News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2006


Eliminate unfair death tax and hike minimum wage

Two defining debates in Congress this week pit those who have money directly against those of American society who are the poorest.

In the House, it was elimination of the estate tax, or death tax, that energized the Republican majority.

In the Senate, it was the threat that the minimum wage of $5.15 might climb for the first time in almost a decade.

Both proposals need to pass. The death tax is blatantly unfair and is a means of redistributing the wealth. But also unfair is the present minimum wage that in some measure contributes to the accumulation of wealth by people who could afford to pay better wages.

Present law exempts $2 million of an individual's estate and $4 million of a couple's fortune. Some proposals would raise those amounts while others would eliminate them.

The argument against raising the minimum wage is that doing so would eliminate jobs because employers would lay off workers to balance their payrolls.

"For every increase you make in the minimum wage, you will cost some of them their jobs," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

That's pure nonsense if you also buy the theory that illegal workers overrun the nation because they fill jobs that otherwise would go begging.

Elimination or a significant adjustment is due in the estate tax. But so is an increase long overdue in the minimum wage. A full-time worker with a spouse and child and who makes minimum wage lives about $6,000 below the poverty line and on taxpayer subsidies.

The dichotomy here suggests something ugly about the American soul.

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