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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 1999 /8 Kislev, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Trump's tax on freedom -- WHAT IS IT THAT CAUSES so many rich guys who acquired their wealth through the capitalistic system to favor ideas hostile to that system? Could it be guilt? Vanity? The thirst for power once they've conquered the material world?

In Donald Trump's case, I doubt that the first one applies. But a combination of the other two is more than plausible. Many buildings are named after their charitable donors.

Well, perhaps Trump is expecting the nation to rename itself after him if he succeeds in bringing his master plan to fruition. No one ever accused the Donald of thinking too small.

Trump was certainly quick to denigrate George Bush for failing to evade that irksome reporter's pop quiz the other day. It's easy for him and others to say how they would have reacted had they been blindsided by the likes of Andy Hiller.

Trump says he would never have participated in such a "history test." No, he wouldn't have done anything so foolish. Yet, in the very same week, he unveiled his martyrdom-seeking, federal-debt-erasing, soak-the-rich assets tax. And he and his supermodel girlfriend (and potential first lady) engaged in graphic on-air discussions about their "exceptional" sex life on shock-jock Howard Stern's radio program.

Trump, having announced his intention to seek the Reform Party presidential nomination, has devised a plan that fits nicely within that party's non-platform platform. Reformers claim to decry the national debt. In fact, that's one of the main reasons ol' Ross decided to get under the country's hood in the first place.

The national debt is approximately $5.7 trillion. Trump proposed that the government impose a one-time 14.25 percent tax on the assets of individuals and trusts worth $10 million or more. He claims it would eliminate the debt and thereby save the nation $200 billion in annual interest, which could be used for tax cuts and shoring up Social Security.

Many economists say this kind of tax would require an incredible asset sell-off and most likely crash the stock market. I wonder if the greedy government would also double-dip by taxing the capital gains on the asset sales necessary to obtain the liquidity to pay the assets tax.

There is also a serious question as to whether the tax would be constitutional. But most disturbing is that it clearly undermines the notion of private property -- even worse than the estate and gift taxes because there is no transfer involved. It's just a tax on the status of the property itself, property that has been acquired, in most cases, with after-tax dollars. Are we supposed to close our eyes to the obviously anti-capitalistic nature of this scheme because it is being proposed by a super-capitalist (after he's made and inherited his wealth through the system)?

There's another equally troublesome aspect of this plan. It is based on the assumption that deficit spending and accumulated debt by the government are wrong, or at least ill advised and irresponsible. Yet, Trump's proposal rewards this behavior and encourages it in the future. The government that created the mess gets off scot-free, and those who had nothing to do with it are punished.

In other words, if all the government has to do to rectify the monstrous deficits it creates is to confiscate private property from its citizens who had no complicity in the wrongdoing, we are condoning and perpetuating this evil.

At least with bankruptcy law, the people who get burned are those (creditors) who had some dealings with the bankrupt with respect to the debts being discharged. Here, the only infraction committed by those being punished is that they have wealth. But considering today's mores, I suppose being rich is indeed one of the most unforgivable crimes.

Of all people, Donald Trump should understand that the concept of private property is essential to our economic liberties. How can an entrepreneur of his stature be oblivious to the perilousness of such a plan to our freedoms?

Economist F. A. Hayek warned "what our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom."

Of course, Karl Marx understood this well. That's why he proposed the abolition of private property.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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