- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Death tax dishonors life of toil

Having read Kenneth Smith's Feb. 22 Op-Ed column "Friends of taxes," I'd like to relate a personal story about the death tax.

My great-aunt Lila Wilder died on New Year's Day. . She was born in 1908, completed high school in 1926, and secured her first job (in sales for Sears and Roebuck) that same year. She never married.

Sears had no retirement program, but it did have a voluntary stock purchase plan, which my aunt signed up for at the first opportunity. She allocated a large portion ($10 per month) of her income ($15 per week).

Three years later, the Great Depression began. She found herself with the responsibility of providing for her disabled father and unemployed mother. She tried to stop the stock purchase deduction from her paycheck to provide additional funds but was contractually prohibited unless she quit her job. No one quits a job in a depression, so she and the family made do with what they had. Her brother (my grandfather) had his family to support and was irregularly employed. He could not help with the support of their parents.

My aunt's father died in 1954, her mother in 1963. She retired from Sears and moved to Florida in 1966, where she lived frugally and invested wisely. She was fiercely independent and swore she would never go to a nursing home. She gave $10,000 to every nephew, great-niece/nephew, great-great niece/nephew, one great-great-great nephew, and all spouses (23 total). She never accepted one dime in assistance from anyone at any time. She became ill on New Year's Eve and rushed to the hospital. She refused treatment and died three minutes into the new millennium.

Her estate value is $1.6 million. Her estate will pay more than $400,000 in death taxes. I'm so glad that William Gates Sr., Warren Buffett and others think it proper that the "rich" pay more taxes so that the "working people" can have a chance.

JOHN WILDER

Leander, Texas

Elite show bad manners in tax advice to government

Stephen Moore's Commentary article "Digging up dirt on death taxes" was timely and fair-minded (Feb. 23). However, Mr. Moore was a bit too easy on our new billionaire class, who appear so anxious to preserve the death tax.

He was clear enough about the hypocrisy that emanates from this trust-loving, tax-dodging band of jaded fops, but what about their audacity and arrogance? Surely, Mr. Moore sees that it takes a heaping portion of both for these elite, effete and completely pretentious snobs to counsel our government on how to confiscate the lifetime accumulations of other people.

I'm sure that he recognizes this but is too polite to say so. Having proven himself a gentleman in his assessment, perhaps Mr. Moore might point out to our excessively wealthy and powerful friends that it is unseemly and unrefined to meddle in the affairs of others.

JAMES E. FARR

Chevy Chase

Botched statistic exaggerates urban AIDS problem

Armstrong Williams, in his Feb. 24 Commentary article, "AIDS devastating urban U.S." states "Presently, more than two-thirds of young urban dwellers will die from [AIDS]." That comment should send shock waves throughout America's cities, and could be used by the liberal left to bludgeon the Bush administration for not caring and doing enough about AIDS.

Fortunately for America's cities, Mr. Armstrong has made an amazingly erroneous leap from a preceding statement that "urban dwellers account for nearly two-thirds of all new HIV infections in America." In other words, if there were 10 new cases of HIV in Washington D.C. this year (still too many), one could expect that seven of those cases would occur among "young urban dwellers" in that city. That's a far cry from saying two-thirds of young urban dwellers in that city have AIDS.

Mr. Williams also states that "the rate [jumps] to 67 percent among urban dwellers between ages 13 and 24." Mr. Armstrong, two-thirds is 67 percent.

GERALD BAKER

Annandale

Palestinians cannot forget crimes of Sharon

It takes some profound mental gymnastics to portray Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a humanitarian or even as a statesman. And yet Op-Ed columnists Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder attempt to do just that ("Winning peace through strength," Feb. 23). I shall assume that your editorial staff does not necessarily share the views of the authors so that I can continue to read your newspaper with a clear conscience.

The Palestinian people have suffered the indignities of ethnic cleansing and military occupation for the past 50-some years. And now they are being portrayed as a tribe of terrorists and feral warmongers. Why? Because they have shown that they are wary of Mr. Sharon. This was the man responsible for the massacre of 69 people in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut in 1982. He is also largely responsible for the decades of upheavel and economic devastation wreaked upon southern Lebanon. He has publicly proclaimed that he will "concede" no more than the Palestinian ghettos formerly known as the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israelis have reasoned that "the old will die and the young will forget." Yes, the old will die time will succeed in this respect where even the mighty Israeli army failed. But they gravely underestimate the Palestinians if they expect the young to forget. Rather, they will continue to struggle to restore the violated humanity of their people.

KATHERINE DEGAETANO

Fort Meade, Md.

Democrats' behavior reminiscent of another political party

I read your Feb. 22 article, "Carter calls Clinton's Rich pardon 'disgraceful,'" with great joy. It is delightful to see the Democrats turning on Bill Clinton like a pack of wolves turning on a disenfranchised Alpha male.

My father, a political refugee from Eastern Europe, once pointed out to me that Democrats follow the leader and fall into line with the party as did the communists during the heyday of the Evil Empire.

While he had power, Mr. Clinton wielded it with the skill and ruthlessness of a Soviet dictator. With the Justice Department, the FBI and, most importantly, the IRS at his disposal, both Republicans and Democrats had good reason to fear reprisals for daring to cross him.

Now that he no longer has real power, Democratic Party stalwarts such as Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Sen. Joseph R. Biden and even Rep. Barney Frank are turning on their former standard bearer. Mr. Clinton is being torn down by his own kind, much as Josef Stalin was abandoned by the communist power elite after his death. The powerless Mr. Clinton is now a convenient scapegoat. In attacking him, Democrats wish to create the impression that it is not their party that is corrupt, but merely the man who led it.

I believe that this is a false impression. A party that draws its strength from dividing the country along lines of race, gender and ethnicity is by nature corrupt. A party dedicated to the expansion of the power of government at the expense of personal liberty is a natural enemy of justice. I believe Mr. Clinton is a product of the party that spawned him.

The saddest thing about this whole situation is former President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter's criticism of Mr. Clinton is tinged with horror at how low the latter brought the nation's highest office. By all accounts, Mr. Carter is a genuinely good man, and his actions as president stemmed from selflessness and a desire to serve the nation. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong party. There's not much room in the modern Democratic Party for do-gooders like Mr. Carter. It is too full of self-seeking players of hardball politics, such as Mr. Clinton.

JOHN VALCEANU

Alexandria

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