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Poor, pitiful them

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There is a movement in America, financed by the radical rich, to eliminate all taxes on wealth and income from wealth. If it succeeds, the non-rich, the people who sweat for a living, will have to pay more in taxes to make up the difference. Arkansas’s richest residents are doing their part to load more of the tax burden on their less fortunate neighbors. The Farm Bureau of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas are running advertisements calling for permanent and total repeal of the estate tax (which they call, dishonestly, the “death tax”). Above a picture of a pair of models in overalls and work gloves, the headline says, “Family-owned businesses and farms stand to lose 55% of all assets when passing down from one generation to the next.” The truth is that most estates pay no tax at all. The estate tax is among the fairest of all taxes, affecting only those with the greatest ability to pay. It applies only to estates worth more than $1.5 million, or $3 million for couples, and according to Citizens for Tax Justice, the top rate is 39 percent, not 55. Less than one percent of Arkansans — the superrich — pay any estate tax. No family farm, in Arkansas or anywhere else, has ever been lost because of the tax. Repeal means that workers who don’t make a living wage will pay more in taxes so that the Waltons, the Tysons and the Dillards can pay less. Could have been worse Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will be remembered most fondly for what he was not — a right-wing extremist like Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, the sort beloved by the Federalist Society and President Bush. Even so, the Rehnquist court invalidated much progressive legislation — regarding campaign finance, violence against women, protection for Americans with disabilities, age discrimination, the people’s right to sue. And, of course, it took the selection of a president away from the people and into its own hands. Had Rehnquist voted the other way in that case, he’d be remembered as a great chief justice. But the Rehnquist court did not go as far as the ultra-right wants to go in strengthening the rights of the government against the rights of the individual. Roe v. Wade still stands. The court limited the government’s right to execute juveniles and the mentally retarded. It struck down laws criminalizing same-sex relationships. Probably the best we can hope for from John Roberts, the president’s nominee to succeed Rehnquist, is that he’ll be no worse. If he’s a soulmate of Thomas and Scalia, the harm he could do is almost unimaginable. And only the Senate can save us.

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