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Estate Tax

Having finally done it thanks to the blizzard, I can definitely say there are good and bad things about telecommuting. A chance to sleep in is always welcome, as is not having to stand in the cold and wait for the bus, and there is of course the traditional pajamas-til-noon business, which is all right. On the other hand, it turned out that the most difficult of the distractions was not the cats, my husband, or the TV (and given a painfully slow dial-up connection, the 'net was actually less of one than it normally is) but in fact the kitchen. Far too much snacking went on during our little meteorological episode.

We seem to have come through fairly well, however. Nothing has penetrated Boston's weather coverage for the past forty-eight hours now, so I actually have very little idea what is going on in other parts of the world, aside from the latest school shooting and the Taliban's no-longer-surprising acts of incoherent vandalism.

Oh, and this beautiful little excretion from the online pages of the Wall Street Journal (thank you, Plastic) on why the inheritance tax is a bad thing. Leaving all one's money to one's children, the author claims, will allow them to live their lives "on a higher plane," to cultivate their artistic sensibilities; "Inheritance can, in other words, offer a bulwark against social dissolution and chaos." Also, " multigenerational wealth may be the only buttress against a Darwinian horde of relentless new-money power-seekers and professional climbers."

Quite a lot of ask of filthy lucre, if you ask me, but don't ask until I stop laughing, because every time I read that bit about the Darwinian hordes I get the giggles. The sub-head referring to the estate tax as "shades of Mao" is almost as funny. It hardly even requires comment.

Frankly, if this hadn't been published in the WSJ (even as an opinion piece) I'd swear it was one of the most blatant trolls I've yet seen on the 'net. Although upon further consideration, I suppose there's no reason the two have to be mutually exclusive.

It's one of those situations where you want to ask the author what color the sky is in the world he appears to inhabit. Opposition to the estate tax is fine. There are arguments against it which I consider understandable, though I tend to disagree with them. But arguing against it on the grounds that it prevents the Muffys and Biffs of the world from living their lives on a "higher plane," that the alternative is uncultured nouveau-riche hordes hammering at the gate and frightening the polo ponies, that social chaos is mere inches away—that, in short, it should be abolished because it inflicts the indignity of having to work for a living on those fortunate enough to be born to wealthy parents—that, I'm sorry to say, will simply not fly in a country where most of us still consider ourselves to be "getting by," if that.

There actually seems to be more than a hint of wistfulness in the author's tone as he writes, leading one to suspect that he himself may be "new money," perhaps even (horrors!) a "professional climber." The sophomoric reasoning and petulant tone seem out of place in a presumed adult, let alone a "senior editor at" One suspects that he wants the rich to leave all their wealth to the kids not because he is one or plans to be one but because he hopes one will adopt him.

Never mind poor Mao, rolling in his grave at having Warren Buffett compared to him in an ostensibly serious op/ed piece. He'll manage.

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© 2000 Rebecca J. Stevenson