Death, But Not Taxes

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I hate the Yankees. More than any sports franchise on the planet—with the possible exception of the Dallas Cowboys—the Yankees turn me into baseball-ish English soccer hooligan (though I don’t need five pints of Guinness to throw something at the television.) Of course, my detestation of the Yankees extended to their owner: George Steinbrenner.

But as much as I despised Steinbrenner for returning my least favorite team to the top; I never begrudged him respect. He did whatever he needed to make them winners. Contracts larger than the gross national product (GNP) of most third world nations required to keep A-Rod, Jeter and the gang close to the Canyon of Heroes? Done. Steinbrenner’s detractors often pointed out that he “bought” his titles. I don’t care if he paid for them in green M&M’s.

He won. Often. Tuesday morning, Steinbrenner won one last time… by dying.

Don’t get me wrong, folks—I take no pleasure in the death of The Boss. By shuffling off this mortal coil in 2010, Steinbrenner managed to pitch one final shutout at every wingnut who ever employed class envy to pull a twisted Robin Hood act on successful Americans. Because the Prince of the Pinstripers died this year, he walled off his considerable estate from the Death Tax.

Thanks to the last gasps of the Bush-era tax laws, Steinbrenner’s considerable fortune (estimated by Forbes to be more than $1.1 billion) is protected from the pickpockets currently living the high life in Washington. By assuming room temperature in 2010, Steinbrenner has guaranteed the fruits of his years of labor will be passed on to those whom HE deems worthy—and Turbo-Tax Geithner and his big buddy Barack can go pound sand. While libs foam at the mouth over the loss of nearly $600 million (the Feds potential take had Steinbrenner shown the good sense to die next year); I have to both applaud—and wail.

I applaud the idea of Capitol Hill bagmen beating it back to D.C. with bupkus. I wail at the idea that the death tax returns for 2011 like Jason from Friday the 13th.

There’s no logical argument in favor of the death tax. Even liberals acknowledge that fact, albeit in backhanded fashion. They mutter about “unfair protection for the rich;” or “paying their fair share.”

To address the former: the way the Democrats treat financial achievement (excluding their own, of course), achievers NEED protection. Can you imagine coming home from Aunt Edna’s funeral to find a bunch of thugs in blue suits loading 55 percent of her plastic-covered furniture into the back of a U-Haul?

To the latter, I say: they’ve paid their fair share. (And yours. And mine. And Moveon.org’s.) Rich folks pay income taxes. In fact, the top 25 percent of earners pay 87 percent of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) bill. The current Federal income tax rate is just south of 40 percent—meaning Steinbrenner paid 40 cents out of every dollar he earned to the government in return for… um… the Cross Bronx Expressway. The 2010 Death Tax moratorium meant the Feds missed out on doubling up the penalty George paid for making a big pile. (*author’s aside: Steinbrenner hit the big time in the 60s and 70s, when marginal income tax rates were United Kingdom/hide your money in Montserrat like the Beatles high—so he kicked a bunch back into the kitty.)

And the wealthy can afford to buy nice stuff. When Richie Rich buys a Range Rover, he pays much higher sales taxes than you did on that ’03 Hyundai. When he heads to Morton’s for dinner, he forks over a lot more for that porterhouse than I did for my Big Mac extra value meal. And the wealthy boost the labor pool (granted, Steinbrenner hired the same guys over and over again.). From Derek Jeter to Derek the parking lot guy; Steinbrenner’s millions of dollars made dollars for millions.

Warren Buffett, who made his money the old fashioned way, says he supports the Death Tax. I can retort thusly: it’s your $47 billion—give it to whomever the hell you want, you earned it. But don’t expect the rest of us to follow suit.

George Steinbrenner had his moments. He played dirty, both in baseball and politics. And though I’m sure he would rather have lived past 2010; by dying when he did, he drove a personal stake in the heart of liberal ideology of penalizing success.

Of course, I still hate the Yankees.

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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