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Jewish World Review April 10, 2000/ 5 Nissan, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports



When mourning becomes an economic tragedy -- A LOT OF WOMEN (and no doubt men) are tired of hearing the yakety-yak about "the women's vote.'' And why not? It assumes the worst kind of stereotyping.

The "soccer moms'' have supposedly morphed into "whipsawed women,'' a rather ungainly description for certain persons of the female persuasion who are identified by Democratic pollsters Geoff Garin and Celinda Lake as downscaled "cross-pressured'' soccer moms.

A whipsaw, as any tool-literate postmodern woman knows, is a narrow tapered saw with hooked teeth that moves in opposite directions. Not since Geoffrey Chaucer gave us the gapped-tooth Wife of Bath as a symbol for lust have women been so aggressively charged with such a toothy (not to say toothsome) metaphor.

These teeth-grinding women are said to prefer Democrats for social issues and Republicans for moral values. But who can separate the social from the moral? Judging by the questions they ask, the pollsters do.

Education, for example, is both a social and moral issue. Who doesn't want our kids to be well-educated in a disciplined environment conducive to effective learning and good conduct? It's difficult to see how this is more of a mother's issue than a father's issue, since lousy schools paid for by taxpayer money put pressure on the whole family to find the cash for private schools.

That's why George W. Bush is right about the appeal of vouchers, including those for parochial schools. This issue cuts across ideological lines. His call for faith-based community organizations to participate in after-school programs cuts across economic anxieties, too.

Women, like men, vote with their pocketbooks. A sleeper economic issue gaining attention on Capitol Hill and in the presidential campaign is the federal estate tax, or more aptly, the "death tax.''

Working men and women want their children, not the tax collector, to get the money they have worked for. That's what the American Dream is all about. But after a $650,000 exemption, the rate of tax is 37 percent and it gradually increases as the estate increases so that it runs as high as 55 percent. This not only punishes hard-working moms and dads who work for their children's future, but it often kills small family businesses and family farms, which must be sold to satisfy the death tax. It hits hardest the families whose major assets are land or other property. Whole families pay the price.

The death tax was once considered a tax for redistributing the wealth of the super rich, but the super rich can hire accountants and lawyers who are are clever enough to find loopholes, such as trusts. For all the grief it causes, the death tax generates less than one percent of all federal revenues.

In these days of prosperity, the death tax has become another heavy burden on the middle class, not the super rich, whose assets are in a family home and business. Who can be surprised that many of these middle-class folk have decided that it's no longer worth it to work so hard. If the bureaucrats are going to get it, they might as well spend it.

A new study shows how the death tax has specific negative effects on women-owned businesses and is perceived, legitimately, as a "women's issue'' because so many women have become entrepreneurs in an expanding prosperity.

The Center for the Study of Taxation surveyed approximately 272 family-owned businesses among members of the National Association of Women Business Owners. These women described how they resisted business expansion and the creation of new jobs because they were required to divert money and energy to work out plans for paying estate taxes. The number of additional jobs lost was estimated at more than 28,000. Four out of ten who were surveyed reported that their businesses would have to be sold to pay the federal estate tax at the death of a principal owner or owners.

When Steve Forbes campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination, his strongest issues were always the economic ones, and he brought crowds to laughter (and tears) with droll humor about the death tax. "No taxation,'' he cried, "without respiration.'' Elimination of the estate tax is one of the most popular ideas in George W.'s tax cut plan. Al Gore stands with the president in opposing it.

The death tax has been described appropriately as the hand of government reaching into the grave. Boomers who have enjoyed prosperous times but hardly consider themselves rich will be surprised to find out how small the actual inheritance they leave their children.

Mourning then becomes an electric personal loss -- and an economic disaster.


04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate