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.
About Wealth and Our Commonwealth
The ‘Man Bites Dog’ story of over 1,000 high net-worth individuals who rose up to protest the repeal of the estate tax made headlines everywhere last year. Central to the organization of what Newsweek tagged the ‘billionaire backlash’ were two visionaries: Bill Gates, Sr., cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest foundation on earth, and Chuck Collins, cofounder of United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth, and the great-grandson of meat packer Oscar Mayer who gave away his substantial inheritance at the age of twenty-six.
Gates and Collins argue that individual wealth is a product not only of hard work and smart choices but of the society that provides the fertile soil for success. They don‘t subscribe to the ‘Great Man’ theory of wealth creation but contend that society‘s investments, such as economic development, education, health care, and property rights protection, all contribute to any individual‘s good fortune. With the repeal proposed by the Bush administration, we might be facing the future that Teddy Roosevelt feared—where huge fortunes amassed and untaxed would evolve into a dangerous and permanent aristocracy. Repeal would drop federal revenues $294 billion in the first 10 years; 27 some $750 billion would be lost in the second decade, not to mention that the U.S. Treasury estimates that charitable contributions would drop by $6 billion a year.
But what about all those modest families that would lose the farm? Gates and Collins expose the fallacy of this argument, pointing out that this is largely a myth and that the very same lobbies and politicians who are crying ‘cows’ have opposed other legislation that would actually have helped small farmers. Weaving in personal narratives, history, and plenty of solid economic sense, Gates and Collins make a sound and compelling case for tax reform, not repeal.
“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