When plutocrats call for higher taxes
Bob Rubin and Julian Robertson have clearly come to the happy conclusion that, having lived through the first eight months of the year, both of them are likely to survive well into 2011 and beyond. But they want to tax their fellow plutocrats who aren’t so lucky, by bringing back the estate tax for the remainder of 2010, and even trying to make the tax retroactive to January.
That’s a good idea, of course. It’s ludicrous that the estate tax is at zero this year. But it’s not going to be easy to pass a retroactive tax, especially when its biggest cheerleaders are these two guys: the person most to blame for the global financial crisis, and a hedge-fund billionaire who carefully skirts residency requirements to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes.
In the interests of full disclosure, it would have been nice to see the amount of money that Rubin and Robertson have spent between them on estate planning and strategies designed to minimize the taxes that their heirs will pay on their billions.
The subtext to all op-eds like this — the ur-example, of course, being one of those many editorials from Warren Buffett saying that he should pay more taxes — is that the authors are so noble and selfless that they will even pay more taxes themselves if doing so is in the national interest, and if everybody else in their position has to do so too. But of course these guys are always going to have to pay whatever the estate tax happens to be, and will probably go to pretty great lengths to avoid as much of it as possible.
So while I agree with what they’re saying, I’m still a little bit nauseated by the self-congratulatory undertones to the fact that these men, in particular, are the people saying it. Rubin, in particular, needs to embark upon a very great deal of apologizing to the nation before any of us should listen again to anything he says. Even — especially — if it seems as though it makes sense. If he hasn’t learned any lessons, he’s a very bad guide to what we should be doing going forwards.