Democrats need a better class of pundits, ones who aren’t so enamored of their own cleverness, while at the same time, utterly ignorant of political history. It would help, for instance, when trying to defend the estate tax. Matthew Yglesias, in a fit of contrarianism worthy of William Saletan, asks the following scintillating question:
I think if I read another snatch of writing where a progressive puzzles over why the estate tax is unpopular, I’m going to shoot myself. More informative, I think, would be self-examination. Why are liberals eager to tax estates. My own effort to think this problem over has actually made me less eager.
Lead on, Wise Pundit-ji:
The estate tax is basically a wealth tax with a highly progressive rate structure. But instead of taking a tiny share of very wealthy households’ wealth on an annual basis, it takes 0% of a given household’s wealth on the vast majority of years and then a healthy chunk during whatever year the head of the household happens to die. There’s no particular economic reason to structure a wealth tax this way. It was done, I assume, for some pragmatic reason of implementation and enforcement or else because it was “estate tax” was more politically sellable than “wealth tax.” So that’s fine, but it’s not like the merits of this policy are some kind of holy writ handed down on tablets.
[Mad Biologist bangs head on keyboard]
It’s very simple:
1) While even Dirty Fucking Hippies like me like progressive taxes for a variety of social and economic reasons, there are also good social and economic reasons to also reward the accumulation of some of those earnings by those who earned those savings (although excessive savings can also lead to problems).
2) Those who inherit didn’t earn it. Most liberals, like most people, don’t have a problem with earned wealth, although, like most people, it depends on how that wealth was earned and how it is being used. But as I put it Sunday, the redemptive power of working for a living apparently only applies to the lower orders, not the offspring of the wealthy, who by virtue of their birth, don’t need redemption.
In #2, I’m being snarky; obviously, I don’t agree. Because that’s a (bogus) justification for aristocracy. That Yglesias, who supposedly is one of the bright stars in the progressive firmament, doesn’t understand the basic principles underlying the estate tax is thoroughly depressing. Our professional Democrats don’t even know how to make core Democratic arguments.
This is a problem.