The Washington Post makes the same mistake in an editorial that I criticized on Tuesday.
AT A TIME of soaring deficits and growing needs, the Senate is weighing whether the wealthiest of wealthy Americans should get a tax break worth some $250 billion over 10 years. …
If you guess that there’s no discussion of not spending so much money, or even an explanation of growing needs, you’ll be correct. Even though the Post’s editors tell us this tax “would hardly be punitive”, they justify themselves by saying “[w]hy in the world should these folks get more of a tax cut?”. Perhaps we should consider the idea that our government should treat everyone equally rather than picking a politically-convenient minority to act as the nation’s ATM-of-last-resort.
Not that we should be surprised. The editors conclude the first paragraph with this:
… aren’t there better uses of hundreds of billions of dollars than reducing taxes even further for the tiny sliver of Americans subject to the estate tax?
Who gets to decide what better uses exist? Those who have the money (that was already taxed as income in some form)? Or those who vote to take it from them? This is a test of whether or not one believes that central planning is more effective and more legitimate than individual choices. I do not think it is, on either front.
Nor am I convinced by the Post’s evidence-free implication that lower estate taxes will harm charities. Such social engineering is hardly justified, even if the Post offered convincing evidence. What people do with their property is their business alone. But our history is full of examples of the wealthy leaving their estates to philanthropic ventures rather than leaving their heirs with every remaining penny they saved.