April 18, 2005 -- On April 13, the House of Representatives voted to permanently repeal the Estate Tax. More accurately described as the “Death Tax,” it is a special levy on the estates of prosperous individuals after they die. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the repeal "is Robin Hood in reverse. We're taking money from the middle class and giving it to the super-rich." Pelosi manifests the soul of a true robber, a lawless hood who has no moral compunctions about stealing.
To begin with, Pelosi's statement assumes, as most leftists do, that wealth is not something created by individuals who deserve to retain the fruits of their efforts but rather something stolen by one group from another. She assumes that the "super-rich" stole their money from the middle class. Of course, to be consistent, she must also believe that the middle class stole its wealth from the poor, and that the poor are poor not because they are not as productive as the more prosperous but because they were the victims of thieves.
This, of course, is nonsense. Bill Gates, for example, did not steal all that software from folks in inner city tenements or rural shakes; rather, he and his colleagues created it and an entire new industry, giving even poorer Americans access to products that they could not create themselves.
Pelosi assumes that one class is entitled to the wealth of another and that by not imposing a special tax on the most prosperous when they die, another class is being robbed. Here, the hatred of people like Pelosi for the best in society, the most productive, begins to show through.
Pelosi assumes that political elites like herself have the right to use government force to "take from the rich and give to the poor." Since the government is doing the taking, these transactions are truly at gunpoint. By contrast, in a free, peaceful society, individuals create and voluntary exchange goods and services with one another; the most productive become the wealthiest and the least productive benefit from the efforts of those super-producers.
Pelosi's analogy isn't all that wrong, but not for the reasons she thinks. In Ayn Rand s novel Atlas Shrugged , the character Ragnar Danneskjold is a modern-day pirate who seizes government ships carrying foreign aid that was stolen from taxpayers in order to return it to its rightful owners. Danneskjold says his goal is to erase the memory of Robin Hood. He says, "I'm the man who robs from the poor and gives to the rich—or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich."
Pelosi and her ilk practice a pure version of the immorality of envy, hatred of the good for being the good. They fan the flames of resent among poorer Americans against the prosperous and offer guilt to the prosperous so that they will acquiesce as they are being robbed.
Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) was correct to say that the “death of a family member should not be a taxable event." When prosperous individuals pass away, grieving families should not need to worry about selling off the family business, farm, or estate in order to satisfy the envy of the Pelosis of the world. Rather, they should be allowed to salute the memory of the deceased who left them, his or her loved ones, with a bounty earned through productive efforts.
Through the Death Tax, the Pelosis of the world are like ghouls who feed on the bodies of the dead. Only when Americans become truly disgusted at the immorality of such politicians will government again become the protector rather than destroyer of wealth.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.