Constitutional Amendment for an “Equal Opportunity” Tax

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Political Reforms

Opponents call it a death tax. Proponents call it the billionaire’s tax. The official name is estate tax. But what it really is, is an equal opportunity tax.

Equal Opportunity is arguably as important a principle in America as is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. After all, what use is liberty if you have no real options, and to what degree can you really pursue happiness, without the same opportunities that are available to everyone else?

Society benefits from that principle, as well. There is no telling where the next great idea will come from. Good ideas are limited to any particular gender, race, or philosophical creed. All of the great civilizations were “open”, in the sense that everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed. The early days of America were arguably based on that very idea, since everyone started out more or less equal, setting up shop in a brand new land.

What the “death tax” does, is to re-distribute accumulated wealth so that it does not aggregate in the hands of a wealthy few. Because once an aristocracy of inherited wealth forms, it acts to prevent change to the status quo. And it is very hard to displace, in general, without substantial social upheaval and violence.

One emotional argument that the right-wing uses against such measures is, “No one should be forced to sell their business to pay the death tax”. But it’s not at all clear that the inheritors of such a business want to run it. If they did, it is undoubtedly the case that a payment plan could be set up, so they could continue to run it — and make a good living — while paying off the investment.

But more often, it is stocks that are inherited, and the share of “ownership” (in reality, profit participation) that those shares represent. And selling those is not at all the same as selling off a “company”. 

Of course, I am certain that there have been cases of severe injustice, where a solely-owned company has many assets on paper that produce relatively small income, in reality. In such cases, it is entirely possible that the paper valuation could force the family business into receivership, in order to satisfy the tax debt. 

Such injustices need to be prevented, but not at the cost of entirely eliminating what is, in reality, an equal opportunity tax. Because make no mistake about it, when that tax goes away, any vestige of equal opportunity disappears with it. 

Bush got rid of it once, which was grounds for impeachment, in my book. Donald Trump is doing it again. We need a Constitutional Amendment to ensure that it never goes away again.

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