But first . . .

THE ESTATE TAX

‘If I could pick just one keepsake, I think it would be the mutual funds’
— anguished daughter at dying parent’s bedside
New Yorker cartoon

Floyd Norris, Friday:

Repealing the estate tax would reduce government revenues by about $280 billion from 2011 to 2015 – with much of that money staying in the 500 wealthiest estates each year.

It is to be hoped that when the Senate does take up the bill, advocates will explain why it is a good idea to cut taxes on the very wealthy at a time of great need for many.

☞ The simple and sensible thing to do is to let the estate tax ‘stick’ at the 2009 level and, from there, just index it to inflation. (It is currently scheduled to disappear altogether in 2010, only to roar back 12 months later at the old, more onerous levels.)

The 2009 level exempts the first $3.5 million from tax – $7 million, if a couple has used the standard ‘by-pass trust’ (which only gay couples are prevented from doing) – and would fix the top federal estate tax bracket at 45% (down from today’s 47% and the old 55% rate).

This is a reasonable compromise. It would make estate taxes a nonissue for all but a very few families, while still doing the three things the estate tax most importantly does: raise a large chunk of revenue; encourage the wealthy to make charitable bequests; lean against concentrating capital in hands noted not for the brilliance of their ideas, the vibrancy of their ambition or the wisdom with which they allocate that capital – qualities that benefit us all – but, simply, in most cases, the circumstances of their birth.

And now . . .

MARRIAGE

The California legislature passed a gay marriage bill; Governor Schwarzenegger plans to veto it. He shouldn’t. Take 30 seconds to discourage promiscuity, strengthen the social fabric (that’s what stable, supportive relationships do), and add a little happiness to the world:

  • Call Governor Schwarzenegger – 916-445-2841
  • Press: 2
  • Press: 1
  • Press: 1 to support marriage equality

It’s all automated. No need to speak to anyone. Thanks for the help.

MAHER

In case you missed HBO’s ‘Late Night with Bill Maher,’ here was his open letter to the President:

Mr. President, this job can’t be fun for you any more. There’s no more money to spend–you used up all of that. You can’t start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard’s bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one’s speaking to you. Mission accomplished.

Now it’s time to do what you’ve always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It’s time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you’re saying: there’s so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don’t. I know, I know. There’s a lot left to do. There’s a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote.

But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You’ve performed so poorly I’m surprised that you haven’t given yourself a medal. You’re a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we’ve lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you’re just not lucky. I’m not saying you don’t love this country. I’m just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: ‘Take a hint.’

And more . . .

BOREALIS – The Watermelon Fits

The Chorus Motors subsidiary of Borealis reports it has ‘designed an initial version of a WheelTug™ drive that can fit within the existing nose wheel hub of a 767-class aircraft, with the goal of largely eliminating the use of tow tugs and jet engines in moving aircraft on the ground.”

The stock remains speculative, of course.  But, as I have written at greater length before, it seems to me that a company with a radical new technology capable of driving a fully loaded jumbo jet with a motor the size of a watermelon . . . that might someday wind up driving everything from cranes to forklifts to locomotives to elevators to ships to golf carts to perhaps even (dare one even allow oneself to imagine it?) cars and trucks . . . is worth many times its current $90 million market cap.

Tomorrow: Drugs

 

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