple solution: you wanna be a multinational corporation and destroy the world? 50% flat tax. you wanna be an american corporation and pay 20%? then:
        1) executive / worker pay ratio must be 20 to 1 or below.
        2) all your earnings go into u.s.-based banks, no hiding income overseas

        let’s hear your plan. and let’s stop fomenting class wars, eh?

        • diogenes

          It’s not necessary for anyone to “foment a class war” in America. It’s been going on for over 120 years and the 99% of us are losing badly and worse every year. The 0.01% of oligarchs who own about 13% of America concentrated in controlling “shares” of core financial, industrial, mercantile and commercial institutions number 10,000 families (not 18) — among 300+ million of us. Time for us to wake up and take back our country from this minute group of hereditary parasitical predators. The numbers are all on our side, but first enough of us have to wake up.

          • jandr0

            [Time for us to wake up and take back our country from this minute group of hereditary parasitical predators.]

            No, you need to take it back via the politicians you elect – you know, those same politician types who originally gave it to them.

            Your alleged “minute group of (supposedly) hereditary predators” couldn’t have taken it if the politicians (who it seems you naively trust) did not create an enabling environment.

            I suggest you firstly hold the politicians accountable – for they are the ones claiming to represent you, while it now appears they have actually been stringing you along.

          • Eric Zuesse


        • cettel


          • kimyo

            your plan is a slow motion train wreck. i didn’t think you were serious. but, okay, let’s say your plan is implemented immediately. what’s the net effect on fedgov income over the next 5 years? 10?

            your plan provides plenty of time for those with large estates to move/hide ownership, to form llc’s overseas and transfer assets.

            your plan will likely result in less taxes collected.

            plus, it does nothing to deter corporations from selecting the candidates we get to choose between.

          • cettel

            You’re asking wrong questions, and certainly in wrong order.

            However: The “net effect on fedgov income” is acknowledged even by conservative economists (i.e, Republican ones) to be positive, not negative (such as you assume). And Piketty says lots more about it, in his book.

            But one thing that comes through clearly in your reader-comments is that you don’t understand what you read; and, when you disagree with what you read, you don’t click onto the documentation that an author has provided at the given assertion you disagree with. You might as well not be reading at all. Your mind is fixed in cement that has been set by the aristocracy, the 18 billionaire families, and their agents such as Frank Luntz and other practitioners of the deception arts of Edward Bernays, who prided himself on his ability to make suckers and keep them suckers.

            But when Warren Buffett said that the class-war is by his class against everyone else, your mind is closed, your ears are plugged, and you won’t understand.

            Well, here is the basic thing to understand: earned income should always be taxed at a lower rate than unearned income. It’s a simple principle. Unearned income is called “inheritances and gifts.” All such should be taxed higher than earned income is.

            Anyone who refuses to absorb that fact is either an arrogant and greedy aristocrat or a sucker of arrogant and greedy aristocrats. But worst of all are people who aren’t only suckers but closed-minded fools. They shouldn’t even read, because reading is only a waste of time for them.

          • jandr0

            [And Piketty says lots more about it, in his book.]

            His data is, let’s just put it this way, “carefully selected.”

            There is so much obvious massaging the data in his book that I wouldn’t believe anything he claims.

          • Eric Zuesse

            That’s an unfounded allegation, and you clearly are trying to say that the problem that Piketty was writing about doesn’t exist. But it is documented in thousands of other sources.

        • jandr0

          I vote no to kimyo’s “solution.”

          Rather abolish all taxes. Let citizens contribute voluntary towards government. And let citizens indicate where they want their contributions to be used (e.g. social services, or education, or infrastructure, or security services, etc.).

          That way, the politicians (and their legions of bureaucrats) will have to convince the citizens to contribute to their favoured programs – and, this is even more important – actually demonstrate the REAL value those programs are delivering to the citizens.

          • Eric Zuesse

            “Abolish all taxes”? Then how do you propose to fund the government?

            Then once you’ve answered that, how do you propose that the burden will be borne by the super-rich at a far higher applicable percentage-rate than for the middle class, and not be borne at all (i.e., at a 0% rate) by the indigent? How do you propose to fund the government — including education, health, roads, the military? And how do you propose that it be made progressive?

      • Brockland A.T.

        Economic units are taxed. Corporations are economic units.

        Deductions, credits, and shelters protect corporate income from the nominal tax rate such that they may pay no tax at all, topped off with incentives that add to the bottom line.

        Elon Munk’s Tesla Motors should have tanked years ago but is kept alive by taxpayer dollars. Now he’s a billionaire – through his corporation. An estate tax on him would be kind of pointless; his wealth is mostly removed from that pardigm.

        So… one can make the argument that corporations aren’t real people, but under the law they are, and effectively immortal zombies upon which the aristocracy thrives. Estate taxes will only bury the middle class and remove the weaker members of the 1% that might otherwise pose a threat to the 1% of the 1%.

        • cettel

          When a corporation is taxed, that tax ultimately is paid by real people. That’s what I said, and it is true. Nothing that you said is even relevant. My point about taxation at the corporate level is that doing taxation that way will inevitably remove a certain amount of progressivity from the tax-system, but you didn’t understand it, so you come up with your irrelevancies.

          And I am not saying that in every way a separate corporate tax is regressive; obviously that wouldn’t be true either.

          • Brockland A.T.

            What I said was completely relevant. Corporations were designed to shield real people from taxes and liabilities, and do it very well under whether under a flat tax or a progressive tax system. They are a legal-financial instrument stepping outside the paradigm of individual taxation. Hell, there are even people who consider corporatizing themselves for the tax savings.


            A corporation is partly like a very wealthy owner in a deep coma, his affairs run by trustees who may legally act in his name but never really have to answer to him, and who can pull the plug whenever his usefulness is ended. More importantly, they rarely answer personally for crimes made in the name of the invalid because their personal assets are not on the line.

            Removing or at least sharply redefining corporate personhood based on its successful abuses is a major solution to a number of social ills.


          • cettel

            When you say, “Corporations were designed to shield real people from taxes and liabilities,” I agree, but that’s an evil purpose, because it shifts one person’s taxes and liabilities off onto everybody else. That attitude is like people who throw their trash onto the highway, or dump their toxins into the river. It’s psychopathic. Anyone who prefers a system of laws and of taxes which allows such psychopathic behavior is evil.

    • JSebastian

      You’re both wrong. Corps should not be taxed ever, because all income has to be realized by a natural person at some point – and it will be taxed then. Corporate tax is a double tax.

  • History student

    Thank you E.Z.,
    Why is it that such a large percentage of the[99%] whose cause you champion, wilfully choose to
    follow the role models of wanton consumption-waste-extravagance and emulate,imitate,copy in lust after the 1%[feudafascii] every time the eagle flies on friday ?

    • jandr0

      Oh no, another “History student” who prefers to make a case using labeleling techniques (e.g. “feudafascii”), simplistic divisions like an alleged “1%” and “99%” who are (or rather, should in the commenter’s mind be) all part of the same uniform herd, and emotive words like “waste,” “extravagance” and “lust.”

      Let me see if I can find a well-constructed argument based on valid historical, sociological, or economic data and interpretation in the comment.

      Erm, sorry – couldn’t find it.

  • hidflect

    I’ve seen more than a few elites argue in favour of a laissez faire system more in tune with the “winner takes all” laws of the jungle aka zero social assistance programs. Which is refreshing because there is no inheritance in the jungle wither. Each animal fights for its share from scratch rather than coming of age with a phalanx of security guards, enablers and minions along with a $100Million trust account to tide over the rainy days. Such an inheritance in nature would pervert the system of Social Darwinism that the wealthy love so much and so, I am sure, they must therefore be supporters of a 100% inheritance tax.

    • jandr0

      [Which is refreshing because there is no inheritance in the jungle either.]

      Really? The cheetah mother doesn’t do all she can to give her offspring a healthy childhood and acquisition of skills to give them an advantage?

      And the offspring of the less adept cheetah mother doesn’t start with an inherited disadvantage?

      And the chimpanzee troop does not inherit its range from its forebears?

      [I’ve seen more than a few elites argue in favour of a laissez faire
      system more in tune with the “winner takes all” laws of the jungle aka
      zero social assistance programs.]

      You have? Then why have I not seen any of that? While I still do see the occasional argument in favour of laissez faire, it is most certainly NOT the same as “winner takes all.” And are you even suggesting there was no social assistance in the past under more laissez faire conditions?

      Maybe you are just confused? Or maybe you have not actually studied what laissez faire entails.

  • teri

    Although I am poor, I have an issue with taxing estates and inheritances and it is this: taxing inherited money is double taxation. Suppose my parents have worked all their lives, saved some money and paid off a house. They also have a car they paid cash for 5 years ago. They are leaving $100,000 and the house and car to their two children. They have paid taxes all their lives, as the $100,000 was saved up from their W-2 earnings, which obviously they paid taxes on as they earned it. This is just the money they were able to set aside after a lifetime of work. Likewise, the house was bought with a mortgage, which they eventually paid off. They have paid property taxes on the house every year, of course, even after the mortgage was paid off. The car was bought with cash and they paid sales tax on it when they bought it.

    So, now my sibling and I should pay taxes on this modest estate when we inherit it, although every single item in the “estate” was already taxed once? Are you suggesting we should have to have the little house assessed and pay taxes on it based on a new valuation as though we were purchasing it for the first time? The car, too? We will have to pay property taxes on the house if we keep it, naturally; why should we have to pay real estate taxes as though we were new purchasers? And the $50,000 each we are inheriting – that was all my parent’s savings after they paid taxes on the income from their jobs. Why should we have to pay taxes on it again? I don’t get this thinking. It seems to me the problem should be addressed at the source. In other words, the wealthy should be taxed at proper rates while they are alive. The loopholes and off-shoring and other methods of avoiding their taxes need to be closed and the tax rates returned to more reasonable and fair levels. FAIR TAXATION AND NO RIGGING THE SYSTEM WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE.

    If you are going to tax every inheritance at astronomical rates, you are going to hurt a bunch of little people who might have a tiny bit left to them after their parent’s hard work and make them pay taxes on every thin dime twice. There is a huge difference between how Jamie Dimon or the Waltons were able to avoid taxes all their lives, leaving their ill-gotten gains to their children and the example I just gave of two “little people” who scrimped and saved what they could after taxes to leave to their kids. But you’d tax them the same.

    I don’t get it.

    • cettel

      You’ve been had; you’ve been fooled; you’ve been suckered; it’s not “double taxation.”

      What’s taxed is transactions, not assets (except for one exception, property taxes, which are annual taxes on real estate, and which, in the business form of that can include business inventory taxes: those are taxes on business assets that are being held for sale, rather than on transactions).

      The liars who fooled you, have deceived you to think that what’s taxed in estate taxes is the estate, when, in fact, what’s taxed in estate taxes is the transfer of the estate to its assigned beneficiaries; the transaction is being taxed, not the asset itself. It’s like a sales tax, or a value-added tax, or any tax (except real-estate taxes): it’s a transaction-tax. Another form of transaction-tax is income taxes, on the transaction in which an employer transfers income to an employee, for services rendered. It’s not the service that’s being taxed; it is the transaction between the employer and the employee. The employee sells; the employer buys. If the employee is an independent contractor, and hires someone to do the actual work; then there are two transactions, and both the independent contractor and his employee get taxed. It’s the transactions that are taxed.

      You might as well say that an independent contractor should not be taxed, because his employee is being taxed; as say that an heir should not be taxed, because the deceased person had been taxed. You are thinking the way the deceivers want you to think. But it’s not the reality.

      • Brockland A.T.

        You are the one who has been deceived and repeating a deception.

        If say, a husband dies, his wealth is transferred directly to his spouse and exempted from ‘estate tax’. They are treated as a discrete economic unit, regardless of the spouses’ actual role in that family’s economic activity as an asset or beneficiary of its economic activity.

        Say in the distant future when it becomes Teri’s turn to take up more direct management of the family’s wealth, why is the economic unit arbitrarily crippled through no action of her own, but by the state? How is that fair to the labour the parents invested in large part not only to look after themselves, but their children?

        It may not be double taxation, but it is an arbitrary tax favouring non-productive rich people moreso than the middle class.

        • cettel

          In the United States, only the wealthiest 0.12% of estates is subject to federal estate tax; the rest none. But even if what you said were true, the thing that would be taxed, and that is taxed for a couple’s estate only for the excess above $10.86 million. So, the percentage applies to the excess above that. The percentage rises to 40% for the very largest estates.

          The reason that the amount taxed is not taxation of an estate but of the transfer of an estate to its heirs is that the triggering event is the transfer, and there is no taxation of the estate itself.

          It is no different, in that respect, than a sales tax. A sales tax is taxation of the value of a sale, and is triggered by the event of the transfer of ownership of the object from the merchant to the consumer.

          You, too, have been suckered.

          • teri

            “The reason that the amount taxed is not taxation of an estate but of the transfer of an estate to its heirs is that the triggering event is the transfer, and there is no taxation of the estate itself.”

            Wait a minute now, under current law, doesn’t “the estate” have to pay the inheritance taxes before the assets and money are distributed to the heirs? Maybe the transaction taking place activated the tax burden, but the estate pays it so in effect “the estate” is being taxed. [It’s also effectively a tax on the heirs, since their inheritance is lessened by the amount of the taxes taken out before they inherit, although this is a moot point.]

          • cettel

            Both estate taxes and gift taxes are taxes on the transfer of the asset, not taxes on the asset. Unlike an annual real-estate property tax, they are not triggered by a clock (annually) but by an event: the transfer of ownership of the asset.

            How many readers here support the idea that sales taxes, including taxes on the sale of real estate, all of which are taxes on transactions, are okay, but that estate and gift taxes, which also are taxes on transactions, are not okay — they’re “double-taxation”? How many suckers are there here? How many people here are suckers of the 18 billionaire families, and of the PR agencies etc. that they’ve hired to con suckers to think that an estate tax is a “death tax” — a tax on death?

            How many suckers here think that it’s really right that, right now in America, tax-rates on unearned income are vastly lower than are tax-rates on earned income? How many suckers are blind, deaf, dumb, and closed-minded not only to basic facts, but to basic justice?

            How many suckers are super-suckers?

          • Brockland A.T.

            Yeah, how many reading this are super sucker enough to think they deserve to be equated with super-rich neo-aristocrats who don’t pay taxes and play the taxes game on some imaginary level playing field.

            The neo-aristocrats have long left the building, BTW. With the Peoples’ money.

          • cettel

            This article is about taxing unearned income at a lower rate than earned income is taxed, but, evidently, readers here crave injustice and find all types of irrelevancies in order rationalize their favoring injustice.

          • jandr0

            [evidently, readers here crave injustice and find all types of irrelevancies in order to rationalize their favoring injustice.]

            No. Readers here crave justice. That is why they disagree with your misrepresentation of justice.

          • JSebastian

            I think all income should be taxed at the same rate…..zero. Perfect equality and fair treatment for all.

          • JSebastian

            An estate tax is a tax on death, its grave robbing, its stealing from the dead. Everyone has the right to give anything they possess to anyone they choose, and there is absolutely no justification for the State stealing from the parties during this process.

          • cettel

            You are focusing upon a distinction without a difference — just word-games. For example: it’s irrelevant whether a person’s paycheck has tax deducted before it’s paid to the recipient or after it’s received by him.

            Evidently, there are readers who are so indifferent to injustice, they don’t think about it at all. Of course, an aristocracy is delighted when the public doesn’t even care but just mindlessly does the nose-to-the-grindstone thing and maybe blames problems upon “foreigners,” or “Blacks,” or “Jews, or “gays,” or etc. — anything but the aristocracy, anything but “the rentier class.”

          • jandr0

            [For example: it’s irrelevant whether a person’s paycheck has tax deducted before it’s paid to the recipient or after it’s received by him.]

            Agreed, there is no difference. It is theft in both cases, so stop ALL taxes.

            [Evidently, there are readers who are so indifferent to injustice, they don’t think about it at all.]

            Nonsense. It is you who are indifferent to justice. Or maybe you didn’t “think about it at all.”

            [Of course, an aristocracy is delighted when the public doesn’t even care but just mindlessly does the nose-to-the-grindstone thing and maybe blames problems upon “foreigners,” or “Blacks,” or “Jews, or “gays,” or etc. — anything but the aristocracy, anything but “the rentier class.”]

            Not even ONE valid argument in that paragraph. Only false generalisations, deliberately insidious use of labeling, and regurgitation of carefully engineered memes.

          • Brockland A.T.

            Far less than yourself as I’m saying, no taxes on the Peoples’ wealth after death at either end of the ‘transaction’. You’re just playing word games and apparently hold an intellectualist dislike of the rich and the bourgeois middle class, turning ideology into idiotology on grounds you’re smarter and that’s that.

            When members of a family inherit, its not ‘income’ in the conventional sense. Nor is it unearned – a loved usually did earn it. Of course, not all families get along and in fact can be pretty cold. But the principle remains; that economic unit worked for itself. Not the aristocracy or the state that serves it.

            Money is not the root of all evil; its a neutral tool that reflects the disposition of its wielders. A system favouring enriching sociopaths and psychopaths can only arise if the morally healthy are economically disadvantaged. Notice how today’s economic system picks the winners of real social power from the losers of real social power?

            When a person dies, income tax for any of the individual’s economic gains that year are owed, sure. But then the value of the entire estate is valued; the government in some states wants to tax the whole thing as ‘income’ for that year as if the person willingly sold everything. Which is patently, absolutely, totally ridiculous and arbitrary.

            Then the government wants to pick the pockets of the non-spousal benefactors as if their portion was income. And, you want to kick them one more time and say they didn’t earn it as part of the family, which otherwise functioned as a modular economic unit, able to transfer amounts of wealth relatively freely amongst one-another (allowing for, again arbitrary, ‘gift tax’ limits).

            Anyone can research for themselves what goes on and how the richest are able to dodge the last bullet. Anyone who has gone through the pain of losing a loved one – then been dinged by the taxman – might well be inclined to say you’re an idiot if the emotions of bereavement didn’t hobble them.

            No matter how you phrase it, the middle class is ill-equipped to use all the tax evasion techniques of the super rich. The so-called ‘progressive’ tax system for the living is already a joke and the last laugh is on the deceased. The whole system was conceived in 1916 not for social welfare, but to pay for America’s expected entry into WWI.


            Apparently the Federal Reserve Bank Act was passed in 1913 wasn’t enough to keep ambitious government, solvent. The same anti-rich sentiment used to tax-scam the common people, shrouded a scam that actually protected the most politically connected and savvy rich people, that era’s 1% of the 1% sticking it to what was then a larger peripheral 1% and the middle classes. (I’m, using 1% moreso as a label here than actual quantity of persons.)

            Left-of-centres seem to have moral common sense but absolutely no complimentary material common sense which calls their entire moral compass into question. Did you memorize what’s right and wrong, or do you actually understand social justice as a dynamic system of intents, actions, and results?

            We need to rebuild the middle class and reconstitute its prosocial values, and you’re advocating pointless wealth redistribution policies that don’t work and have never worked. Except to deliver the wonderful neo-aristocratic society we have today.

      • teri

        I’m sorry, but I think that what you are proposing in your article is an even more regressive system of taxation on inherited assets/money than what currently exists. It will hit the lower classes hardest and within a generation or two completely wipe out any property or money that lower-class people might have to leave to their heirs. You will quickly end up with the working poor and middle classes losing everything to the state via your estate taxation idea. Furthermore, you have reduced all familial and human relationships down to business-like “transactions” to be taxed. Right now, even the federal and state governments don’t do this; the state (meaning Fed and State governments inclusively) recognizes a difference between an employee/employer relationship and that of family, friendly, or legator/legatee relationships.

        The example of the independent contractor in your comment is a bit irrelevant, since that is a different sort of relationship. Well, first off, the outside contractor cannot also be an employee. But let’s say Mr. Business Owner hires an independent (or “outside”) contractor to repave the parking lot. Mr. Business Owner pays Contractor, but does not withhold employee taxes, because he doesn’t have to; as a matter of fact, he gets to write off whatever he pays Contractor as a business expense. Contractor has to pay his own income taxes. Contractor hires and pays a sub-contractor to actually do the work. He does not hold out taxes on Sub-contractor, who likewise has to pay his own taxes on his income. Contractor, like Business Owner, also gets to write off what he pays Sub-contractor as a business expense.

        What you have suggested in your article, however, is different. In your scenario, the last guy getting paid, Sub-contractor, has paid his self-employment taxes on what he earned from the job. He has, let’s say, $1000 left over after taxes that is his own free and clear. Suppose his daughter needs a little help with some medical bills, so he gives the $1000 to her. This gift would be subject to your “unearned gift and estate transaction tax” which you suggest should be her tax rate plus ten percent. Even at minimum wage, she’s probably paying 15% in income tax to the state (again, meaning fed and state governments) – thus, she would have to pay 25% of the $1000 her dad gave her to the state. Why would you want to tax that? I mean, why? So we can bomb more people in the ME? It’s a familial relationship and her dad already paid taxes on the money. This is not a business transaction, like the Business Owner and the Contractor, this is a family/friend relationship. If he wants to help out his daughter, why consider this as a mere financial transaction and freaking tax it? Currently, even the state does not do this. Few States have gift taxes, or they match the Federal level, which is currently set so that any gifts under $14,000 given to each person per year is tax-free to both parties. Because even the state recognizes that this relatively small gift is the guy just using his own after-tax money to help his kid (or whomever) and that not every single exchange of money or goods has to be taxed. You would make it so that no-one ever has a chance to do what he would with his money without each event being taxed anew. Talk about capitalism writ large.

        Okay, let’s go back to the example I gave in my original comment. My sibling and I are each going to inherit $50,000 from our parents, which is all the cash they had saved up after a lifetime of working and paying taxes on it. Under your “current tax rate plus 10%” scheme, I would have to pay over $17,000 of that to the state (again, Fed and State together). Why? Because even though I earn under 25 thousand a year, I am currently taxed at 15% to the Fed and State. This does NOT include SS and Medicare. I pay 9% to the Feds and 6% to my State. So under your plan, the Feds get 19% of the 50 thou and the State gets 16%. Now my little nest egg of 50 thousand is whittled down to $32,500. Assuming I don’t do any better and add to this during my lifetime, my kids inherit the 32 k, but they will lose another huge chunk to the state. The economy and job market being what they are, it is unlikely my kids will do better than I did. You can see that, very quickly, the entire $50 k is gone to your gift and estate taxes because you are treating each inheritance as a brand new transaction subject to taxation. The house my parents left us in my example is gone altogether under your proposal. It has been assessed at a way higher value than my parents paid for it all those years ago (this is due to the ridiculous over-valuation of real estate in this country, where real estate escalates in value well beyond inflation in every other market), and Sibling and I have had to sell it to some rich land developer in order to pay the astronomical taxes you just subjected us to. So much for preserving the old family home – which the old folks paid off twenty years ago – for my kids and Sibling’s kids. Your plan will wipe out the familial savings of the lower classes very quickly, while still leaving the wealthiest with their tax-avoiding methods intact. The wealthiest amongst us seldom have the same high tax rate that I do, thanks to the tax-avoidance systems they have managed to get built into the tax codes, so they are going to minimize the “tax rate plus 10%” anyway. This is why I said the problem needs to be tackled at the source – fair taxation and no tax-avoiding gimmicks while these people are still alive and earning money. A much more difficult and daunting issue, I know. Your best suggestion is that of capital gains being taxed the same way other income is. That’s getting us somewhere.

        Your suggestion is hurting the little guys WAY more than the rich. It is regressive, would wipe out the small savers right away, and leave the wealthiest accruing more wealth. And that is the result of hundreds of years of monopolists skewing the tax system and referring it to with the misnomer “free market capitalism”.

        Anyway, can you at least think about this stuff without getting all snotty to me? I believe we need to tackle wealth inequality without killing off the small workers at the same time.

        • cettel

          You didn’t even read the article’s title: “Why and How All Large Estates Should Be Taxed to Death.” Notice the word “Large” there. Right now, only gigantic estates (the largest 0.12%) get hit with any federal estate tax at all. You didn’t get the point of the article. You didn’t think about its proposals, which are the result of considerable study and analysis. You ignored its basic principle, and the reason behind it: unearned income (gifts and inheritances) should always be taxed at a higher rate for a given individual than that same person’s earned income taxation-rate. Some readers are just a waste: perfect for the 18 billionaire families to fool. I have nothing more to say.

          • Brockland A.T.

            Teri’s probably concerned with what came after the heading, “Shall it be off with their heads”. No-one cares about taxing Brazillian landowners except Brazillian landowners and the poor saps expected to confront them.

            All – that is, ALL – unearned transfers to be taxed regardless of circumstance at something like 10% over whatever the nominal rate normally is, just to make sure cheaty dead rich guys can’t pass on ill-gotten gains that shouldn’t have been got in the first place. That first place is where one would hope serious and effective reform would start, thus preventing harm to the economy and its workers, in the first place. Otherwise, what a shoot-the-hostage scenario.

            I’m not going into the bureaucratic WTF of the government offering small business loans to offset its own ‘xfer’ taxes so everyone can pay more taxes for more gov’t bean counters in this oddly stimulated Rube Goldberg economic model. Although I just did.

            Most people who aren’t Brazillian landholders would be alarmed. (Brazillian landowners might merely be offended, and perhaps offer a contract on the life of the offender more out of spite than need). For more ordinary people, that 10% over an ‘unearned transfer’ could mean skipping a meal to make/help someone make, rent and/or tuition.

          • cettel

            This article does not concern or relate to whether or not “cheaty dead rich guys can’t pass on ill-gotten gains that shouldn’t have been got in the first place.” How a fortune was acquired is a different matter altogether than what this article concerns. Even if a fortune was honorably built up, the question arises that is addressed in this article. It’ a very important question in its own right. There cannot be equality of economic opportunity if there exists a hereditary aristocracy — the tax-advantaged passing of wealth to children or other heirs. The Brazilian case was cited only as an obviously unjust example, but, even if the original fortune had been honorably attained, any heir’s right to impose, basically, an annual land-tax and be a “rentier” from an asset he had no role in creating is outrageously unjust, regardless of whether the commenters here care at all abut justice. Some injustices are natural (such as being born deformed), but others are induced by human society, the government, itself. Evidently, readers here don’t care about unjust laws, an unjust tax-system, etc., but the subject in this article is that, and how to fix the problem (regardless whether those readers care about fixing it).

          • jandr0

            [There cannot be equality of economic opportunity if there exists a hereditary aristocracy — the tax-advantaged passing of wealth to children or other heirs.]

            Oh for goodness sake, there can NEVER be equality of economic opportunity! Get over yourself. Just for one example: my parents tought me nothing about entrepreneurship – because they themselves weren’t entrepreneurs and clearly did not understand even the first thing about it. On the other hand, I have observed friends of mine coach their children all through their youth, and now observe many of those kids applying entrepreneurial skills as adults.

            There will ALWAYS be ways parents will look to advance their children, whether it is passing on advice and skills throughout life or physical property on death (or before death).

            So, yes, I didn’t get the same coaching (and many other such life skills) as a child as many others did. But, unlike you, I don’t pontificate and whine about it. I’m realistic enough to know that’s just the way life is. And I deal with it and do the best I can for me (and my own family and friends) with what I have.

            If you, on the other hand, want to legislate parents’ freedom to provide the best for their children, then I view YOU as the fascist intending to act like an authoritarian despot towards free human beings and our private choice how to live our lives (including caring for our children).

            So, when I honestly build up wealth, then I decide who I want to give it to – and not you. It is NOT your wealth. You decide what to do with your own wealth, but keep your wailing fingers off of the rest of us.

            In short: Don’t come and steal it from us (myself and others) just because you feel guilty.

            [but, even if the original fortune had been honorably attained, any heir’s right to impose, basically, an annual land-tax and be a “rentier” from an asset he had no role in creating is outrageously unjust]

            No, it is not “outrageously unjust.”

            [readers here don’t care about unjust laws]

            No, we do care about unjust laws. It is just that many “readers here” do not agree with you about what are actually “unjust laws.”

            [how to fix the problem]

            Well, what you are proposing is most certainly NOT a solution (read Coase if you need some enligtening). But if you want to work towards solutions, I suggest you rather start with good proposals like getting overweening socialist totalitarian governments (and their authoritarian advocates like you) out of ordinary citizens’ lives.

            PS. If you are actually Eric Zuesse (as a previous commenter surmised), I suggest you are one of the most confused “investigative historians” I’ve come across. I have been reading much of what you write, but your near deification of that classic example of a two-faced politician, namely FDR (Roosevelt), makes it difficult to lend credence to any other claims you make.

            I still try, however. Firstly, because I believe everybody should be able to voice their opinion. Secondly, because I always try to understand how others view the world.

          • teri

            Mr. Zuesse,

            I am taking the liberty of assuming “Cettel” is you, the author of this article.

            I did read the title, which does in fact read “large estates”. Then I read the article. In the body of the article itself, you cite a 2006 paper which reads in part, ” ‘New information released today by United for a Fair Economy (UFE) indicates that the rise in the estate tax exemption level from $1.5 million per person to $2 million ($4 million per couple) means that less than one third of one percent of all estates — or 0.27% — will be affected by the federal estate tax in 2006. All other estates, or 99.73%, will be able to pass on 100% of their assets to heirs tax-free.’ Moreover, ‘The share of estates taxed will fall to 0.16% in 2009, when the exemption rises to $3.5 million.’ ”

            What these numbers tell us is that as of 2006, when the estate tax exemption level was raised to $2 mm, less than 1% of estates would still be taxed under the estate tax law, at least by the federal gov’t. This means more than 99% of estates were [relatively] small legacies left to heirs. Okay, $2 mm sounds like a lot of jack to someone like me, but even I recognize that this is not really a tremendous sum in today’s world, especially if it is being split amongst numerous heirs. What these numbers reflect is the fact that most Americans do not hold all that much wealth.

            I’m not sure why you chose to use the 2006 numbers; the Federal exemption level is today $5 mm and most States no longer impose inheritance or gift taxes at all. Of the States that do, most of those follow the Federal limits. No doubt this means even less money is getting taxed via estate taxation today. I don’t know the numbers, but suspect you’d find the same .27% – 99.73% split, since income levels have remained at least at this percentage split in the interim years.

            Your suggestion/solution, nearer the end of your article, to this loss of income for the state is to tax the shit out of the 99%. By this point in your article, you are no longer using the adjective “large”. As a matter of fact, you specifically state that ALL unearned income (gifts and inheritances) should be taxed at the recipient’s tax rate plus 10%. The problem is not my reading ability, but that you yourself changed the parameters.

            I was trying to point out that the problem of inequality might be better addressed at the root, rather than more regressive taxation on the 99%. Heavier taxes on the 99% (who are not doing all that well these days in any case) in order to garner more cash for the state sounds more like, well, it sounds kinda like how feudalism worked. I’m not certain why you are so wedded to this idea that you won’t consider alternatives.

            I have always appreciated your articles and find you to be a source of much useful and important information. If an article has the “Zuesse” byline, I read it. This is the first time I find myself disagreeing with you, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I have left a comment. I don’t comment much anywhere, as my time is pretty limited. In any case, I sure won’t comment on another of your articles. By delving into this comment section, I have had the disappointment of learning that you might write well enough, but you are personally kind of a jerk. You have chosen to be rude, dismissive, and condescending to your readers. In your last comment to me, above, you imply that my disagreement with you makes me a “waste”. Might I suggest that you consider disabling comments on your articles so as to avoid the misguided idiots such as myself who might want to offer any ideas slightly afield from your own? It would serve to keep your ego intact and let us “wasted readers” enjoy our delusions about favored authors.

            And now I also have nothing left to say.

          • cettel

            Re. your: “Your suggestion/solution, nearer the end of your article, to this loss of income for the state is to tax the shit out of the 99%.”

            That’s false. You are assuming the conservatives’ lie, that tax-receipts are an independent variable, and that government spending is a dependent variable — depending upon tax-receipts. For a local government, it’s true, but not for a national government, which “prints the money.” At the national level, increasing one type of tax enables reducing another type of tax. Increasing the tax on unearned income enables lowering the tax on earned income. The tax that heirs don’t pay is causing the tax on earned income to be higher than it would otherwise be. Your federal income taxes on your wages are unnecessarily high because heirs (even wealthy and high-income ones) are enabled to pay low or no taxes on their unearned income (inheritances and gifts). The is the way the aristocracy has rigged things; and they have fooled you to think the way you do about these matters.

            The most regressive feature of our taxation-system is its rabid violation of the principle that unearned income (inheritances and gifts) must always be taxed at a higher rate than earned income is. You’re not keeping your eye on that ball; you instead get your thinking balled-up in the details of your personal financial situation. Probably, the system that I am proposing would reduce your taxes enormously, but you have your obsessed eye on only the ball that’s to be your inheritance from your parents. Nowhere in my article do I say precisely what the rate of taxation should be for an inheritance of $20,000, or of $200,000, or even of $2,000,000. But you simply assume that you would pay more total in taxes, combined on earned+unearned income, in the way that I am proposing, than under the current system. That’s an entirely unwarranted assumption. I have instead described basic principles, not specific tax-legislation. Sadly, you can’t tell the difference. But I can tell you this: when I received a small inheritance from my parents’ estate and paid no taxes on it, I knew that the system was profoundly unjust and wrong. Anybody who looks for personal advantage from a proposed national-systemic change is psychopathic, and I am no psychopath.

          • JSebastian

            Stop stealing….slaver.

  • MrLiberty

    When did this website become a mouthpiece for progressive socialism? From the previous article saying that the structure of society is geared against black from the start to this garbage, this site seems to be straying off the important and critical issue of government failure.

    Putting a band-aid on a problem of the 1% or the 0.1% and their massive wealth accumulation by taxing the hell out of their estates fundamentally ignores the way in which 99% of these people became so disgustingly rich in the first place – the Federal Reserve (and the government that protects this criminal bankster cartel). Further, it also makes the completely incorrect assumption that it is both moral and appropriate for the government to STEAL the wealth of anyone to address “inequities” that government has decided exist.

    I don’t feel like wasting a bunch of time going over the way wealth is transferred from the poor and the middle class into the hands of the rich via government spending, government contracts, and the hidden tax of inflation. I would like to think that most readers already know this, but clearly this article paints a sad and disturbingly contrary reality. Go to the Ludwig von Mises Institute website (www.mises.org) and search for “Federal Reserve.” They have literally thousands of books, articles, and journals all FREE to provide the needed education on this criminal banking cartel.

    We can tax all the rich people we want, take away their estates, and funnel it all back into the hands of the criminals in government to waste as they see fit, or we can educate ourselves as to the real reasons these folks got so right and work to dismantle the government apparatus and central banking cartels that enable it. Fundamentally putting a band-aid on the problem leaves the root cause intact, and ultimately we would all be better off if the money STAYED in the hands of the poor and the middle class as simply allowing it to be transferred to the rich and then to the government will surely mean nothing for the hard working folks of America.

    • MrLiberty

      Sorry, typo. In the last paragraph it should say “the real reasons these folks got RICH”, not right.

    • diogenes

      “Mr Liberty” — so called — says “my dollars trump your citizenship AND your human rights.”

      • MrLiberty

        No, Mr. Liberty says instead of putting a bandaid on a problem, why not address the root cause and keep the money out of the hands of the wealthy (unless they actually earn it) instead. I hardly see where citizenship or human rights comes into this at all except that government protection of the criminal enterprise of central banking and the extreme power of the central government itself are both undermining the economic rights of everyone. How sad that you simply refuse to get educated on the subject instead opting for hollow platitudes that actually mean nothing. And by the way, I am economically well below the 1% and certainly am not speaking on behalf of maintaining these elites or the power they wield. I want people to be rich because they provide a service or product to people in a free and open market of voluntary consumers, not because they use the power of government or the criminal banking/financial system to enrich themselves. I present cogent arguments with links to well-researched and documented information and you think that one emotional comment is going to somehow counter that. It is of little wonder that you are losing the intellectual battle with these folks. Maybe if you increased your education on the subject you might have more to offer as an argument.

        • diogenes

          We are in 100% agreement about the necessity of dismantling the financial and corporate entities — like the Fed and large corporations — that maintain the oligarchy’s subversive dominion over America. How is the question. Taxing away the pillaged billions of the 0.1% may be necessary in order to remove the power they use to maintain this system and themselves on top of it. One way or another, their ill-gotten loot needs to be socially, economically and politically disempowered. It has killed America and is keeping the corpse locked in its vault.

          • MrLiberty

            My concern is in not leading with this dismantling. Taking the money from these folks and giving it to government is nearly as horrible as letting them keep it. They got the money from government in the first place! Who is to say it won’t come right back again unless the mechanism of wealth transfer is dismantled and that begins with the Federal Reserve, but it moves rapidly into a general dismantling of the federal government itself and all of its unconstitutional agencies, bureaus, etc. which provide protective rules, hand out hundreds of billions in “purchases”, bailouts, direct subsidies, etc. I completely agree that nearly all of the 1% has become rich through government-created mechanisms and so is generally undeserving of the wealth, but I absolutely object to the concept that anyone who makes a sizeable amount of money through a voluntary free market should not be able to pass it to their heirs. We were not put on this planet to work to support government. Taxation is theft, and taxation of income is slavery. This argument was used against Lincoln’s proposed unconstitutional income tax in the 1860s.

      • Brockland A.T.

        No, Mr. Liberty says “My dollars protect my citizenship AND my human rights”.

        Resources such as mises.org, libertarian economics, provides a good explanation of real capitalist economics, which is vital for understanding how capitialist societies are then bent, twisted, and broken the way they have been so successfully.

        One could certainly argue the libertarian ideal is as pie-in-the-sky as the socialist one, but its much more grounded in human economic realities. One has to know the rules in order to break them, and then, understand them so as to artfully break them in one’s favour and get away with it, as the 1% of the 1% have made a science of doing.

        • diogenes

          To win the game, write your own rules and print your own money and control oversight and enforcement — that’s American “capitalism.”

          • MrLiberty

            No, to win the game, create and support a powerful government apparatus with all the guns and laws and then have then create a system that allows YOU (the banking cartel) to print the money, control the oversight and enforcement, and otherwise run the economy to your wishes – all safe and secure with plenty of “representatives” on BOTH sides of the aisle AND the mainstream media defending the preservation of your “independence” from audits and accountability. That is exactly what happened with the creation and preservation of the criminal Federal Reserve. It is called appropriately “crony capitalism” and that is what we have in America, not anything close to free market capitalism. Without the power of the government to MANDATE the use of Federal Reserve Notes (essentially a debt-based currency) through their Legal Tender Laws which prevent the use of other currencies, gold, silver, etc. in legally enforceable contracts, etc. the banking cartel would be subject to the forces of the market, and such fiat, debt based currency would NOT be chosen as it is far inferior to sound currencies. History has born this out over the centuries. ONLY through the force of a powerful government apparatus can companies/cartels, etc get away with these things. That is why these folks are always the supporters of big government.

          • Brockland A.T.

            That’s the American government. Doesn’t work for regular folks.


          • jandr0

            [To win the game, write your own rules and print your own money and
            control oversight and enforcement — that’s American “capitalism.”]

            Well, maybe that’s what you call it.

            But that is not capitalism. While real capitalism still hangs on in the psyche of many individual citizens, the government (in conjunction with cronies) is slowly strangling real free-market capitalism to death.

            What you have described is government cronyism, regulatory capture by vested interests, and an ever-growing octopus state with its prying tentacles everywhere, allowed to happen by citizens who vote on emotions (and certainly not wise thinking) for slogans like “war on terror” or “war on drugs” or even the utterly obvious and banal emotional hot-button presser “yes we can.”

            To see a country’s citizens fawn with star-struck eyes (watch the newsreels and see for yourself) at choices like a repeat-liar Hillary, or (yet another warmongering) Bush, or an economically-retarded Trump, or that big-government totalitarian Sanders indicates clearly where the problem lies: the citizens themselves.

            The citizens are getting what they voted for. The citizens need to wake up.

            To paraphrase you: to win the game with hardly a sweat, con the citizens. It seems most of them are easily duped. And whenever a few thinking ones start asking questions, well then trot out “patriotism” or “exceptionalism” or “bringing democracy to the world” while you continually to screw them all behind the political scenes (hand-in-glove with the cronies, of course).

  • Brockland A.T.

    I’m forced to disagree. What preserves inequity are laws such as the legal treatment of corporations as persons, allowing them to screen and buffer for poor capitalists.

    Not protecting family wealth is how the present-day aristocracy defeated the middle class; it was taxed into extinction, unable to pass on wealth from generation to generation. A quick look at the farming industry, for example, demonstrates how corporate farms are favoured over family farms.


    Corporatization is a way of protecting family wealth, but it binds the family to the system and anyone ignorant of the game goes bust.

    Many noble families made bad economic and political investments that went bust, were careless and negligent with their wealth, and disappeared. The aristocratic survivors cling to a system that protects them from market forces. Estate taxes are the least viable method of protecting abuses of wealth.

  • ClubToTheHead

    Why would the government want to tax the rich?

    The rich own the government and the government’s reason for existence is to serve the rich.

    What sense or difference would it make if the government took more money from the rich just to give it back to them?

    Taxing the rich would have to operate in a radically different context for this to make sense.

  • jandr0

    [The country that wins this fight will have a booming economy.]

    That is absolutely hilarious. It is also frightening to think that the author may actually believe it to be true.

    [Patriotism will become the norm…]

    Oh no! Patriotism. How much longer can that pathetic old horse be conjured up to justify such dubious claims as made in this article.

    The author’s credibility is immediately and severely downgraded for whipping out the patriotism “argument.”

  • JSebastian

    We’re going to kill all the fascists like this who insist on stealing from others. Their time is coming, when commies and marxists will be exterminated, so that the worlds people can live in peace.

    • Eric Zuesse

      What does “steal” mean? When a businessperson misrepresents the product or service he or she is selling, is that person “stealing” from the patrons or customers or clients? Of course!

      • J. Sebastian

        You know what stealing means. Your example is called fraud. Obtaining something by means of deceit. Stealing means taking by force (robbery) or stealth (larceny).

  • Bob

    How many people own a 40mil house! Marin County real
    is in high demand last week the historic estate Locksley Hall in Belvedere with over 9000 Sq Ft in living space sold for $47.5 million breaking all records of previous sales.


  • Army of Addicts

    The wage earner is cheated right off the bat. He is not offered one wage for a set amount of work, but one wage for a varying amount of work. So he is paid for the number of hours he works, not the amount of work he produces. If am employer adds a new task to the current list, the worker has little to no power to extract compensation for the additional work. He is basically at the mercy of the employer in that regard. And I don’t hear employers complaining about that.

    How can anyone contemplate fair taxation of wage earners when the compensation they receive for services rendered is unfair and wholely inadequate to begin with?

    Those who create the jobs are treated as of the world would stop turning without them, and this simply is not so.

    The workplace is basically authoritarian and you’d better love it or leave it. I’ve heard that the average American takes home an equivalent of 2 hours of the 8 hours he works.

  • Dr Mindbender

    Simply, if you work for someone, you will be abused in wage and labor. Without Labor Unions there is no fairness in the workplace, because people are not accountants and are very ignorant to proper wages for their services. You cannot live on most wages, today, without Government Welfare. So, Working is so Lame you have to get welfare from government, to subsidize corporate profits, at your expense. Brilliant! Hint, Quit. Find an Occupation, under the table, and PAY NO TAX!

    Also, paying property tax makes “all of you Slaves” because You can never own property. Fail to pay property tax to the king and they kick your ass out into the street! Americans as almost any society would revolt over this, alone! The French took Marie`s Head for LESS!

    WAKE UP, PEOPLE … Violence and Revolution are Good. Listening to the Propagandist in your Government media … BAD!