My last post lamented the messaging woes of progressives in combating the right’s attacks on Big Government and all that entails for the middle and working class who depends on it. Here, I will attempt to provide a solution in order to begin making headway in the midterms.
First, we must take responsibility for our struggles with messaging. Rather than rolling over, we should insist that the continued financial protection of wealthy children and estates comes to an end. This begins by pledging out support to the the Rich Kids Tax, a more accurate name for the estate tax.
By using the Rich Kids’ Tax— the tax that allows wealthy, successful parents, and them alone, to pass obscene amounts of money to their children to waste and fritter away– wealthy families are able to keep those dollars from the pockets of hard working, creative Americans who didn’t get the same cards dealt to them, i.e. those better neighborhoods, schools, travel mentioned earlier. My children, under the new estate tax threshold, stand to inherit 100% of the first $22 million in the estate that my wife and I would leave with not one penny going to the government that builds and protects our nation every day. The nation where I earned my money. The nation that provided military protection, highways and bridges, education and health care for all of us. Somebody, somewhere, someday has to pay for all of those things. And if it is a tax on my estate, then so be it. That was the rule of the land when I started my company 25 years ago and it should be the rule of the day, at least that’s what I believe the message should be.
We have allowed the right to mislead the people that aren’t even impacted by the Rich Kid’s Tax to believe that it is a wrong tax policy. The sad but obvious truth is that the wealthy don’t care about the middle class or the working class. They just want them to stand by their wealthy side in helping to protect their millions from the tax man. They want to leave all of their money to their (in a lot of cases) undeserving, spoiled, lazy children. Children who having never had to start or grow a company and don’t know how will, in all likelihood, lose it all in their lifetime at the price of the Rich Kid’s Tax, monies that did not go back to supporting the nation we all love.
This is not the story we are telling, though. Instead we are allowing the Right’s soundbites to drown out our long winded and factual, yet uninspiring, tirades. This is hard for many progressives to hear, because they are wrapped up in the righteousness of words. We don’t want to call wealthy heirs lazy and selfish, we are too committed to the sanctity of maintaining the moral high ground. This high ground is useless if it does not also come with a majority in the U.S. Congress. In speaking clearly, in my view, if we relabeled the death tax what it really should be called, the Rich Kid’s Tax, we can take solace in knowing that we are advocating for the rights of the disenfranchised and disadvantaged, and push forward.
For too long, we have allowed members of the white, wealthy ruling class to be crafters of political narratives for both ends of the spectrum. We have even allowed the white working class to advocate on their behalf unchecked, failing to acknowledge that they, too, have something to gain from ensuring their wealthier counterparts remain wealthy and indulge their aspirations of upward mobility. That is why progress in regards to civil rights and economic equality has evaded this country for so long. After all, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
At this critical juncture, we must embrace nuance and minority perspectives. We should sacrifice political correctness so far as political correctness is limited to hurting feelings and not dispelling stereotypes and lies. We must craft a narrative that describes the circumstances of what we are trying to repair in an accurate, albeit hyperbolic fashion, if what we are describing offsets the absurd thought process of the other side. I mean, Rich Kid’s Tax is really more accurate a descriptor than the death tax is. If the death tax were accurate, then all who die who have anything to leave behind would be taxed on those items, right? Whether it is money, land, stock or anything of value. But the truth is until you are in a position to leave $11 million as an individual or $22 million as a couple, you pay no taxes. Zero! But if you do have an estate of that size, then your children will be taxed on the part above that number, and above that number only. The first $22 million for a couple are TAX FREE!! I think Rich Kid’s Tax is much a much more accurate term, don’t you?
So I would close with the thought that it’s high time for progressives to not only take comfort in knowing we have the right story, but to start telling it in ways that are marketable and compelling. For centuries, those who have been on the right side of history, like individuals who have dedicated their lives to defending civil liberties, have been been subject to the whims of storytellers and historians who are masters of language but not of nuance. We fix this by inviting those we advocate for into the fold. We arm them with language, strengthen their platforms, and take advantage of soundbites as the prevailing mode of political exchange. It’s time we reclaim language in the political forum. Not just because elections depend on it, but because lives depend on it and not doing so subjects the disenfranchised and disadvantaged to the whims of the tyrants.