As part of his stump speech, Bernie Sanders makes the observation that the Walton family — those people who inherited the wealth of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart — this single family has as much wealth as the bottom 40% of Americans. Nobody disputes this fact. Conservative Jim Geraghty, instead, asks:
“What did the Walton family do that was so unfair? Besides have Grandpa Sam Walton build an enormously successful chain of stores? Is it unfair that some people have wealthy ancestors[?]”
Actually… yeah, it kinda is!
I don’t begrudge Sam Walton his fortune. Nobody but the most dead-end communist did. He worked hard to build that fortune out of nothing. Same as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and the cast of Shark Tank. They lived the American Dream, and more power to them.
But whatever did Sam Walton’s children do for society? What did they build? How did they innovate? What exactly did they accomplish that did not involve simply spending daddy’s money? Well, there are two answers to these questions.
- Jack. 2. Shit.
It is the definition of unfair that these people live such charmed lives, protected by Republicans who work to ensure their estate and investment taxes are as low as possible. Meanwhile, the unfortunate employees of their dad’s business generally are born into near-zero wealth and have to work hard every day just to eke out an existence, suffering payroll taxes often to the north of what the Waltons pay. The firm itself has to pay the industrialized world’s highest corporate taxes, which are more than double what the Walton heirs have to pay in capital-gains taxes, thus eating into what they can pay their workforce.
The Walton heirs have power, comfort and ease of living unimaginable to plebians like Geraghty and me, and unlike their old man, they did absolutely nothing to deserve it. It is the very definition of unfair.
Could you imagine if they distributed even a tiny fraction, say 10%, of their vast wealth as a bonus to all Wal-Mart employees? Their wealth is estimated at $144 billion. It’s probably more than that, but let’s work with that figure. Ten percent of $144B is $14.4B. Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million domestically. This gives us a nice, round number of about $10,000 for every single Wal-Mart employee nationwide.
Just think about the impact $10k would have in the life of the average Wal-Mart employee, living paycheck to paycheck. Overdue bills are now paid. Cell phones are no longer shut off. Feeding their kids is no longer a problem, at least for a little while. In addition, could you imagine the impact this would have on the economy? 1.4 million with an extra $10k each to spend would give a real shot in the arm to the retail and grocery sectors. Innumerable credit card and student loan firms would suddenly get repaid. Car dealerships would fall over each other to attract the newly-flush Wal-Mart employees to their lots. Families would get out of foreclosure. And yes, before a conservative chimes in here, of course many would squander their windfall as well. But hey, casinos and liquor stores employ people too, don’t they?
Now of course, the Wal-Mart heirs would never even consider gifting a small part of their fortune to ease the burden of Wal-Mart employees in such a fashion. Consult the nearby graph to get an idea of their charitable nature. Also, I have no doubt that these people pay far less percentage-wise in taxes than Sam Walton did — you know, the guy who actually earned those riches. His heirs would have to be forced to kick in anything close to their fair share to society. Which brings us to the estate tax.
I used to call this the Paris Hilton tax, but that is no longer accurate. You see, Paris has gone and gotten herself an actual career, earning money from people other than her parents through actual work — an abhorrent notion for a typical member of the Wal-Mart clan. Now some may question her skills as a DJ, but that’s not the point. Clubs pay top dollar for her, and she could live quite comfortably on her own even if she never got a red cent from her parents at this point.
Anyway, the biggest lie that conservatives tell about the estate tax is that it is paid by the decedent. Actually, no, it isn’t. Wanna know why? Because they’re dead. The estate tax is instead what the living heirs must lose before getting to cash in on their unearned riches, and in my opinion should top out at 50%.
There is nothing Republicans and conservatives like Geraghty hate more than the estate tax. Most would be happy to see Catholic priests forced to perform abortions by federal agents wielding guns confiscated from all law-abiding citizens while married gays and Islamist terrorists burn bras wrapped in the American flag as NASCAR stadiums are converted to free housing for the poor, as long as the estate tax were abolished and never allowed to return.
This is because this is the top priority for the shadowy cabal of largely anonymous GOP donors who fund both Republican campaigns and conservative policy magazines such as National Review. It actually does not play to the base, which is one reason behind Trump’s populist rise. But they don’t care. These cowardly, secretive men just want to establish permanent landed aristocracies for their family in defiance of every aspect of the American republican (small-r) character.
So yes, Geraghty. The Walton heirs are the definition of unfairness. But it’s not only us pinko lefty Bernie-backers who object to your magazine working to increase the unfairness by fighting the estate tax. Much of the GOP base is just as opposed to your contempt for them, which is why they would rather vote for a crazed, racist billionaire instead of your man Jeb Bush.