OP-ED: Restoring a Vibrant Middle Class

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"Imagine joining friends for a late-night game of Monopoly, but in this game, there's a twist: At the start of the game, one player gets an entire side of the game board, from Pacific Ave. to Boardwalk, including the Short Line railroad. Instead of pondering easy questions like whether to be the shoe or the thimble, you're now grappling with a more important question: Do you even stand a chance in such a lopsided game?

Monopoly Board GameAs you ponder the fairness of this board game, Congress is debating the very real future of our federal estate tax, a tax on inherited wealth designed in part to prevent one player from owning most of the board before the game even begins.

Recently, a new proposal was introduced in an effort to break through the stalemate that has led to the current tax holiday for the super wealthy. Because of the inability of Congress to reach agreement back in December, the year 2010 is slowly passing as the first since 1916 with no estate tax. Billions of dollars are now being transferred tax-free, while our national deficit grows. The heirs of the late Texas billionaire Dan Duncan stand to inherit, free of any estate tax, more than the average American earns in 4,000 lifetimes. No one questions the right of parents to pass on a legacy to their children, but how much is enough?

Despite its kitchen table status today, the Monopoly board game can trace its roots to Lizzie Magie, who created the game in 1903 as an educational tool to help people understand that free market economies, absent rules to ensure otherwise, naturally move toward monopoly control as wealth is increasingly concentrated into the hands of the few. It takes public policies, from anti-monopoly rules to progressive tax systems, to protect free markets from this self-destructive tendency. The fact is: any economic system is effective only to the extent that its more extreme aspects are reined in. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Brian Miller, Executive Director of UFE


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