Jonathan Pond: “I have always thought the livingto100.com site would be a good teaching device. I got the idea when my youngest daughter saw wanted to fill out the questionnaire. I said: ‘Fill it out as if you are doing everything bad for your health’ – drugs, booze, bad diet, no exercise, smoking, and so on. She did, and this nine year old was shocked to learn that her life expectancy was 17.”
Kevin Poyant: “Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., discusses the power of positive thinking on the first page of his book, Authentic Happiness: ‘These two nuns, along with 178 of their sisters, thereby became subjects in the most remarkable study of happiness and longevity ever done . . . It was discovered that 90 percent of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age eight-five versus only 34 percent of the least cheerful quarter. Similarly, 54 percent of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age ninety-four, as opposed to the 11 percent of the least cheerful quarter.’ Pretty good reasons and odds to think positively! ( or become a nun!).”
Peter Kaczowka: “The best single predictor of longevity, even more than gender, is a person’s wealth and income. This is confirmed by many studies including this one. You can best help us live longer with good investment advice. Enough with the longevity snake oil pitches, already.”
Don B.: “Estate tax is double taxation. Assets are purchased on an after tax basis.”
☞ So what? Even if that were true – and as Tim argues below, it’s a stretch – what difference does it make? You were fortunate enough to leave a $500 million estate, or a $6 billion estate – and roughly half of whatever portion you choose not to leave to charity (or to your spouse) gets thrown back into the pot. Life is tough. But this country was pretty good to you; you amassed the fortune even knowing full well there was such a tax (indeed, it was higher during the years you decided to go to the trouble of amassing it); and if we don’t get the revenue from your estate, we will have to get it elsewhere. Life is tough for you – we concede that. (For one thing, as Tim points out: you’re dead.) But life is tough for a lot of people.
Tim Nieman: “Is it even fair to define the estate tax as double-taxation? Most transactions where money passes from one entity to another are taxed – income, sales, etc. When someone dies, the estate transfers to a new entity. The original taxed party is not paying taxes again (they’re dead!) – the new recipient is paying. And further, the recipient has typically done little to ‘earn’ that money – it’s a freebie. They pay taxes on the newfound wealth once. It seems to me that it’s ‘double-taxation’ only if the same party has to pay twice.” because I’ve already paid taxes on the income. One may oppose estate taxes, but double-taxation is a weak argument for doing so.”
☞ Tim goes on to say that property tax, to follow the opponents’ logic, is even worse. You have to pay taxes on the same asset over and over and over again – an asset purchased with cash you paid income tax to accumulate. So “get over it,” billionheirs. Now is not the time to lower your tax rate from 45% to 35%. Uncle Sam has more urgent priorities.
J.G.: “The flaw I think in the higher estate tax is that no one will pay it, they will have every incentive to plan around it. I would bet a 20% estate tax would collect many multiples more in absolute dollars than the 45% rate. Just my 2 cents (which will be down to 1.1 cents under your plan).”
☞ No one is talking about raising the estate tax rate – it’s down from 60% top rate in 1976 to 45% now. (And this 45% is only after exempting 100% of charitable donations, and exempting 100% of spousal transfers unless you’re gay, and exempting 100% of the first $3.5 million). If cutting the rate would raise more money, because people would stop planning around it, maybe we should talk about making it harder to plan around. Regular folks can’t plan around sales tax or property tax or the taxes taken out of their paychecks; maybe estate taxes should be made less porous?
THE WORD FROM WEST BRANCH, IOWA
A letter to the editor of the Muscatine Journal:
The idea of same-sex marriage just isn’t scary anymore. Opponents will have a difficult time whipping up the usual fear-mongering on this issue.
It used to be that most Americans didn’t know any gay people (or, more accurately, they didn’t know they knew any.) It was easy to believe negative stereotypes.
But today almost everyone knows and likes a gay person — a gay friend, relative or co-worker. A waiter at my favorite restaurant is gay. He has a sparkling personality and a big smile. The Realtor who helped us buy our house is gay.
We watch Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. We watch Jodie Foster movies. We watch Neil Patrick Harris’ CBS comedy show “How I Met Your Mother,” and watch reruns of “Frasier” with David Hyde Pierce. We watch Anderson Cooper on CNN, listen to Suze Orman’s financial advice, and enjoy Nate Berkus’ decorating tips on “Oprah.”
Gay people are everywhere today, and we like them. A lot. How can we tell people we like that we are opposed to letting them marry the person they love?
That’s cruel. There are enough marriage licenses for everyone.
John and Kaye Andremar
West Branch, Iowa
A STORM IS GATHERING
Have you seen the TV commercial with people disturbed about gay marriage? As mentioned here last week, they’re not really disturbed – they’re actors pretending to be disturbed. Two minutes into this Rachel Maddow clip you can see them auditioning.
Quote of the Day
The teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.~Henry Adams
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