I know, I know, advancing such a policy is not very realistic for the near future. After all, we can barely get moderately liberal policies passed, things that have been a part of the Party's platform for decades now.
Then again, it doesn't hurt to put it out there. After all, in a world where we have politicians who want to legalize rape, how extreme could reforming the inheritance system really be?
And a policy as bold as this one is bound to draw howls of Communism or Socialism or Fascism from the other side of the aisle. And I make no apologies for its extremely redistributionist nature.
Then again, even the most mundane of policies, such as the arguably modest immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act, expading Medicaid and Social Security, and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, even they draw similar breathless howls of protest. So if they're gonna shout down our Progressive policies anyways, why not introduce one that actually makes no qualms about being Progressive?
But the thing is, that's kind of the point I'm trying to make here. See, the media is trying to push this narrative that the Democrats have a Tea Party problem of their own. They point to the rise of uncharacteristically Liberal candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, and try to draw a comparison to the rise of the Tea Party in the GOP.
But the problem I see with that is, representatives like Warren and de Blasio, Sherrod Brown and Barney Frank, sure they are pretty unabashedly Liberal, or at least, more than we're used to seeing; but nothing they propose compares at all to most of the extreme policies for which the Tea Party advocates.
They strongly push for a bill that would ease the student loan crisis plaguing America's youth. I'm pretty sure such a bill would help Democratic and Republican families alike. And of course, we all remember the big stink about expanding Social Security; this is actually something that a majority of Americans support. They want to raise the minimum wage, also a popular move.
In other words, the media is trying to paint these as extreme positions; I guess compared to what Democrats have been pushing in the past, they are. But they're actually pretty well aligned with popular opinion, making them not fringe at all.
So perhaps the media needs a recalibration on just where the Left's fringe element is. Maybe we need to start stocking up our own extreme policies, akin to the Tea Party's endless array of government shutdowns, conspiracy theories and ultimatums. Maybe then the media might start to get the idea that, hey, raising the minimum wage, closing some tax loopholes, that's some reasonable shit compared to what the actual Liberals would push if they had more control. Why the hell don't Moderates and Conservatives make some compromises now, or else they'll have to eat something even nastier than simply raising the minimum wage or expanding social security or raising the debt ceiling?
Well, I think we all know by now how realistic any of that is, either.
Here's my proposal to reform the inheritance system by the way. I got so caught up in the politics that I almost forgot the substance.
Simply put, there is a limit to how much you can leave to your survivors, say, 100 grand per family member. And the definition of family member can be left loose, to avoid all the legal battles. If you want to include some distant cousins, the guy who walks your dog, that's fine. Perhaps the nominal value can go up along with inflation, or perhaps more fittingly, along with the minimum wage. The point is, the offspring will be left enough that they won't reasonably be out on the street and starving, but no longer will they be able to inherit vast accumulated fortunes through no other reason than fortuitous conception.
Everything else you own at the time of your death, gets liquidated and returned to government programs, to go toward the benefit of society. In keeping with the spirit of bequeathing wealth to one's progeny, the majority of funds collected from this can go towards youth enrichment programs, school breakfast and lunch programs, and funding education in general.
Furthermore, this would encourage our country's wealthiest people, as they age and become less able to enjoy the vast riches they have accumulated, to spend it before they are old and on the verge of returning it to the government. After all, they spent so much time and effort paying as little of it in taxes as possible, it only makes sense they would rather spend it on themselves, their family and friends, maybe even a charity or two. But hey, even if it doesn't go back to the government, that's money that they've spent years keeping out of the economy, now going back in. In other words, it's being spent rather than becoming the source of another generation's money horde.
And let's look at how this fits in with the Conservative mindset. At all times, Conservatives want to drill this message into us, that they are these firm believers in working and earning your way to success. Ostensibly, they are all about self-made men and sometimes women.
Well, it seems to me, inheriting vast fortunes from someone else's hard work (and we can sidestep the debate over whether a significant portion of that is even from capitalizing on other people's hard work, or just straight up money laundering and tax evasion schemes) goes against this core Conservative principle.
What arguments do they really have against reforming this incredibly unjust system? That taking away inheritance is Redistributionist, it's Socialist, and not the American Way? Please. I'm not going to get into such a debate with the people who profit from the most lucrative Redistribution of wealth of all.
Of course, there are still some reasonable criticisms of such a plan. Might such a system encourage the wealthy to hide their assets even more than they do now? Might they find similar loopholes as they do in most other American system to avoid the penalties? Of course, we shouldn't have to get into these nitty gritty details unless support for inheritance reform ever grows past, say the handful of people who read this post. So I don't want to deny that this policy is not perfect, what policy ever is, but for the political purposes of this policy, the criticisms are technically irrelevant.
Again, to reiterate what I said earlier, I do not think pushing this into actual legislation, or making it a part of any candidate currently running's platform, is my goal here. The point is to blow up the narrative that what we have going now is all that Liberal. It's not.
Let's not forget that the Affordable Care Act is a Conservative plan, engineered by the Conservative Heritage Foundation. Immigration Reform is not that far off. Our tax system isn't really all that progressive either. And yet still we get maximum resistance against improving all of these.
I would be just as happy seeing any progress at all on any of these fronts being made.
But if we are going to go up to bat, and all we are doing is protecting the plate, and hit some base hits every now and then, but most of the time strike out or pop fly, I have to wonder why we don't just start off swinging for the fences in the first place.
8:27 PM PT: First of all, I am extremely grateful for the Diary Rescue. It has allowed many members of the Dailykos community to weigh in, and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts, and also all the constructive responses. Posting here remains one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
As has been discussed in the comments, I am willing to concede that the 100k limit I set was far too low. I also ommitted a lot of technical caveats that would have perhaps made more readers a bit more sanguine about this idea. But I am not too wedded to any of the technical aspects of the proposal. The point of all this, for me, was to address a glaring monolith of excess in our continued quest for a more Progressive society.
It goes without saying, I would not want this policy to make much of a difference in the lives of the majority of Americans who work hard to have something to leave to their children, to make sure their children are reasonably well taken care of. Whatever the limit has to be raised to so that the large majority of Americans do not even have to worry about such a cap, I am for that.
What this is meant to really address, is the obscenely large sums of money (or bonds or stock options or whatever) that the wealthiest 1% or 0.1% or 0.01% leave to their children, who then can largely live a life of leisure, and still have something left stashed away to even leave their children. That any single person can inherit so much money that they didn't themselves work to earn, and never have to conceivably contribute anything to society of their own, to me, smacks of the utmost injustice.
And no, I would not frame it as any sort of punishment for the 1% and their family. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that their vast accumulations of wealth did not come from their efforts alone. It also comes in part from the labors, the services, the schooling, the support systems, and the consumers, of our society.
If there is another mechanism by which to address this injustice other than the process I suggested, by all means, I would love to hear about it and champion that one instead.
Perhaps ideas like the one I suggest seem like political suicide, and flirt with the idea of class warfare against the wealthy. Very well. I make no illusions about where I stand on how Democrats should treat class warfare.
But let's not pretend that just because an obviously unjust problem would be technically or politically difficult to address, means that we shouldn't try to figure out how to fix that problem. Otherwise, what point is there at all to anything we Liberals aim to do?