DEATH TAX

The billionaire who lived on this estate died at age 82 from cancer in 2009.  

It’s un-American for the wealthy to leave fortunes to their children and grandchildren. It creates a caste system, which is what we fought a revolution to avoid. Under current tax policy anyone who dies can leave up to $5.5 million tax-free to relatives. Any excess above $5.5 million is taxed at 40%, generally speaking. It’s a bit more complicated, but taxation always is. Loopholes are important to rich people. They pay tax attorneys a lot of money to maintain their power and financial privileges.  

Forty percent is not generous enough for people like our current president and his GOP associates. They want the “death tax” (as they derisively call it) eliminated. I’m arguing that the rate should be increased to 100%. Handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to spoiled brats is destroying the USA. A corrosive degeneracy is creeping into every sphere of the lives of the wealthy.

It’s not like there is no precedent. It happened in ancient Rome. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon was required reading when I was a young man in the 1960s. Modern printing companies have consolidated the history into three volumes and into an abridged version of one.  

Gibbon, an English historian, published his first volume in 1776, the birth-year of the USA. His six-volume masterpiece relied exclusively on original sources and, as the remaining five volumes flowed out over the following thirteen years, heavily influenced the builders of the American republic for the next seventy years to the brink of the Civil War. 

Gibbon disapproved of Catholicism and challenged its version of history and the role of martyrs. His history was controversial, which resulted in revisions that he continued to write until his death in 1794. His work remains controversial to this day for a number of reasons that aren’t going to be discussed in this essay. Gibbon understood that cruelty and insensitivity in an entitled class of rulers contributed to Rome’s decline. When the barbarians walked into Rome, they were greeted as liberators by ordinary people. Rome fell like a rotting apple. Gibbon’s History was a warning to the future.

In modern-day America creative workarounds have enabled the wealthy to hand out to crazy relatives a lot of clout they didn’t earn. Yes, it’s difficult to stand up to mob bosses, crooks, and their families. It should be obvious that it’s impossible to accumulate billions of dollars legally, but many have. Behind every fortune is a dark secret—sometimes many secrets. It’s true.

So much for freedom and equal opportunity. Freedom is easily lost to wealthy people who think that those who dare to challenge them are misguided misfits—lower and dumber than farm animals, in many cases.

Wealthy Grandpa, it turns out, had hundreds of legislators on his payroll, which bought him all the advantages of a modern-day emperor. His adult children—who haven’t done a darn thing but argue about which-of-them-should-get-what after Grandpa dies—seem to think that they deserve all the power and perks they didn’t work for and could never earn had they been born into the impoverished family whose mother got her start working in Grandpa’s sweat-shop.

Any American who has traveled outside their comfort zone has seen the poverty these children are experiencing. Is anyone doing anything about it?  This family lives in a state that rejected the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

I like math, so let’s do some. Divide the Gross National Product (the GNP ($17.1 trillion) by the population (309 million). Use a calculator, anyone who can’t figure it out on their fingers (just kidding!).

If incomes were equally distributed in America, a family of four would earn $221,000 per year. Yes, I agree, it’s not a lot of money—some folks would really suffer trying to raise a family on so little—but try to understand that half of black families earn less than $35,000; half of white families earn less than $70,000.

We have a fairness problem in America that runs far and deep. It includes:

  1. Segregation by race and income;
  2. Unequal administration of legal protections and justice;
  3. No access to health care for tens of millions (despite ObamaCare);
  4. Discriminatory hiring, promotions, and firing based on race, political beliefs, and looks;
  5. Defense by a mercenary military isolated from the general population—a major contributor to the collapse of the Roman Empire, according to Edward Gibbon);
  6. Endemic corruption of politicians, church, civic, and business leaders.

Does anyone disagree with this list? Go to Florida and try to find a safe place to live. Gated communities dominate the new housing markets. The majority of Americans don’t have enough money to gain access to this private world.

As for legal protections, anyone who has suffered arrest and spent time in custody knows that indigent people rot inside our jails, because they can’t afford bail or high-priced private attorneys. It’s a no-brainer. Believe it or not, some of the incarcerated are innocent, but they are treated as guilty and forced to plea-bargain; many are unable to articulate a coherent defense. They end up with false criminal records that make staying out of future legal traps more difficult.

As for healthcare: Aided by the complicity of the Supreme Court, twenty-eight states refused to set-up health-care exchanges under ObamaCare. Twenty-one states (where five million low-income persons with no health care live) refused to expand access to the poor under Medicaid, despite it being fully funded and paid for by the federal government.

Tens of millions of poor remain outside the care of our state and national health care system of hospitals, medical specialists, and general practice doctors. Wealthy GOP donors hope to destroy health care for the poor and lower-middle class with the help of our newest president, because they don’t want to finance medical aid for indigent people—despite all the privileges and protections that they accrue by forcing a myriad of taxes on middle income folks (like social security and sales taxes), which the wealthy avoid for the most part due to their immense incomes. Also, many of the super-rich make their money in the stock market, where the capital gains tax rate places them in the lowest tier of tax-payers. It’s hard to believe, but it’s really true.  

This scene reminds me of the oft-told Bible story about the day Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments from God. He caught his people worshipping a golden calf. In this pic the calf is grey and the worshippers are white-supremacists. Charlottesville, VA, Sunday August 13, 2017 

Has anyone ever wondered why so many of the racist, alt-right, neo-Nazi, white-supremacists are clean-cut, shaved, symmetrical, and well-dressed men? A visitor from the Philippines who attends a weekly Bible-study with my wife said that after watching the Charlottesville riots, clean-cut white American men now scare her. The reason these fascists look the way they do is obvious, of course. They have good jobs!  Another reason is that they hide their nasty tattoos under expensive shirts, many of them.

Mega-millionaire business owners don’t hire people they feel they can’t trust. It’s that simple. Progressive, clear-headed men and women who care about fairness tend to dress and speak freely. They can be troublesome in a workplace, especially if they question unfair practices in pay, hiring, and promotions.

If you are wealthy and run a business, why would you ever hire anyone who thinks for themselves? Hire instead an ignoramus from the alt-right or the NRA. They follow their ideology like lemmings; discrimination against blacks, gays, women, and progressives doesn’t bother them.

Look at professional football, for an example. The billionaire owners of teams (many have the reputation of Neanderthals) hire players who have a PR (public relations) personality. Skill comes in second. Any high school coach in America could recruit a football team out of America’s prisons that could win a Super Bowl nine years out of ten. Yes, their players would be poor and in some cases, inarticulate.

In America, talent on the field of sport doesn’t work that way. Compliance is a player’s highest virtue, then charisma (as evaluated by billionaire owners), then talent. Hard work? Anyone can be forced to work hard, and most do who aren’t born wealthy. Any thinking fan knows it’s true.

Let’s move on. How come we don’t require people to fight for their country as a responsibility of citizenship? Everyone knows the reason. The wealthy don’t want to risk their kids in a potential combat where they might be wounded, maimed, or even killed.

In this photo from 2010, reservists are preparing for deployment to Iraq. They are dressed to protect themselves from chemical, biological, and nuclear attack.

And why should they? Hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged kids line up to sign-up for service “voluntarily”, because they need a job and, hopefully, an education they currently are unable to afford, even if they have a job. The military provides both, supposedly, but in recent years cut backs in benefits for non-officers have been enacted, because, once again, the wealthy don’t want to put up the money.

We hire a lot of kids from other countries to serve our military, both as “contractors” and as a “path to citizenship”. In conflict zones, like Afghanistan, the majority of soldiers on “our side” are foreign nationals. It’s the fastest route to failure according to Gibbon. Read his history, those who don’t believe it.

Many kids won’t re-enlist after their first tour. Military service, despite all the ads on TV, is a tour into hell for many of them. Living far from home and being under 24/7 control by officers who can throw anyone in the brig without trial for any reason is too much stress for most people.

The wealthy continue to degrade the benefits of service for the disadvantaged despite the fact that without a military to protect them, the wealthy could not hang onto their privileges. Common, everyday people are not as blind as the self-serving narcissists who refuse to do heavy-lifting, even as they order drones and the young alike into the killing zones of battle.

Moving to number six on the list—endemic corruption—let me ask this question. Is it honest to accept money for political favors? Just asking. Enough said. I’m not going to waste your time or mine discussing the obvious. An encyclopedia could be written about the history of corruption in the United States. At least one volume could be devoted to corruption during the twenty-first century, a short period of seventeen years.

Hillary Clinton warned America about the current president, but few believed her. Video.

The most honest man in the FBI, James Comey, helped the Russians wreck our last presidential election by responding to fake news reports planted by Russian agents. Comey behaved like Inspector Javert in the Victor Hugo novel, Les Miserables. He pursued the Democratic nominee relentlessly during her campaign.

He went for her jugular in the final week by reopening a closed investigation and holding a news conference to smear what little reputation and dignity she still possessed. He undercut Hillary Clinton in the final week of the 2016 presidential election. He changed the trajectory of our nation’s history in a way that won’t sit well with future generations.

Corruption disguised as virtue is vice. Any idiot can figure it out. And now our country is paying the price. We elected an unqualified buffoon to be our president. We hope against hope that someday he will change. Maybe someday he will. Who knows?

Let somebody else write about graft; about dishonesty; about slander; about lies; about corruption. I haven’t got the energy. Who wants to be killed for writing what everybody already knows is true? I don’t.

My general statement is this: the United States is hiding behind a pack of lies about its past, present, and future. It’s not so easy to tell the truth to people when large numbers of them start to read your stuff. Fortunately for me, few people see my essays. Yes, I’ve been threatened, but thus far the threats have been manageable.

I don’t know what the solution is. I do know that our current president is making a bad situation worse and less safe for average people. Character is destiny, some say, and I believe it. The president lies and slimes and slanders pretty much everyone except sycophants. He plays the bad boy on an almost daily basis. It’s not going to end well for him or us, if we refuse to do what’s right.

We are so screwed. Read my essay, RISK, those who don’t believe it.

Risk has little to do with who is president, but admittedly some presidents increase risk. The verdict is still out on our current president.

I heard Elon Musk say that our country is like an aircraft carrier with a small rudder. The president sits by the rudder—it’s about a foot wide and three feet tall—and tries to steer the carrier to the right. By the end of his term, the carrier will not have turned much. However, its forward momentum is unstoppable. Are we headed toward the correct horizon? Does anyone know for sure?

It’s not good, peeps, what’s about to come. My advice is to take things a bit more seriously and prepare as best as anyone can for whatever problems might arise from poor leadership and the neglect of minorities, the impoverished, and the disadvantaged that always seem to follow.

Billy Lee

Billy Lee

About Billy Lee

Billy Lee is a retired machine designer. His bona-fides include: raised a Navy brat; former anti-Vietnam War activist; Francophile; math lover; Egyptology enthusiast; MSU grad; likes Blues and Culver’s fish sandwiches; father; grandfather; married to Bev, his best friend; Christian—but loves Obama, Hillary, and the gay people. Biggest problem facing civilization?—lack of CAPS on income, which permit the wealthy to loot corporations and public institutions. Possession by anyone of excessive wealth must be a felony enforced by international courts. The alternative is to continue the widespread poverty and human misery that have plagued civilization from before forever.

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