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Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes Paperback – January 15, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (January 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807047198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807047194
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gates, whose son cofounded Microsoft and became the wealthiest man on the planet, teams up with Collins, program director of the nonprofit United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth, to explain why the government should continue to levy estate taxes on the fortunes of America's wealthiest citizens (which President Bush, advocating its elimination, has provocatively called the "death tax"). In reviewing the tax's history, the authors explain the Founding Fathers' concern with maintaining conditions of equitability that would enable any American with sufficient ambition and perseverance to accumulate a fortune within his lifetime without creating a new aristocracy. The robber barons of the Gilded Age thwarted those intentions, so the estate tax was established in 1916. The tax was controversial from its inception, and the authors reveal how carefully orchestrated efforts by a handful of wealthy families, think tanks and PR firms drummed up public opposition in the 1990s, even though the tax didn't apply to most Americans. Congress voted to repeal the estate tax in 2001. It's bad enough, Gates and Collins argue, that the government will lose $30 billion a year over the next decade because of the repeal; the loss is particularly keen given the cost of cleaning up after the September 11 attacks and fighting the subsequent war on terrorism. They've prepared an earnest manifesto, which may seem like locking the barn doors after the horse has fled, but this book could help create a sympathetic public perception by 2011, when, in a bizarre legal twist, the estate tax goes back on the books.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This defense of the controversial estate tax is offered by Gates, the father of the billionaire founder of Microsoft, and Collins, a tax advocate. The authors join forces to argue against the present presidential administration's proposed repeal of the estate tax, which is a transfer tax imposed on large accumulations of wealth at the death of the owners, and the authors estimate such repeal will cost $850 billion in tax revenue over the next 20 years. Although they acknowledge that wealth accrues to an individual through savvy and hard work, Gates and Collins also believe that society contributes to that individual's success through investments in education, economic development, heath care, and property rights protection, and a reformed estate tax is a legitimate return on society's investments. This book and its ideas that estate tax reform should focus upon the truly huge fortunes and earmark the revenue for uses such as education or Social Security will contribute to the ongoing debate on this important topic. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is densely argued and extremely clearly presented.
Bibliophile
I have been a tax accountant for over 25 years, with a professional interest in this subject, and I learned a great deal!
billpz
Recommend this to everyone concerned about the future of the United States who wish to restore middle class to America.
Joyce Schuetz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By billpz on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not written for numbers people, but for those interested in public policy and the future shape of our society. Shows how the unseen -- or perhaps frequently unexamined -- hand of a major part of tax law has profound effects. Treats all aspects of the debate. Gives a fair history of a number of main points around the last century's debate about appropriate national taxation. Lucid, readable; reasoned but passionate. Great suggestions for further reading. And all this in fewer than 140 pages plus appendices. Deserves a Pulitzer.
I have been a tax accountant for over 25 years, with a professional interest in this subject, and I learned a great deal!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Most controversial issues have two sides. The authors of this book present the arguments in favor of abolishing the estate tax in "the best light" by quoting at length and in context the abolition proponents' rationale. They then destroy these arguments by showing how and why they are based on false and often misleading "facts." They also make the case as to why an estate tax on those few accumulated fortunes which are, even under the pre-2001 law, subject to the tax is an important foundation stone of the American Experiment. I am not naive enough to believe that those who have made a career of opposing the estate tax will be swayed by the authors' book, but anyone with an open mind should be.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bibliophile on May 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This extraordinary little book packs a gigantic punch. I'd love to summarize it here, but as soon as you buy the book, get straight to Chapter One. It's enough to make you sick in the stomach.
Is America a "democracy"? After Ch.1 you really wonder. A sample from p. 15: Around the turn of the century, shortly before WWI, the top 1 (one) per cent of the population owned 56.4% of the country's private wealth - at the same time, the authors tell us, "the wealthiest 10 [ten] per cent of households owned 90% of all wealth." Now, think about it: 90% of Americans together owned a mere 10% of the country! (And most of the country's wealth was in private hands, because the government at all levels owned very little of value. There wasn't even a national park in existence!) That's neither justice nor democracy.
American society started to improve since then, especially after the introduction of income tax. But things have again gone in the opposite direction in the last two decades, so that "the United States is now the most unequal society in the industrialized world." (p. 14)
This fact is borne out in the UN Human Development Report 2002. (I was surprised that this authoritative publication is NOT cited anywhere in this book.) This report gives the "Gini Index" for each country, among numerous other data. The Gini Index is not something out of Aladdin: It "measures inequality over the entire distribution of income or consumption. A value of 0 represents perfect equality, and a value of 100 perfect inequality." (p. 197) Ranked are these selected countries in the industrialized world: Denmark (24.7 - the least unequal society), Japan (24.8), other Scandinavian countries (including Finland) at around 26, then Germany (30.0), then English-speaking countries like my own Canada (31.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sean Bennett on February 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This brief book strongly explains how society will benefit from keeping an estate tax on the wealthy. It explains how the estate tax allows America to be a meritocratic place where the best and brightest rise to the top and can make the most positive social change. It explains how charity giving will increase during wealthy individual's lifetimes if they know they face a big tax at the end. It gives a brief history of the estate tax and why it was introduced in the first place. It exposes the hypocrisy of Bush's estate tax repeal that expires in 2010. All in all, it provides a very concise argument why we must give back to the society which enabled us to have the potential to become wealthy in the first place. I never thought I'd be able to read through a book on tax law without putting it down. This book is brilliant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Laster on August 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book for a political science class I was taking over the summer, and I am glad the professor chose this book because I learned a lot about the estate/death tax. This book puts everything into prospective, and explains the pros and cons of the tax. If your interested on how the estate tax works and why we need it read this book.
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