May 2, 2006

Letter to the Editor

Estate Tax

A recent article in the Maroon by Ms. Gwen Smuda left me stunned (“Retain American Values, Keep the Estate Tax,” 4/28/06). Normally, were one to read the line “The House has just voted to deprive the American people of more than one trillion dollars over the next 10 years in fiscal revenue,” you would think that Congress was about to pass a massive tax increase. But no, this author was lamenting that taxes were being repealed. I utterly fail to comprehend how not taxing American citizens could in any way be construed as unjust or as a deprivation.

I’d first like to point out a few factual and logical errors in Ms. Smuda’s piece. To begin, she seems to make the childish assumption that if one person’s taxes are lowered, everyone else pays more. Our economy is not a pie, however, and if one person makes or retains more money, it is not the case that they are taking a bigger piece of a finite resource to the detriment of the rest. What is the case is that by lowering taxes, the government receives less revenue and thus must cut spending on some programs. This, though, is not an argument for raising taxes so much as a wake-up call for the need to reform the federal budget and cut the pork.

Second, I disdain Ms. Smuda’s use of red ink. This nation is a republic. It is not a socialist state; no one has any entitlement to someone else’s wealth. In fact, such a situation would be explicitly contrary to an entrepreneurial spirit. And yet, her position implies that the government has the duty and responsibility to make sure that no one gets too much money, and if they do, to redistribute it to all of those who have apparently been deprived.

Finally, Ms. Smuda’s point about the decrease in charitable giving is misleading. It only proves that people were donating their money simply to avoid burdensome taxes. Thus, instead of allowing the government to twist the arms of its citizens so that it can tell them what to do with their own money, perhaps its citizens ought to be convinced of the worthiness of the cause on their own. This seems to me to be much more in line with a healthy spirit of reason and democracy.

And yet, even if Ms. Smuda had not made all of these errors, I would still find her piece gravely insulting. My cause for this is her use and application of the term “American.” By her use, it would seem that the only people who count as Americans are those who stand to benefit from the pilfering of the rich. You are not an American if you have large amounts of money, if you inherit money, and certainly not if your money isn’t taxed to support the squalor of society. This divisive and derogatory use of the word American is not solving anything. Under this, her worldview, rights are not something natural and deserved by all but are rather some sort of preventative measure used by the lower classes to prevent a plutocracy. Rich people don’t need rights because they own everything anyway.

Such views are shortsighted and, frankly, embarrassing to see at an elite institution such as ours.

Mark Meador

Third-year in the College