Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes

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Beacon Press, Jan 15, 2004 - Business & Economics - 166 pages
When Wealth and Our Commonwealth was first published in hardcover, coverage was intense and widespread: virtually all of the national broadcast and print media ran interviews and reviews. The adamant argument for reform, not reversal, of the most progressive tax in our nation continues to resonate. This edition, with a new preface by the authors, is sure to continue to fuel the debate.

"Gates, a happy warrior and a bear of a man, has thrown his formidable resources into making sure that he and people like him pay a decent share of the cost of government. He and Collins are doing urgent work. . . . Inheritance taxes would fall only on the largest estates. That, said Gates, is entirely just. As he puts it, those who were best able 'to take advantage of what society has to offer' have a debt to pay. It's a concept no less worthy for being old-fashioned." —E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post

"If you doubt whether there are any truly public-spirited Americans left, let me introduce Bill Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins. Their new book is worth reading for its fascinating history of the conservative estate-tax repeal movement alone. But more than that, Wealth and Our Commonwealth challenges us all, rich and not-so-rich, to a more strenuous and farsighted notion of citizenship."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

"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

"As this book reminds us, inheritance taxes are not about raising tax revenue. They are about 'What Kind of a Nation Do We Want to Be?' Economics is inevitably a relay race where participants do not start from the same point, but we can limit how large those gaps are. This book gets our thoughts back on the right issues."—Lester Thurow, author of The Future of Capitalism and Building Wealth: New Rules for Individuals
 

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Contents

PROLOGUE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
ix
FOREWORD
xv
INTRODUCTION
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
CONCENTRATED WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY
17
THE ESTATE TAX AND FAMILYOWNED ENTERPRISES
74
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
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

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
The Origins of Americas Estate Tax
26
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
Opposition to the Estate Tax
52
THE EFFORT TO REPEAL THE ESTATE TAX
54
INSIDE THE DC BELTWAY
55
WHATS 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
HOW MUCH DOES THE ESTATE TAX REALLY RAISE?
91
The Showdown
93
BUDGET FRAMEWORK
94
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE RISING COSTS OF ESTATE TAX REPEAL
98
ORGANIZING TO OPPOSE COMPLETE REPEAL
100
A SUMMARY OF CHANGES
104
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
THE DANGERS OF THE SILVER SPOON
132
The Estate Tax and the Common Good
136
NOTES
141
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
164
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

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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