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Op/Ed: Eliminating the estate tax is the right thing to do

By Tim Lajoie, Chairman

Lewiston Republican City Committee

The Democrats are at it again—this time through their chief apologist from Lewiston, Mayor Laurent F. Gilbert Sr.

Mayor Gilbert submits testimony given by Dan Coyne, policy analyst for Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), before the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation as the foundation of his argument against eliminating the estate tax here in Maine.

The usual fear tactics are employed in arguing against eliminating the tax. It is argued that Maine’s economic recovery will be in danger and less investment in K-12 education, higher education, health care, environmental safety and public safety will hurt Mainers. Those dastardly Republicans will cut off funding for your children’s education, threaten your health, pollute your drinking water and make your communities less safe!

In addition, state infrastructure will crumble beneath our very feet. Some $75 million was/is expected from these taxes in 2010 and 2011. Of course, the Democrats want you to know, the loss of such revenue will be placed on the shoulders local communities via increased property taxes. Mayor Gilbert points out that the least able to afford it will have to pay what the rich should be paying.

I will not argue with MECEP about the amount of projected revenue that will be lost by eliminating the estate tax. I will, however, argue the “doom and gloom” scenario that threatens to follow if government, somehow, can no longer get their hands on it. This is a tactic employed by most who subscribe to the “redistribution of wealth” philosophy—primarily Democrats—promising economic Armageddon if Augusta does not have unfettered access to someone else’s wealth.

I wish to offer a different scenario, one that illuminates a contrast of Governor LePage’s ideas and Democratic ideas. This is, at its core, an ideological difference. It is not, as the Democrats would want you to believe, simply an attempt to get the rich to “pay their fair share.” It is about government wanting to take what someone else has earned to fund its voracious appetite.

Coyne makes several arguments in his testimony in favor of the estate tax: 1) the aforementioned negative effects on the economy and investment; 2) the estate tax does not cause people to move; and 3) the estate tax has no effect on Maine’s small businesses and family farms. In short, government should be entitled to someone else’s property because Democrats believe the effects of such confiscation are negligible.

This is moral relativistic pragmatism of the worst order. Let me see if I understand Coyne correctly: because he believes that no one is being hurt and someone else will benefit, then he believes the state is entitled, via confiscatory legislation, to the prosperity of someone else. Mr. Coyne and Mr. Mayor, let me offer another point of view: legislated theft is still theft.

I do not subscribe to the ideal that the state legislature has the final say on what is right and what is wrong, even if codified in legislative language. I believe in a principle given in the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not steal.” Period.

The state has no right to the lawfully earned wealth of someone else. To suggest that the state will crumble into the dust and lives will be at risk is a brazen attempt to create class envy and provoke class warfare. How about a different scenario, Mr. Mayor? How about if you lecture the government on its irresponsible fiscal policy? How about if you stand for all citizens, regardless of class or income bracket, to keep what they earn?

State government’s piggish slurping at the public trough has got to end. It is not about what portion the “rich” get to keep, Mr. Mayor. It is a greater moral question, sir. No one has the right to take from any man what he has earned.

The wealthy did not earn it, you say? They inherited it from their family? No one has the right to tell a man he cannot pass what he lawfully earned to his kin. It’s theft. Period.

Where does it stop? Who sets the limit to what a man can keep of his hard-earned labor? Is it a million dollars? A half a million? Why stop there? Let’s just take the bold step and say the fruit of every man’s labor belongs to the government.

No. The line must be drawn, and citizens of every income bracket need to stand for the rights of everyone to keep what they earn—even the “rich.” Washington and Augusta have been moving the chains for some time now, ever marching toward the end zone where they will ultimately decide they are entitled to all of what we earn. After all, it’s for the public good, right? Don’t buy a word of it.

Government, in particular Democratic idealistic government, has shown no ability to be responsible with our earnings and property. It’s time to return the wealth to those who earned it, not to redistribute it according to the Democrat’s political fancy.

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