Weiner’s Rule of Death Tax Discrimination

If an injustice is being perpetrated against a minority, nobody else should care?

By Dave Kopel and Robert Racansky, Independence Institute

6/19/00 3:10 p.m., National Review Online

Defending the huge federal death tax, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) was asked by Sean Hannity ("Hannity & Colmes", June 12) whether it was right to confiscate half of a person's property when they die, even after they paid taxes on the property during life. Rep. Weiner answered, "If you're talking about families that have estates less than the value of $2 million, then you can turn off your show right now, because you're already exempt from the estate taxes."

So, by the logic of Rep. Weiner, if an injustice is being perpetrated against a minority — in this case, 2% of the population — nobody else should care.

Rep. Weiner is Jewish. How would he have felt if when somebody raised objections to the mistreatment of Jews in Germany in 1935 (or in Georgia in 1915, when Leo Frank was lynched) if some legislator told an audience: "If you're talking families that are Gentiles, then you can stop listening right now, because you're already exempt from anti-Semitism."

Similarly, under Rep. Weiner's theory, if you're not part of the 13% of the population whose skin is black, you're not supposed to care about racial profiling. Or if you're not gay, then Weiner's rule would tell you to ignore discrimination or violence against homosexuals.

And since only 1% of the U.S. population is Native American (even less than the 2% who pay the confiscatory estate tax), why don't we just confiscate half of the Indian reservations and sell the land to raise money for the government programs Rep. Weiner wants to fund?

Rep. Weiner would probably respond, indignantly, that oppression of a religious or racial or sexual minority is different from oppression of a class minority. The relatives of many of the victims of Communist mass murder might disagree. And the history of Communism and other tyrannies shows clearly enough that promoting the oppression of people who are economically successful leads directly to the oppression of Jews, racial minorities, and homosexuals.

As James Madison and the other Founders recognized, there's little danger in a democracy that the majority will oppress itself. Rather, the risk is that minorities — including economic minorities — will be oppressed, and the oppression often takes the form of property confiscation.

If the government is doing something wrong, then the fact that the victims are a small minority does not legitimize the persecution. It used to be that almost all "liberal Democrats" understood this; the only people who really deserve the honorable adjective "liberal" still do.  

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