If you keep writing nicely, you’re bound to get somewhere.

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 @ 1:28 am | Deficit

Michael Kinsley, who can be quite dense at times trying to search for something interesting to say, lets a few golden nuggets drop while discussing the burden the Baby Boomers are leaving for current and future generations and what to do about it:

The idea of my tax is to produce a lot of money that can then be used to pay off, or at least buy down, society’s debts. If we could collect just 20 percent of the alleged $41 trillion about to pass through two generations, that would be more than $8 trillion.

Critics of the estate tax like to say that it amounts to taxing the same income twice: once when it’s earned and again when you die. This is wrong, for the most part. People who leave estates of more than $1 million didn’t earn this amount through wages. Most of their fortunes consist of “unrealized capital gains”: property (paintings, houses, shares of stock, entire companies) that has become more valuable. As long as they don’t sell it, they pay no income tax. And there are plenty of other loopholes to provide untaxed spending money. Most of the people who would be affected by what we might as well call the Boomer Tax actually did pay taxes when they earned their money originally, because the loopholes and special rates don’t apply to plain old wages. They really will be paying twice, but that’s the idea. That’s what you do because you didn’t have to fight in World War II.

The point is to get the Boomers to really do something big to say they sacrificed for their country and the future. Undoubtedly, this will be a very difficult proposition, because they’re Boomers. It’s all about them, baby. And, of course, if you suggest end-of-life counseling as a measure of sanity-

One final thought: as we learned during the health-care debate, citizens of other advanced countries live longer than Americans, while spending far less per person on health care. How can that be? Well, it’s partly that they don’t try to save people through heroic, expensive, long-shot efforts, most of which fail. You’ve seen the figures: for example, last year Medicare spent $50 billion on the last two months of life. Trouble is, we don’t know when we’re two months from the end.

-then you have people start talking about death panels and Nazi euthanasia programs and God, because we might consider some restraint in dumping billions upon billions into the mindless pursuit for just a few more days or weeks of life. Okay, drain the Treasury if you like, but at least let me have the right to choose not to.

Kinsley has some other good notions, such as the fact that Social Security is supposed to keep old folks out of cruel poverty, not provide a return on an investment. We dole out so many checks to those who have provided for their retirement years, and such was never the purpose, and cap yearly payments.

Nevertheless, all is for naught. The Boomers will retire, ask us to pony up, and make sure they don’t have to foot the bill. “How’s that deficit we left you comin’ along?” may become the most popular question grandparents ask their grandchildren, even after their grown. And many will do it voting Republican and bitching about government spending.


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