Zinke calls estate tax “tax on the American dream” in House repeal

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1105 to repeal the estate tax. Before we go even one sentence further, know that the estate tax applies only to inheritances greater than $5.43 million. That’s very few; according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, approximately 0.2% of deaths in 2013 involved estates large enough to be taxed. Perhaps that’s why Republicans invariably refer to the estate tax as the Death Tax: 99.8% of Americans will not pass on taxable estates, but everybody dies. On Twitter, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) called it “a tax on the American Dream.” Speaking in favor of the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, he said:

“I rise to bring awareness to a pervasive tax that threatens the very livelihood of the future of generations of Montanans…This tax punishes Americans that have worked hard, played by the rules, and want to pass that legacy on to their children.”

I submit that 0.2% is “pervasive” the same way inheriting more than $5 million is the American dream.

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Friday links! Binary new world edition

Utopian dystopia

We know two things about the future: it’s coming, and it will be either all bad or all good. That second part is obvious from movies. Films about the future are either set in utopias (Star TrekGattaca2001: A Space Odyssey)—or dystopias (Aliens, IdiocracyBack to the Future.) It follows that at this moment, everything is either about to be fine or just setting off for hell in a handbasket. The odds of some problems getting better and others getting worse just doesn’t make sense. It’s an immense mathematical unlikelihood that the world would stay exactly as good as it is now. Today is Friday, and what comes after will surely be different. Won’t you call it in the air with me?

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Comity breaks down in Helena

A member plugs his ears as Rep. Geraldine Custer addresses the Montana State House.

A member plugs his ears as Rep. Geraldine Custer addresses the Montana State House.

This photo of how the sausage is made comes courtesy of Art Wittich’s Facebook page, in which he complains that his fellow Republican voted to “emasculate” his party’s leadership by supporting Medicaid expansion. That bill finally passed, but not before 49 Republicans voted to adjourn the entire 2015 session of the Montana legislature rather than see it debated on the House floor. Later that night, after moderates in the GOP joined Democrats to pass a bill central to his legislative agenda, Governor Bullock vetoed a modest Republican tax cut. With only a few weeks to go in our 90-day session, comity has disintegrated in Helena. You can read about it in this week’s column in the Missoula Independent, which also contains this wonderful quote by Rep. Randy Pinocci (R-Sun River):

“The majority of my constituents want smaller government. What does the taxpayer want? I hear every excuse, but we spend money on [expletive] that’s ridiculous. I want to go to the Deaf and Blind School and see if they’re struggling.”

I also apologize for erroneously claiming that Senator Steve Daines nourishes himself by lassoing rainbows and drinking their pigment. So it’s a lot of fun. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

US millennials far below average in literacy, numeracy, problem-solving

College

College

The nonprofit Educational Testing Service has released the results of its 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies among millennials, and the United States appears to be in trouble. American millennials ranked dead last in numeracy, behind Poland and the Slovak Republic in literacy, and second-to-last in “problem solving in technology-rich environments.” That third category finally gives the lie to “at least they know how to use computers.” It appears that American millennials don’t know how to do much of anything, despite achieving higher overall levels of education than any generation in history. Wrestling with declinism after the jump.

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Does the rhetoric of “privilege” take pressure off the 1%?

white-privelege

There are two ways to read this satisfyingly provocative essay in Jacobin. Connor Kilpatrick argues that the intellectual left’s relentless focus on privilege—white, male, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, college-educated, et cetera—substitutes an abstract problem for the concrete problem of political and economic dominance by the wealthiest 1% of American households. Privilege is a sideshow. At best, it encourages us to ignore the problems of the middle class in favor of the problems of the most destitute. He writes:

[Privilege] is an attempt to shame the middle class—those with some wealth but, relative to the top one or one-tenth of one percent, mere crumbs—to make them shut up about the rich and super rich and, instead, look at those below as a reminder that it could all be much worse.

Kilpatrick cites as an example this article from Vox, which quotes a TED talk by Alex Giridharadas re: who gets to feel indignant for being in the 99%. Infuriating quote after the jump.

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