Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes

Overview

More than a thousand individuals of high net worth rose up to protest the repeal of the estate tax-Newsweek tagged them the "billionaire backlash." The primary visionaries of that group, Bill Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins, argue here that individual wealth is a product not only of hard work and smart choices but of the society that provides the fertile soil for succes. Weaving personal narratives, history, and plenty of solid economic sense, Gates and Collins make a sound and compelling case for estate tax reform, ...

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Overview

More than a thousand individuals of high net worth rose up to protest the repeal of the estate tax-Newsweek tagged them the "billionaire backlash." The primary visionaries of that group, Bill Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins, argue here that individual wealth is a product not only of hard work and smart choices but of the society that provides the fertile soil for succes. Weaving personal narratives, history, and plenty of solid economic sense, Gates and Collins make a sound and compelling case for estate tax reform, not repeal.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
When the wealthy themselves plead for the right to pay higher taxes, the situation becomes more challenging . . . The skeptics will say . . . 'Let the rich get rich! It's good for us!' No society will remain healthy in the long run if it fails to pay attention to the distribution of income and wealth. It is thus Gates and Collins, rather than the mean-spirited advocates of Bushonomics, who are the true American patriots. —Michael Prowse, Financial Times

"After reading this persuasive volume, you'll think the whole case for repealing the 'death tax' is unhinged . . ." —Rich Barlow, Boston Globe

"In their clearheaded primer on estate taxes, Gates and Collins . . . are doing urgent work. By pushing to repeal the estate tax, the Bush administration is doing all it can to shift the total tax burden away from the very wealthy and toward middle- and lower-income taxpayers. This is not only unjust, it's nuts. Inheritance taxes would only fall on the largest estates . . . It is a concept no less worthy for being old-fashioned." —E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post

"Bill Gates and Chuck Collins provide a clear rationale for retaining the estate tax in this helpful and unselfish analysis." —Jimmy Carter, winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize

"Inheritance taxes are not about raising tax revenue. They are about 'What Kind of Nation Do We Want to Be?' . . . This book gets our thoughts back on the right issues."—Lester Thurow, author of The Future of Capitalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807047194
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 1/15/2004
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

William H Gates Sr. is the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. He serves as trustee for a number of Northwest and national organizations, including the national board of United Way.

Chuck Collins is the cofounder and program director of the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth (www.responsiblewealth.org). He is coauthor of several books about economic inequality, including Economic Aparthied in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity.

Paul Volcker is former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

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Table of Contents

Prologue to the Paperback Edition ix
Foreword xv
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 What Kind of Nation Do We Want to Be? 7
Revenue Loss and the Tax Burden Shift 8
The Impact on State Treasuries 11
The Estate Tax and Inequality 13
The Dangers of Inequality Today 13
Concentrated Wealth and Democracy 17
Concentrated Wealth and Equality of Opportunity 19
Growing Inequality Is Bad Economic Policy 20
Inequality and Our Civic and Public Health 22
Does the Estate Tax Have an Impact? 24
Chapter 2 The Origins of America's Estate Tax 26
American Values: The Roots of the Estate Tax 27
The Gilded Age and the Movement for an Estate Tax 32
Early Estate Taxation 36
Supporters of the Estate Tax 37
The Establishment of the Estate Tax 41
Chapter 3 Opposition to the Estate Tax 52
The Effort to Repeal the Estate Tax 54
Inside the D.C. Beltway 55
"Death Tax": What's in a Name? 57
Orange County, California 59
Seattle, Washington 61
Hiding the Real Face of Estate Taxpayers 64
The Estate Tax Down on the Farm 66
The Estate Tax and Family-Owned Enterprises 74
The Case for Repeal: Unsound and Misleading Arguments 78
Is the Estate Tax Unfair Because Death Should Not Be a Taxable Event? 79
Is the Estate Tax Unfair Because It Punishes Successful People? 81
Why Penalize People Who Leave Their Hard-Earned Savings and Wealth to Their Children? 81
Is the Estate Tax a Form of Double Taxation? 83
Does the Estate Tax Penalize the Little Guys? 85
Does the Estate Tax Raise Enough Revenue to Cover the Cost of Collecting It? 87
Is the Top Rate of the Estate Tax Too High? 90
How Much Does the Estate Tax Really Raise? 91
Chapter 4 The Showdown 93
Budget Framework 94
Fiscal Responsibility and the Rising Costs of Estate Tax Repeal 98
Organizing to Oppose Complete Repeal 100
The Estate Tax: A Summary of Changes 104
Chapter 5 What We Owe Our Society 110
A Religious Perspective on Wealth and Society 119
What Is It Worth to Be an American? 121
The Estate Tax and Charitable Giving 123
Will Charities Lose without the Estate Tax? 126
A New Spirit of Giving? 130
What about the Children? The Dangers of the Silver Spoon 132
Epilogue: The Estate Tax and the Common Good 136
Notes 141
Selected Bibliography 164
Acknowledgments 166
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