Trickle-down tax plan: thankful or not?

COLUMBUS: Will Rogers was back in newspapers across the country this weekend, including our Columbus Dispatch. Paul Wiseman wrote an Associated Press article on the new House of Representatives plan to lower income taxes on business and individuals. He described it as trickle-down economics and that “it dates back at least to a 1932 wisecrack by Will Rogers.”

In the story Mr. Wiseman included the first line of Will’s comments in Weekly Article #518 (Nov. 27, 1932): “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” Will continues, “Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

Republicans are convinced that lower tax rates will lead to more total revenue because the economy will grow and total wages/salaries will increase. Also manufacturing and other business will come to the U.S. when the corporate tax rate is dropped to 20 percent from the current 35 percent. They point to the last time we had major tax reform under President Reagan when revenues went up from $600 billion in 1982 to over a trillion in 1990. They also say that eliminating most deductions won’t matter because at least three-fourths will take the standard deduction.

But Democrats don’t buy it. Do they want a “trickle-up” tax plan? Maybe raise the corporate tax rate to 50 percent, and raise the rate on the top earners, including capital gains, so the top 10 percent pay at least 80 percent of all income taxes. They would take all that extra revenue and give three or four thousand dollars to the ones who pay little or no income taxes. If Will Rogers is right the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. And they should be happy because there will be so few of them left in the country to divide it.

Since the Republicans are in charge, I say let them pass their trickle-down plan. Then if it don’t work out, in a few years the Democrats can take over and pass their trickle-up plan.

This is Thanksgiving week.  Even if you’re not thankful for Congress and the President, I bet you can find something in your family and surroundings that gives you great pleasure.

Hey, we’re not in a Great Depression like we were in 1934.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

“Thanksgiving Day. In the days of its founders they were willing to give thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected.  But now neither government or nature can give enough but what we think it’s too little. Those old boys in the Fall of the year, if they could gather in a few pumpkins, potatoes and some corn for the winter, they was in a thanking mood. But if we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo and some government relief, why we feel like the world is agin us.” DT #2594, Nov. 28, 1934

Inheritance Tax Rate: 100 percent??

Congress is arguing over tax reform. Now you expect the Democrats and Republicans to disagree on taxes, but now the House and the Senate can’t agree either. For instance, on the inheritance (or death) tax the House wants to kill it, while the Senate wants to keep it on certain large estates. I’ll come back to that shortly, but first let me tell you about last weekend in Oklahoma.

I was in Claremore November 4th celebrating “my” 138th birthday; not many men can make that claim. They had a big parade through downtown, followed by a party with cake, and then the Cherokee Women’s Pocahontas Club (founded in 1899) put on a Gala dinner. They had several other events, but I couldn’t make it to everything. Quite a few of the Rogers clan was there, including great-granddaughter Jennifer and great-great nieces and nephews.

For the parade, most of the past 20 years my friend in Tulsa, Gene Pyeatt, has provided his 1924 Model T Ford Huckster for me. This year I got a model that’s newer, 94 years newer, a 2018 F-150 from Jack Kissee Ford in Claremore.

With all the celebrating, we didn’t bother discussing inheritance taxes. But I did recall a few comments from the 1920s and 30s. So here are Historic Quotes from a much younger Will Rogers:

“I don’t see why a man shouldn’t pay an inheritance tax. If a Country is good enough to pay taxes to while you are living, it’s good enough to pay in after you die. By the time you die you should be so used to paying taxes that it would just be almost second nature to you.”  WA #168, Feb. 28, 1926

“Now they got such a high inheritance tax on ’em that you won’t catch these old rich boys dying promiscuously like they did. This bill makes patriots out of everybody. You sure do die for your country if you die from now on.” DT #1767, March 23, 1932

“[The Treasury Secretary] came out with a plan to put a bigger tax on these big estates.  On an estate  of say  $10  million,  why  the  government  will  take  about  90 percent of it, and then giving the off-spring 10 percent.   And then on estates of a 100 million, 200 million, a billion, and like that, well, the government just takes all of that and notifies the heirs, ‘Your father died a pauper here today. And he’s being buried by the Millionaires’ Emergency Burial Association.’  

Now mind you, I don’t hold any great grief for a man that dies and leaves millions and hundreds of millions and billions.  But I don’t believe the plan will work because he gives figures that shows what this new inheritance tax would bring in every year – that is, as long as the Democrats stay in.

He seems to know just who’s going to die each year, and how much they’re going to leave.   Now, brother, that’s planning!  Now suppose, for instance, he’s got scheduled to die J. P. Morgan [or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett] in a certain year.  And you can bet if they can arrange it, they’ll have him die while the Democrats are in, so they can get the benefit of that estate.

Now while I think Mr. Morgan is a nice man, and his patriotism might compare with some of the rest of us, but whether he’d be patriotic enough to want to die on this year’s schedule just to balance the budget.   He might be rather unreasonable and not want to do it.  I say, old men is contrary.  And rich old men is awful contrary.   

So in order for [the Treasury Secretary’s] plan to work out a hundred percent, he’s got to bump these wealthy guys off, or something.   Well, now, the government’s doing everything else, you know, but there is a humane society.” Radio, April 28, 1935 [edited slightly]