Cultural Revolutions

Prudence Asserting Itself in Washington?

Edmund Burke observed, two centuries ago, that "The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which lends the most to the perpetuation of society itself."

In other words, all you grabby socialists, you confiscators of inherited property, keep your cotton-picking hands off other folks' hard-earned goods. Not that congressmen listen attentively to dead Irishmen. This is one main reason the exactions of the estate tax remain so sharp and painful; more so, these days, for the middle-class than for the mega-rich, with their mega-priced lawyers.

On the other hand, this sorry state of affairs may be changing. Whether or not congressmen listen to statesmen, they undeniably pay some attention to wrought-up voters. The words they are hearing about the estate tax grow angrier and angrier, and you know what anger can mean in politics.

Small wonder so many are ticked. The bull market on Wall Street has propelled into the ranks of the rich a lot of Americans who consider themselves, well, non-rich. The value of a 401(k) account, the instrument on which more and more Americans stake their financial futures, pushed up the value of the owner's estate.

And consider the rates: 37 percent for starters, rising to 55 percent. More than half You get to give the feds more than half of what you own—this, for...

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