A Suicide, Federal Tax Policy, and Wealth Inequality

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April 18, 2015;AllGov

We have seen several reports now that the man from Illinois who committed suicide at the U.S. Capitol during the Cherry Blossom festival last week was carrying a sign reading, “Tax the 1%.” There may have been more to the sign, as WJLA reported that a bystander said that the sign said something about “social justice.”

It is truly sad and probably a sign of some mental disturbance that someone would commit suicide at the Capitol to make a point about taxing the one percent. But Congress accompanied the man’s suicide with a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the estate tax, a tax that affects not the richest one percent of the nation, but some tiny fragment of that class. As the law stands now, the first $5.43 million of an estate is exempt from taxation. According to Paul Waldman, writing for the Washington Post, only one in every 553 estates owes anything as a result of the estate tax. That is roughly 0.2 percent of all deaths in the U.S. In other words, rather than raising taxes on the one percent, the House eliminated a tax that affected only the top 0.2 percent.

Suicide is a tragic end to a troubled personal path. A sign calling to tax the top one percent of this nation doesn’t validate the suicide. But the House’s vote on the estate tax certainly makes a mockery of not just the man’s sign, but the entire movement in this nation that advocates for higher taxes on the super-wealthy.

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Fox News gave its own interpretation of the House vote. Writing for Fox, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation argued for a move more extreme than the House’s, eliminating the estate tax and capping the charitable deduction at $50,000. Why? “The so-called ‘charitable deduction’ is the biggest tax dodge of all creating massive storehouses of wealth stuffed with billions of dollars of never-taxed money that will flow to other dubious ‘nonprofits’ like Harvard University or the Sierra Club,” according to Moore.

There you have it. A man commits suicide while holding a “tax the rich” sign. The House chooses to do the exact opposite, letting the top 0.2 percent of the nation out of estate tax liabilities. And Stephen Moore suggests capping the charitable deduction at 50 grand in addition to eliminating the estate tax because he doesn’t think the Sierra Club qualifies as a nonprofit (he means as a charity). –Rick Cohen


  • Dorothy Knable

    Chopper pilot’s death will inspire thought; Most Americans are pretty troubled, today — If you THINK, as the Earth heats up and your kids’ or grandchildren’s lives are threatened, you are heart-sick like him.