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Debate: Should the estate tax be abolished?

Your parents work hard, blood sweat and tears to provide for you, give you a greature future, even help you pay for you college even so you have a better furture. They work very hard to be privileged enough to own a house of which a lot of people do not have the opportunity and could only dream of having. Then all of a sudden when your parents pass, you have to forfeit half of their homes value to the government? How does this make any sense?

How do these laws get created? What type of people do we have running our country?

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    Oct 15 2012: Sorry... Someone has been feeding you lies.

    If you inherit a house from your parents... You pay 0 estate tax, unless the house is worth more than 5 million dollars. The estate tax only applies to inheritance over 5 million dollars. Your parents earned money contributing to society... You have not. Your parents are allowed to give you 5 million dollars, more than enough to survive and live a happy life, incurring 0 tax.

    No, the estate tax should be raised. No one should start with more than 5 million dollars. Capitalism is about competition. If one person starts with a billion dollars, and another works for 6 dollars an hour... that's not a competition.
    • Oct 15 2012: "... are allowed to give ..." is communism, not capitalism.
      In capitalism it's just one question: was the money earned by fair means. Once they have earned it, and paid their taxes, it is their property. What they wish to do with it -- give it away to their children or give it away to the government or burn it -- is entirely up to them.

      If you want to give your kids no more than 5 million, well, that's entirely up to you, even in countries with no inheritance tax.
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        Oct 15 2012: Oh ya... It's straight out of Karl Marx that sentence. I think he put it best when he said "The rich should pass 5 million dollars to their heirs tax free"... That sounds like communism.

        "Once they have earned it, and paid their taxes". The people inheriting it... didn't earn it... and the estate tax... is one of the taxes they have to pay... So, once again... capitalism, not communism.

        Let's hear what some famous capitalists had to say on the subject of estate...

        Carnegie for example said ‘The parent who leaves his son enormous wealth generally deadens the talents and energies of the son'

        “the most absurd of all suppositions,” said Adam Smith, “that every successive generation of men have not an equal right to the earth.”

        Thomas Jefferson also famously wondered whether all hereditary privileges should be abolished since "the earth belongs in usufruct to the living."

        In the book "Wealth and Our Commonwealth," William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins write: "The nation’s founders and populace viewed excessive concentrations of wealth as incompatible with the ideals of the new nation. Revolutionary era visitors to Europe, including Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, and Ben Franklin, were aghast at the wide disparities of wealth and poverty they observed. They surmised that these great European inequalities were the result of an aristocratic system of land transfers, hereditary political power, and monopoly."
        • Oct 15 2012: Pay attention to what I quoted. What exactly did I say was communism, and not capitalism? If you have trouble reading, ask questions before jumping to silly conclusions.

          "Capitalism" does not exist without recognizing property rights.
          When Jack Brown has earned the money fairly, and paid his dues to ensure the running of the government, what he wishes to do with what remains is entirely up to him. It is entirely up to Jack Brown whether he wants to burn it all or give it away to a friend or a son or charity.

          Next, read
          "Abolition of all rights of inheritance." and,_to_each_according_to_his_need and

          Andrew Carnegie was an industrialist, not an economist. Why do you assume that he speaks from a sound understanding of an economic system? Carnegie may believe that it is good to beat children to discipline them. Does that mean that the government should beat children to discipline them? Bill Gates does a lot of charity work. Does this mean that Bill Gates believes that all billionaires should do charity work or that governments should force all billionaires to do charity work?

          Adam Smith lived in an era where (quoting from the same paragraph as you) "noble birth is a necessary qualification for the enjoyment either of civil or military honours". Kings and noblemen took what they wanted. They did not earn the property, they appropriated it by an abuse of power. Capitalist thought has progressed a lot since 1790.

          Try or
 ("Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways...) or even

          This confusion of the meaning of "capitalism" is exactly what has led to lay people blaming the world's ills on it.
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        Oct 15 2012: What you are describing is people who get money for nothing... So much money in fact, that they are immune from the natural troubles of life. That can be called aristocracy, or socialism... not capitalism.
        • Oct 15 2012: Aristocracy is where some "elites" get to make rules that OTHER PEOPLE live by. That is what was around in Adam Smith's time. So, if I want to give money to my son, I'd have to play by the rules made by some noblemen.

          "Socialism—defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production" (
          Who gets to keep what money is decided by the central planning committee. This is what is seen in the Communist Manifesto also. (link in my previous comment)

          I don't quite understand why you say one owner of property disposing of it as he chooses is aristocracy or socialism. It fits neither the definitions (above) nor detailed expositions I have seen in many sites (some of which I have linked to earlier).

          Capitalism is based on the principle of individual liberty. ( It is a direct offshoot of the recognizing the rights of man, specifically:
          2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
          4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law. and
          17. Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of it, unless demanded by public necessity, legally constituted, explicitly demands it, and under the condition of a just and prior indemnity.

          Keep in mind that "demanded by public necessity" does not mean welfare state. It is still subject to #2, which defines the role of government.
          Some modern capitalists find even this too vague.

          In addition competition happens naturally, though not central to the idea of capitalism (as some other commenters mistake it to be).
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        Oct 19 2012: John, just curious, when is the last time you got to make a rule by which you live? I certainly have not, and i have paid taxes since i started working
        • Oct 19 2012: Can you please clarify the context of your question? If I had to answer it as-is, well.... each one of us makes rules by which we live. Eg. I will cut down on oily food.
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        Oct 19 2012: Sorry John, yes i did not give any reference... I was just reading through the conversation and i saw your comment: "Aristocracy is where some "elites" get to make rules that OTHER PEOPLE live by", and i assumed you were talking about legislation, that is where my question came from

        Obviously we all live our ives according to our own principles, but the "rules" (as in legislation) are mostly defined by others, aren't they?
        • Oct 19 2012: I prefer a government that just acts for "the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" -- #2 in the bill of rights. Anything beyond that is an encroachment of my rights.

          In the bit that you quoted, people of noble birth can decide whether, or not, or what percent of my money, I can give my money to my heir. In a purely capitalistic society, the owner of the property decides how best to dispose of it -- as long as doing so does not infringe on the rights of others. (Eg. I cannot pull the pin of a grenade and then "gift" the grenade to a neighbour.)

          So, the various societies infringe on our freedom to varying extents. But I don't know if this is what you wanted to ask me about.
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        Oct 19 2012: i must be less cryptic and at least bring up the disclaimers. I have lived in the USA for almost 15 years now, and i do think that its economic model is better than the one that Russia used to have.

        Indeed i am no fan of socialism a la Stalin, but i am also no fan of capitalism a la Pinochet. In terms of economic systems, i think the austrian school of economics might have a solid theory, but 1) i have never seen it implemented anywhere (so I consider that the purists who talk about a "true" capitalist economy usually talk in theoretical terms) 2) the austrian school of economics does not take into account the irrational nature of the human beings that participate in any economic system (socialism suffers from the same flaw, by the way), and 3) i am very skeptical of the concept of the invisible hand

        In terms of government models, I do sympathize with the libertarians in terms of the emphasis in personal responsibility and the respect for other people's rights. But i start to differ from them as i consider societies as melting pots of humans with different needs, expectations, cultures and interests. I like the idea of minimal government (hey i lean over to the anarchist side) but i think that the more diverse a society is, the less we can expect that the principle of minimal government can work... after all, one of the government roles is to mediate when people have different understandings of what their own rights are. I also have issues with considering everything on the surface of the planet as potential private property

        Here, of all places, government is huge. And it is not just because of the republicans or the democrats, but mostly because of the amount of lobbying that takes place.

        so with that background, i think that most legislation is written by others (an elite, yes) and we are expected to abide by it
        • Oct 19 2012: Much clearer (at least to me)! :-)

          Pinochet was a mixed bag.

          I agree, as far as I know, pure capitalism has never existed. However, we see aspects of it sometimes, here and there. For example, societies in which we can put whatever substances we want into our own bodies, or societies where we can pass on our property to our heirs without any penalites (taxes), start our own businesses, free of regulations, etc. In each case, we see that prosperity spreads with greater freedom.

          So, my point was that we all get to make rules. Rules are call legislations when they can be enforced by the police. Not all of us get to make legislations. What's different about all these -isms is WHO gets to make these rules. With aristocracy, it is essentially by heridity, and by 'honors' conferred by aristocrats. With democracy (in the worst sense), it is people voting for various things. With a republic, the classic kind, it is people who have some kind of a education and work background in public administration, etc. In an anarchy or a libertarian "miniarchy", there are extremely few rules that are legislations.
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        Oct 19 2012: With regards to Pinochet I would not use the word mixed but the word deuce. Sorry, i know some people will not agree with my assessment.

        I do not think that a system must be capitalist, or pure capitalist, to let people put whatever substances they see fit for their bodies. Yes in the case of not taxing inheritance. The point i am trying to make is that it is not capitalism the thing that guarantees your individual rights, as many purists sometime try to imply. I tend to keep those separate.

        And in the same manner i consider each individual right on its own. Even when i see the value in most of them, I do not adhere to the idea of universal and ethernal individual rights. After all, i see humans as a species inhabiting a planet that has been inhabited by millions other species and consuming material resources that have been consumed and recycled by millions other species for millions of years.

        Regarding legislation, i still disagree. And maybe that is because i have a very cynical view about the real power of voting. One does not really have much chance to propose a candidate. Just to accept the candidates sponsored with millions of dollars, and then people gets to chose the least of evils, and from then on, the true driver of what becomes legislation is money spent, not votes

        And there are millions who pay taxes and do not get to vote

        Letters and phone calls to elected oficials only go so far, millions in lobbying and advertisng do wonders as monsanto shows

        I know i am taking a tangent here, i just feel very strongly against people who make up rules to have an advantage over others
        • Oct 19 2012: "And maybe that is because i have a very cynical view about the real power of voting."
          I am too! Very cynical indeed! I had in mind, mostly, the democracies of Asia, where they vote-away rights one after another, as long as they see benefits for themselves. :-) One example would be, where voters encourage "positive discrimination" by governments. Many people riot to get themselves on the backward-caste list!

          I agree entirely about the evils of the corporatist societies that we have all over the world, where legislations are more-or-less bought by a combination of CEOs and union leaders. I notice that you haven't used the word "corporatism" so far. If I may, I'd like to encourage you to discriminate between capitalism and corporatism. All the bad things you mentioned are perfect examples of corporatism.
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        Oct 19 2012: It has been deliberately John, the minute we start using -isms, then we think we can start classifying countries into this or that, and hence exonerating them of some of their evils.

        voting away rights happens in countries in Asia, but it also happens in Mexico and in the USA as well. Collusion between ceo leaders and legislators happens, too in all three examples

        there is no country that runs pure corporatism, just like there is no country that runs pure capitalism or pure socialism.

        But in most democracies i know (thanks to living here and to my limited travels around the world), the power of voting to create laws that end up ruling and benefiting the lives of the vast majority is really really limited
    • Oct 15 2012: I did not know that 5 Million or more, but it still is a digraceful tax. some people are lucky in life, and inheritance or winning the lottery is one of the ways a person can get lucky.

      It's not illegal to be lucky and there is nothing unethical about it.

      You say someone does not deserve 10 million dollars? But the government does. You make no sense.

      No matter what anybody says the Estate Tax is an Imorral tax, that is despicable.

      If you support the estate tax that is some really bad karma that you have to live with and I feel really bad for you.
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        Oct 15 2012: No, disgraceful, is getting 5 million dollars for free, without doing any work, while the vast majority of people live on less than 5 dollars a day... and then complaining that you have it hard, and that taxes are unfair.

        If you truly believe that the aristocracy of Europe, and the the old way of doing things, letting wealth be determined solely by birth, and not effort... is the correct way... I feel sorry for you, but I do not value your critique on my karma.
        • Oct 15 2012: I'm sorry, I am a very reasonable person, until a countries makes it illegal to be lucky there is nothing wrong with it.

          Nothing anybody can say will make any logical sense.

          It's ok to be jealous. I wish I had a million dollars and so does any smart person.

          If you are saying you would not want 10 million instead of 5, you are pretty foolish person.
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        Oct 15 2012: No one has made it illegal to be lucky... If you are granted more than 5 million dollars for nothing, you are taxed at 35%. This is not a draconian wealth cap... It is a way of funding the government, and reducing the aristocracy at the same time. Inherited wealth is a cancer on a capitalist society. The entire basis of capitalism is survival of the fittest, and social and financial power being the result of skill and effort, rather than birth.

        The estate tax is the only moral, fair, and capitalist tax, which has ever existed, and that's why almost all of the founders of The United States of America can be quoted in support of if. The creation of this country was a violent rebellion in large part directed against unjust authority. Against power earned through birth and chance rather than effort... Merit based pay is the foundation of all sound economics, and ethics.

        There should be far fewer taxes, and the government should be much smaller... but the estate taxe is one of the only taxes in existence, which competently distributes wealth, from the rich, to the military that protects their pompous entitled children from the poor...
        • Oct 15 2012: "Inherited wealth is a cancer on a capitalist society."
          I cannot and do not have an objection to you believing that "Inherited wealth is a cancer on society". However, when you say "*capitalist* society"... well you are misrepresenting capitalism. Do *I* represent capitalism? Not exactly, that is why I am providing citations. Character limits here stop me from quoting specific sentences, and providing even more citations.

          "The entire basis of capitalism is survival of the fittest, and social and financial power being the result of skill and effort, rather than birth."
          The basis? No! The basis is individual liberty. I don't know what ideology you are advocating here, but it certainly isn't capitalism. "survival of the fittest" is what is said of capitalism by its detractors. Please read at least for a short exposition on capitalism.
        • Oct 17 2012: Here is a good idea, if the government wants or needs to save money then they need to stop throwing money down the drain.

          Like with the military. I hear that some of the missles cost like hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

          So much money is wasted with the military. The government has all the money it needs. The problem is with people in power that our greedy and take advantage of it.

          The government does not need money from the estate tax and would do just fine without it.

          What the government does need it less stupid people in politics.

          Less stupid people in charge.

          How do idiots get elected into power? I think we need to upgrade the requirment to be a governor or judge or any position where a corruption aspect is at stake.

          Being a police officer is another good example.

          There should be more qualifications that should be met to have important positions like this and others.

          Example is, for a person to be hired, they should have higher grade point average from high school, or should be required to have a higher GPA with a BA degree.

          Or possibly only people with no criminal record should be allowed to become a police officer or judge, or governor, or president. From my knowledge, you can still be a cop even if you have certain crimes on your record.

          Knowing how stupid people can be, like "president bush" which is the worst president that has ever been elected in the history of the United States of America, we definitely need to change our policy of how we elect or hire people for very important positions.

          People that our hired need to be perfect, have great resumes. The people need to prove they are smart or our very smart.

          How smart was George W Bush??? Not very smart at all. Don't you think there could have been many other better choices for a president?

          There are countless smart people out there, with high GPA's or with very smart brains.

          Maybe a very smart savant would be the best choice for a president.
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    Oct 13 2012: An estate is income upon which the taxes have already been paid. An estate tax is simply double-dipping by the government.
    • Oct 13 2012: Right, but that's true of every tax, isn't it? Every cent any of us receive in whatever way has already been taxed before. This is unavoidable as long as there is transferable currency. Money circulates continuously, so as soon as you have even one type of tax it's only a matter of time before the same money is taxed more than once. I think the particular attention for the estate tax has two reasons, 1) people see it as the parents paying taxes twice over their income, while it's actually the children paying the estate because it is a form of income tothem and the parents are dead so, by definition they can't pay taxes, 2) a lot of anti-tax groups are nothing but corporate/billionaire shills, so it's no wonder they try to highlight a tax that predominantly targets rich people.
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        Oct 14 2012: your laws are much better i think .it can urgr young people worlk hard.and achieve themselves
        while in china there is not a tax for this .and because of that many young just eat their parents even when they are 25 or 26.many people don't have the ability to work .

        i don t think it is good for our generations not to abolished that ,
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    Gail .

    • +1
    Oct 14 2012: Money should be earned, not inherited. The disparity of wealth is the cause of all of our social ills. We would all be better off if at the second death of a couple, the remaining estate (after final expenses) is turned over to the government in its entirety. (combined with maintaining strict rules about gifting and putting assets in trusts to avoid probate.)

    It's very easy to avoid estate taxes, so you offer a red herring. Legislators who wanted to pass their massive estates on to their children wrote laws about putting assets into revocable trusts so that the trust (a business) goes directly into the hands of the successor trustee(s) who then assume responsibility for managing that trust according to its terms.

    Perhaps your parents should talk with an attorney.

    As to what type of people are running our country? Corrupt ones. Garbage in = garbage out.
    • Oct 14 2012: This is not true, most people that receive money will be better off with more money than without it.

      There are exceptions to every issues, and we are not talking about exceptions here, or rare cicumstances.

      Anyone can win the lottery and make their life worse by blowing it all and not being careful.

      That has nothing to do with inheriting money. What matters is how you spend the money that you have or inherit, and if you don't spend it wisely and carefully then that is your own fault.

      Governments have no right to steal money from citizens, and governments have no right to money that is not theirs.

      Money from the death of mother or father should go directly to the parents kids if they have any or nearest relative so that they can be taken care of.

      The only people that like the estate tax are people that are already wealthy or well off, or have a good job.

      The people that like the estate tax are also most likely jealous. People that have not inherited any money but wish they could. They get so worked up they don't think straight so they decide to create a crazy tax that makes absolutely no sense.

      Ask yourself, if you are for the estate tax? If you are, then are you rich,wealthy, or do you have a good job,
      do you make $70,000 or more a year? If so then your judgement can be biased because your receiving the money from an estate woudl not help you out as much as someone that only makes $35,000 a year.

      Also ask yourself this. if you are so sure that you are for the estate tax, then if you could receive 10,000,000 million dollars from the sale of a house that hypothetically your dad or mom owned, would not agree and change your mind that the estate tax is wrong. Would you really agree that the estate tax is a good idea and give up half of 10 million dollars. I don't think you would, as any person with a brain would want to keep 10 million that they coudl inherit.

      You think you are smart and that the estate tax is a good idea. I'm sorry but you are wrong.
    • Oct 15 2012: You are wrong again, there is no right or wrong with receiving free money as long as it is not illegal.

      There is nothing wrong with winning the lottery, and nothing wrong with inheriting a lot of money.

      But in your case of course you would have no problem giving 5 million dollars to the government.

      I doubt that, how much do you make a year? Over 70,000 I assume. Keep talking your non sense.

      It will get you no where in life.
  • Oct 13 2012: If money/property is earned a person should be able to give it to whoever they want and it does not make any sense that they should pay a 50 percent tax to the government. What did the government due to earn that money?

    They did nothing, they don't deserve it. The estate tax is and unethical tax that should have never been written into law.
    • Oct 13 2012: Is it more unethical then the income tax? I'd think that if you have a problem with the very nature of taxes you would focus on removing them on money the recipients actually worked for. To abolish the estate tax without abolishing the income tax is an affront to everyone who works for a living.
    • Oct 14 2012: Jonathan they CAN give it to whomever they want. Thy just need to gift it before they die. You can gift the money in increments or place it in trust or or or there are so many loopholes and dodges that this argument is a fallacy.
  • Oct 13 2012: The estate tax was originally intended to prevent the creation of dynasties and social classes s the early framers had seen in Europe. If we believe in meritocracy then each generation benefits from the gifts of a good start that their parents gave them but they don't get to walk away with the entire bundle.

    Additionally, now there are so many ways to give away yor money before you die and so many ways around the estate tax that it is practically moot. With the exception of the family farms. But, again we must be very clear about the difference between a family farm and a huge agribusiness. I currently believe that there should be some grandfathering in farmed land held by one family in relation to property tax increases so that older families can keep their land and to encourage people to farm the land not sell it to developers in order to pay the most to each of the heirs (not just the gov't)

    People often lose sight of the idea that all laws are social engineering. ALL laws will have negative side effects and all will need tweaking again in two generations or less. Each party thinks they can "solve the problem" whatever it is by law. They are usually right that they can solve it - for now. All social engineering fails after people adapt to the new parameters. They will take it to the logical extreme and it will need to be pushed back. That is why societies need both pat gilbert and me.
    • Oct 13 2012: "The estate tax was originally intended to prevent the creation of dynasties and social classes s the early framers had seen in Europe. If we believe in meritocracy then each generation benefits from the gifts of a good start that their parents gave them but they don't get to walk away with the entire bundle."

      Exactly: I'm so sick and tired of certain Americans placing their "founding fathers" on a pedestal when it suits them but completely ignoring them otherwise (the estate tax and separation of state and religion are but two examples of people conveniently forgetting about the wishes of their precious founding fathers).
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    Oct 13 2012: Yes it is an infringement on private property especially when it comes to family farms.
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    Oct 19 2012: taxes should be abolished, why should the "government" that is printing the money in the first place need "our" money back?
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    Oct 16 2012: David is correct as applies to Federal Estate Taxes, If an asset is left to a spouse or a (Federally recognized) charitable organization, the tax usually does not apply. For deaths occurring in 2011, up to $5,000,000 can be passed from an individual upon his or her death without incurring federal estate tax.

    And in Cal, where david is from there is no state inherentance tax ... not so in Arizona ... we have what is call a "pick up tax" which is a percentage of the Fed tax.

    Since this varies from state to state I suggest that you look up the laws that would apply to you. The highest rate was under Clinton and the lowest under Bush.

    The key here is that there are thousands of taxes on the books you do not even know you are paying ... big government requires big assets and they come from you. If you want bigger government and lots of socialist programs then you should be prepared to pay the price for supporting those who will not work nor contribute. As an example Obama care will cost over a trillion dollars and after two years the costs will be transfered to the (already broke) states. 28 states have already stated that they would go bankrupt in the first year. Nothing is free.

    Good luck

  • Oct 14 2012: The estate tax should be increased to 65%. The minimum wage should be increased to $25.00 per hour. The work week should be reduced to 3 days/24 hours. Wages should reflect the improvements in worker productivity. Corporations are not people, but they hide the names of the people making the decisions behind the "corporate veil." Enough for now.
  • Oct 14 2012: "Should the estate tax be abolished?"
    Several countries have answered "Yes!!" See

    How do these laws get created? People in power are always out to get more for themselves, be they kings, presidents, CEOs, or union leaders. Most of these will try all means, fair or unfair, to get their mitts on your stuff. Well, even slaves, civil servants, and janitors are out to get more for themselves too, but the ones higher up on the ladder get to make rules that the lower ones must play by. Usually kings or presidents are the highest people in the ladder -- because their rules are called "laws", and those that don't want to play get to spend time in jail to think about their position again. (However, in corporatist societies, CEOs and union leaders can "fund" the politicians towards the "right" laws, but that is besides the point now.)

    Makes sense, right?

    How does one fight it? Well... in a "democracy", one raises some people's awareness, until the media cry about it all the time. That way, future politicians will *have* to pay lip-service to it if they want to get elected. Don't expect results, though.
    • Oct 14 2012: Thankyou, I appreciate your wisdom, I just wish more people were smart like you.
  • Oct 13 2012: "How does this make any sense?"

    It makes sense because YOUR PARENTS worked for the money, NOT YOU. If you think it's unfair to pay taxes over this gift that you did not work for, then remember that your parent's dressage horse keeper not only has to pay taxes over the money your parents give him, he also has to actually work for it.

    Your parents already got the chance to give you an education (a gift most kids never get) and lots of money tax free while they were alive. If that wasn't enough for you to get your sh*t together by the time your parents die, then you're just pathetic, not a victim of the big bad government.

    If we scrap the estate tax we will encourage aristocracy and the formation of a society where it's normal for children to depend on their parents for almost their entire lives, eroding social mobility, trapping poor kids and orphans into poverty and inflating the debt bubble.