The Nation's Pulse

Uncle Sam Makes a Killing

The death tax creates its own death panels.

By 12.15.10

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Come, children, it is time to say goodbye to old Grandma. So sad, really, to see her in this condition the last few months. Lying there with all those tubes, hardly stirring, occasionally muttering some hoarse unintelligible syllable.

She cannot be enjoying life very much, not after the wonderfully active life she led, from her days as a WAC in World War II to flying around the world as a stewardess for the old PANAM. She met Grandpa on a redeye from Los Angeles to New York in 1951, when he was an assistant football coach in UCLA. Together they built up a business warehousing and leasing heavy construction equipment; after Grandpa died in 1995, she was worth about seven million.

The seven went up to about twenty at one point, but what with Wall Street taking a hit and the high costs of her care, there are about fifteen million left. If she dies before Dec. 31, all of that will go to the family. If she dies Jan. 1 or thereafter, the government will take 35 percent of everything over five million.

So you see, kids, there is no way Grandma would want to live another few days into the new year and cost us all over three million smackers. All those years of hard work by her and Grandpa don't deserve to be sucked up by Uncle Sam and his insatiable need for cash to fatten the bureaucracy. You know she will not suffer, it only takes a minute or so with the pillow over her mouth. Right, Grandma?

You see, she is shaking her head and making those funny croaking sounds. That means she agrees with what we are saying.

OKAY, THIS IS FANCIFUL. Those are fictional details I threw together, but the point is no less valid. Our representatives in Washington, D.C. are about to use the votes we gave them with our votes to sign a death warrant. They will condemn to death any frail elderly people worth more than five million dollars who are within range of the tender ministrations of their heirs, particularly if they are dependent invalids.

To raise the Death Tax from zero to 35 percent in one swoop will fell many oldsters in the next two weeks; that is, among those who have not already been picked off during the buildup to this thing. People are frequently revealed at their most petty and churlish when negotiating matters of inheritance. How many potential legatees in this country are so upright as to trade 35 percent of a sizable estate for a brief period of life for their superannuated legator, perhaps already senile, comatose, or paralyzed?

This is utterly serious with no amusing aspect whatsoever. My friend who is an administrator at a nursing home has put his staff on high alert to monitor visitors closely. In particular, any relative who does not have a history of dropping by will be accompanied by a shadow employee. A wealthy friend in his seventies, still active and making money, jokes that he is afraid to go to sleep at night: I wish I had the heart to laugh along.

There was a lot of hostility to millionaires among the Democrat members of Congress pushing for the tax increase. The feeblest among them had no advocate and they will bear the brunt of that wrath.

The 35 percent rate is less than the old standard of 55 percent, so the Republicans get to play hero over the twenty points. But in real terms, in real life, in the real world where real people live, they have issued a license to kill. I know this not from logic but from wisdom, and with age we learn that wisdom trumps logic every time.

This is a heartless move; thoughtless, soulless, mindless, careless, hapless, reckless, feckless, heedless, needless. The entire notion of taxing an estate is an atrocity, as Megyn Kelly tried to argue with Anthony Weiner in a feisty exchange on FOX News last week. Weiner, the clone of Charles Schumer, got his own seat by inheritance when his mentor moved from the House to the Senate.

Any decent society, if impelled to issue such a levy, would have the sensitivity to grow it by inches, zero to five percent one year, five to ten the next year, ten to fifteen the third year. By speeding the vehicle from zero to 35, they are throwing many powerless pedestrians under the bus. It is a shameful betrayal but cleverly concealed behind the hoax that the tax deal cut is really a tax cut deal. President Obama showed in his press conference on the subject that he does not suffer fools gladly, but clearly he and his cronies do fool sufferers gladly.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.