Robert Johnson, reacting to yesterday’s column, with perhaps just a trace of sarcasm: ‘Let’s raise the tax on those damn wealthy people (by your definition it includes me) to 100% or even better – let’s eliminate private property altogether and then those infinitely wise folks in D.C. can allocate all the goods and services ‘fairly.’ I would like to point out I made mine in a ‘dirty fingernail’ industry – not shuffling paper – and created a lot of jobs in the process. Get back to Dick Davis – PLEASE.’

☞ I sense your annoyance and will be doling out more Dick Davis this week, never fear. But I am one of ‘those damn wealthy people,’ too, and I am not proposing raising your taxes, or mine, by a dime. We did OK the last 10 years or so, didn’t we, you and I? It wasn’t hell on earth, or even communism, was it? I’m just suggesting that we should more or less freeze the tax rates for you and me where they are now, until we can afford to cut them further. (The tax cuts for the 98% or 99% of Americans less fortunate than we would proceed as planned.)

I can understand your wanting more, at the expense of other (also hard-working) folks who would have less. (It’s not completely a zero-sum game, but largely so. Money you don’t pay in taxes has to be paid by someone else . . . or added to the debt for our children to pay . . . or cut from your mother’s Medicare benefits or from the military budget or from someplace.)

You have every right to feel that the current economic balance in America is weighted too heavily in favor of the middle class and/or the poor.

But I don’t think those of us who disagree hate the wealthy or fail to appreciate the importance of private property.

And speaking of the estate tax, Ralph Sierra sent me an excerpt from last Thursday’s Washington Post:

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asked his staff to assemble a chart estimating just how much money the heirs of Bush, Vice President Cheney and members of the Cabinet would get if the estate tax were permanently eliminated. Waxman’s aides also applied their calculators on the balance sheets of former Enron executives and the executives of other companies in the news.

The winners? Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s heirs could gain as much as $120 million from the repeal, with heirs of Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill getting as much as $51 million more and heirs of Cheney getting up to $40 million more. Heirs of Enron’s Kenneth L. Lay would get $59 million more. Bush, a relative pauper, would leave behind an extra sum of no more than $10 million if the tax were eliminated.

The White House said Waxman’s analysis was beside the point.

A sensible estate tax reform would raise the exemption to $3 million or so, indexed to inflation (which becomes for many people, effectively, $6 million with a ‘by-pass trust’), right now – why wait til 2010 – and perhaps lower the top 55% rate to 45% until you pass, say, $100 million. And adjust all this to inflation.


Donna Bell: ‘I am shopping very carefully for a new credit card, and found this web-site. I found it to be very helpful to rule out a card I thought I might want.’


Michael LeBoeuf (and others): ‘You left off the postscript to the story! The donkey later came back and bit the farmer that tried to bury him. MORAL: When you try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you!’ (Document shredding at Arthur Andersen comes to mind.)


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