The estate tax (or death tax, or silver spoon tax, depending on who you ask) is the state’s attempt to redistribute the money of the wealthiest families in America. In recent months, it has seen support from Bernie Sanders, and has been sharply criticized by President Trump. In light of this, it has become a highly politicized issue. The underlying philosophy, however, is simple: the wealthy deserve to be taxed in ways that others do not.
The prevailing view in the media is that the estate tax should not be cut because it only affects the super-rich. Why cut a tax that only 0.2 percent of the nation’s wealthiest people ever pay? Some people are struggling to pay for their healthcare, their rent, their food, and we’re worried about saving money for the heirs of Wal-Mart? The answer should be “Yes”; we should be worried about protecting the private property of all, without discrimination.
The central issue to discuss is the morality of redistribution. Is it morally acceptable for any person of any persuasion in any position of authority to take someone else’s money to give to someone else? No. Is it morally acceptable to legislate that the minority give them money? Still no. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, calls the Estate Tax a “silver spoon tax,” while the Right calls it a death tax. Since the Left doesn’t believe that the super-rich need or deserve—or can even rightfully own—this much money, they believe that removing this tax would actually be stealing from those who would have been the beneficiaries of this tax. It’s not actually theft if you’re stealing from a rich kid, apparently.
The Left says that, since only the richest 0.2 percent of Americans are affected by this tax, it’s not really taking money from the widows and children of the person who died. Bernie Sanders justifies it by saying that these ultra-rich families are not “ordinary.” According to Sanders, families that are not ordinary (read: families that make more than he likes, like the Walton family of Wal-Mart wealth) don’t have the same rights as ordinary people. Nevermind that Sanders, who made more than one million dollars last year and owns three homes (one of which he bought with inheritance money), is hardly an ordinary American.
Sanders’ supporters have an idea of diminishing ownership of assets. The richer a person gets, the less they need each dollar, and therefore the less they own each dollar. The more you need the money, the more they think you have a right to it. As they cry for equality, they forget that they are not actually fighting for it. They’re not trying to make society more just, they’re trying to flip it upside down, making the injustice run the other way.
If Sanders’ reasoning sounds familiar, it’s because it’s actually a perversion of the Gospel. Jesus said that those who are first will be last (Matt. 20:16), and that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). Images of mountains falling and valleys rising, of the haughty trading places with the humble, are common in the Bible. Many Americans say that Jesus would vote for Bernie Sanders, because Jesus himself was (according to people who skimmed the Bible for their Intro to World Religions course) a social justice warrior.
They fail to understand that Jesus promised an inversion of the worldly hierarchy, but did not call for His followers to politically force this. In Christian doctrine, the rich will be made poor because they relied upon their wealth rather than Jesus to save them. The poor, Jesus says, are blessed because they do not have this idol; you can’t pretend that your wealth will save you when you have no wealth.
The irony is that Sanders’ poor acolytes manage to fall in the rich man’s trap while living on a poor man’s paycheck.They pride themselves on being poor and free from the rich man’s burden of worrying about wealth, but in reality they’re as greedy as he is. Being poor in and of itself is no more virtuous than being rich. Sanders’ theft is every bit as bad as the Walton family’s alleged greed.
The government has no special right to a larger share of wealthy families’ money. While these super-rich families almost certainly don’t need this much money, it’s not up to a millionaire from Vermont to decide that they don’t get to keep it. It’s not even up to the poor and suffering people to decide; theft is theft no matter who the thief is. The extraordinary wealth of families like the Waltons is not a sin. Being rich is not always wrong, but being greedy is. In their crusade for equality, the Left uses the scourge of popular opinion to beat justice aside. Not only are their plans economically impractical, they are state-sanctioned theft from the rich. No matter the opinions of the voters, stealing from one man to give to another can never be just.