Food for Thought from a Slate Article

Now and then you read a post on the web that DOES make you think in a little different direction than you have been thinking.

An example for me is an article I just read in Slate called The Republican Death Machine by Jacob Weisberg.

It takes off with Senator Charles Grassley telling a Town Hall meeting that Obama was going to “Pull the plug on grandma,” and then continues into a new direction:

It was Sen. Grassley himself who rammed the GOP’s most astonishing pro-death policy through the Senate in 2001. The estate-tax revision he championed reduces the estate tax to zero next year. But when the law expires at year’s end, the tax will jump back up to its previous level of 55 percent. Grassley’s exploding offer has an entirely foreseen if unintended consequence: It’s going to encourage those whose parents and grandparents are worth anything more than a million bucks to get them dead by midnight on Dec. 31, 2010.

Just the idea of some greedy youngsters wanting to make sure Mom and Pop have folded their tents in time for the kiddies to earn the big bucks tax free is chilling. Weisberg goes on with this:

In a 2001 paper titled “Dying To Save Taxes,” Wojciech Kopczuk and Joel Slemrod examined 13 tax changes since 1917 and concluded that “for individuals dying within two weeks of a tax reform, a $10,000 potential tax savings … increases the probability of dying in the lower-tax regime by 1.6 percent.” A 2006 study done in Australia, which abolished its inheritance tax in 1979, reached the same conclusion: “a statistically significant effect of the abolition of inheritance taxes on the number of deaths.” More than half the people who, according to statistics, ordinarily would have paid the Aussie inheritance tax in its final week managed to evade it by living a bit longer. Here, Congress has created an incentive for Grandma to stick around through Jan. 1, 2010, then snuff it before the end of next year.

He discusses Social Security which, since it was enacted, has had the effect that people live longer and it has pushed death rates at ages that were previously high down to more reasonable levels. When Republicans started to campaign for privatizing Social Security, income security for the elderly would probably be lost and death rates would rise at earlier ages. Ah, the joy of statistics!

So the question is:

Why are Republicans trying to kill America’s old people? After all, senior citizens are more likely to vote for the GOP than for Democrats. They were the only substantial demographic segment John McCain won in 2008. You’d think Republicans would want them to hang on as long as possible. The problem is that because of the Democratic programs Social Security and Medicare, the aged are expensive for government to keep around.

Speaking as one of the getting more elderly everyday crowd, it is clear to me why I am a Democrat. And when I hear the folks on the Right push the “Obama is out to get Grandma” routine, I can show that it is the other way ’round.

About btchakir

Retired Theatre Producer, Graphic Designer, Usability Tester and General Troubleshooter with a keen interest in Politics and The Stage. Currently heard on WSHC, 89.7 FM (on line at and occasionally dabbling in Community Theatre.

Posted on August 29, 2009, in Economics, Health Care, Politics, Word from Bill and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great blog post, Bill. You’re not just kidding it’s food for thought. Did Grassley know about the 55% in 2010? Seems to me he shoves his foot in his mouth and thinks later. Just what we need.


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