|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]