Your money or your life

The estate tax was suspended for 2010.  So Uncle Sam will not be sending a bill to the estate of anyone who dies this year. 

But as it stands now, it will be reinstated in 2011.  There is no tax on estates of $1 million or less.  But the tax is 55% of everything over $1 million.  So it will be a lot more expensive to die wealthy next year.

Which leads to an almost mind-boggling comment in a law firm newsletter I recently received:  “Some individuals already have amended their Living Wills to mandate that estate tax considerations be taken into account in their end-of-life decisions.”  In other words, some folks are telling their families to pull the plug before next January, in order to avoid the estate tax.

As a society, are we too obsessed with collecting and preserving money? 

Regular readers of this blog know that I used to rant a lot about taxes.  I still strongly object to almost all of them.  I detest the estate tax, for example, although I wouldn’t repeal it until the income tax is completely gone.  As bad as it is, I’d prefer the government tax the estates of dead rich people rather than confiscate the wages of the living. 

But I’m not going to go off on another anti-taxation rant.  Instead I just want to draw some attention to the mindset that would literally make life and death decisions dependent upon the tax consequences.  That, I submit, is powerful evidence of a messed up world.

Recently I saw an interview with Shane Claiborne in which he was asked if he thinks it is a sin to be rich.  He answered by quoting Rick Warren, “It’s not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to die rich.”

I don’t know if that’s true or not, and heaven knows I’m in no position to judge folks on that subject.  There is a plank in my eye I’d need to remove first.  But as I think about inherited wealth, and the lengths to which we go to preserve it, I think about this photo that our missionary friend Brittany posted on facebook this morning:

She found this little boy starving to death in an orphanage in Ouanaminthe.   He can be clothed, housed, fed and educated, in a loving environment, for about $100/month.  Suppose just a fraction of the money we spend in our country trying to find ways to more effectively hoarde wealth was spent saving the lives of children like this.  We could change the world.

Love Wins