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Letters to the Editor

Estate tax is just another penalty on success

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


Re: Just this once, can't the rich pay their share? by Howard Troxler, July 26.

I have long admired the creativity and wit of Troxler's journalism. However, the facts and logic in this column are seriously flawed.

The question should not be, "Can't the rich pay their share?" The question should be, "Why does the government of the United States of America feel free to violate the Constitution (Fifth Amendment) and appropriate a citizen's property based on gifts, of any amount, and estates of any size? My estate is my property, no matter what its form. The government has no moral or constitutional right to any portion of it, although the liberal courts have ruled that Congress can take anything it wants from the citizens so long as it is named a "tax." What a farce!

I was taught that one of the primary reasons our forefathers fought the British was to protect the right of private property because the king was prone to take anything he wanted from the citizens. Now, we have substituted the Congress and the courts for the king. In a free society and an incredibly efficient market economy, no person's property should be confiscated because he is "rich" -- however that might be defined.

I have been both a salary earner and a business owner for some 61 years. I have paid, and continue to pay, income taxes on every dollar that I earned and every dollar that I realized from interest, dividends and capital gains. There is nothing "fair" about the government confiscating the rewards of my work and wise and prudent investing just because I have been successful. The "death" and gift taxes are penalties on success -- what else?

By the way, the practice of "redistribution of wealth" is for communists and Robin Hood -- look it up.
Kyle Barnes, Clearwater

Wealth often comes with hard work

Re: Just this once, can't the rich pay their share? July 26.

Where does Howard Troxler get the nerve to speak out against the repeal of the federal estate tax? Troxler implies that the 2 or so percent of estates that have to pay these taxes are from Americans who are just lucky to have become rich. Has he ever considered the possibility that they may, in fact, have been very smart, or creative, and possibly even worked very hard to attain their wealth?

Is he saying that the wealthy should turn some of their wealth over to the government so that it can be passed on the poor who don't work and sit around all day collecting welfare? I'm afraid Troxler is just plain out of touch with the fact that the Constitution says every American has the right to an equal opportunity to succeed, not an equal chance to sit back and be given a handout by those who do get out and work.
J. Kilroy, Tierra Verde

A boon for lawyers and accountants

Re: Just this once, can't the rich pay their share?

If you read Troxler's column carefully, you will catch the reference to "only the slightest estate planning" that is needed to make that exemption work for the average family. But that is tantamount to saying that the estate tax is fair -- to those who pay lawyers and accountants to avoid it! Thanks to the growth in our economy, many Americans will find themselves trapped by this tax, because they will not realize that they have to pay the toll to those lawyers and accountants.

At the end of his column, Troxler patriotically asks us to use all this surplus money to pay down the national debt: "Let's pay it down," he urges.

Does he really believe that our elected representatives will take the pledge to "pay it down" rather than find new "priorities" and "challenges" on which to spend the tax windfall created by the largest peacetime tax increase in American history? Will Troxler take the pledge to support only candidates who promise to "pay it down," rather than find new ways to spend it?
Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg

More relief for the rich

Re: Just this once, can't the rich pay their share?

It has long been axiomatic that Republican politicians favor the interests of the rich but never in my recollection has it been truer than in this Congress and in this particular attempt to repeal the estate tax.

Troxler, as well as a report in the July 31 issue of Newsweek, reminds us that the principal Republican reasons for supporting repeal are: It's a death tax, which it isn't because 98 percent of all estates are non-taxable; it causes the breakup of family farms and small businesses, which it doesn't because couples can shelter from the tax up to $8-million in farm assets and $5-million in business assets. Also, Troxler exposes the myth that the estate tax is a form of double taxation.

I would not so much object to this Republican effort to repay their rich patrons if only they didn't resort to disinformation to promote it. Troxler puts it more bluntly; "Face it, the real agenda here is to help the rich while making the rest of us believe a lie."
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

Act for the common good

The July 26 article by Howard Troxler, entitled Just this once, can't the rich pay their share?, accurately described the federal estate tax law.

Troxler correctly notes that the current federal estate tax law exempts 98 percent of all estates. Abolishing the federal estate tax will exempt large portions of the assets of billionaire estates from any taxation.

Rather than abolishing the federal estate tax, our government should be using taxes from these otherwise untaxed assets to either pay off our national debt of $5.6-trillion, or to invest in our country by rebuilding our inner city neighborhoods which suffer from decades of disinvestment, or funding a real health care plan, or saving open spaces and ecosystems in our nation for the enjoyment of future generations. Congress should look out for the common good not the self-interest of the very small minority. President Clinton should veto the legislation to abolish the federal estate tax.
Thomas W. Reese, St. Petersburg

Link estate tax and drug benefit

We often hear people call for eliminating the estate taxes based on their perception that they will be paying taxes on their estates that they have already paid taxes on in the first place. This is an impossibility! People who create an estate do not pay any estate taxes -- period. They effectively give their estates away intact to an heir after their demise. The heir then pays taxes on the estate (from the estate). There is nothing wrong with this.

It's no different than winning a lottery. You win a lottery, you pay income taxes from the lottery winnings. If you effectively win an estate, you pay estate taxes. Actually, it makes as much sense to do away with gift taxes as it does estate taxes. Estates are, in fact, a gift from you after your demise.

If we did away with the $10,000-$30,000 limitations on tax-free gifts, estate taxes could become moot. You could watch your heirs spend your money while you are alive.

In the meantime, I propose an estate tax more in line with the Democrats' vision (even though I'm a registered/contributing Republican. After this letter they may disfranchise me) -- with this caveat: All estate taxes collected shall not be deposited into the U.S. Treasury's general fund but into a new Medicare trust fund for prescription drugs. This should net Medicare about $15-billion per year (after a reasonable estate-tax cut for those who "win" $5-million or less), enough funds to provide prescription drug benefits for all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of income. (Why exclude the seniors whose estates are financing the program in the first place?)

With this plan, the Medicare prescription drug naysayers should admit that seniors are so conscientious about paying their own way that they even make arrangements to do so after their demise.
Ray J. Bath, Clearwater

Don't disparage stay-at-home moms

Re: Your marriage, taxes and many happy returns, by Howard Troxler, July 28.

I am one of those "Little Women" Howard Troxler spoke so disdainfully of in this column. When we decided to have children, my husband and I agreed that I should stay home with them rather than paying strangers to raise them. We are not rich professionals and we are not conservative Republicans. We do without a lot of material things. I shop at Wal-Mart and garage sales. Through prudent savings, we finally managed this year to buy the first new car either of us has ever owned.

Most of the stay-at-homes I know are living exactly the way we are. Our children are our priority right now. I am tired of people like Howard Troxler sneering at our choice to have a "traditional" household, as if there is something wrong with what we are doing, or making assumptions about other aspects of our life based solely on the fact that my husband works and I stay home.
Carole Thomas, Largo

Let Coe rest in peace

Harry Lee Coe is dead, for reasons of his own. Let him be. Now the media want to explore the people he "touched" because it is news jeopardizing the careers and dignity of people associated with him. They can explain only their side of the story without a rebuttal from State Attorney Harry Lee Coe III

It's a shame that the media will spend so much time on a deceased person to expose corruption while it happens everyday among the living.

Let these people be, and let it lie.
J. Peter Burlakos, Kenneth City

The limits of labels

Re: The meaning of liberal, letters, July 26.

While I concur with the letter writer's definitions, she's only half right in her comment. It is true that "liberals" fit all of her definitions, but there's more to the story!

I've found that when I agree with liberals, they truly match the letter writer's description. But if I happen to disagree with them, they become antonymous. In other words: selfish, nonsufficient, scarce, narrow-minded, regressive, stinted, intolerant, disagreeable, belonging to the government, favoring regression and, last but not least, devouring.

Obviously, not all liberals fit the above synonyms or antonyms -- nor do the "conservatives." Clearly, I don't like labels, as they don't always fit. Most thinking people are somewhere in between and cutesy labels do them an injustice.
Richard P. Shinn, South Pasadena

Insightful reviewing

I wish to commend Jessica Richardson, who did the Times' X-Team concert review of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw at the Ice Palace.

Faith Hill is my favorite singer, replacing the original Carter family whom I heard at Jessica's age in my native East Tennessee.

Her writing is lucid and colorful, showing insight into the country music field. I felt as if I were present at the concert. Thank you, Jessica.
Charles H. Hamblen, St. Petersburg

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