Do the Rich Owe America for Their Fortunes? (WSJ blog)

"United For a Fair Economy, the left-leaning policy group, held a press call Tuesday to argue for preserving the estate tax before it temporarily expires in 2010.

During the call, Vanguard-founder [John] Bogle made an interesting argument for why the wealthy should pay the tax. In short, he said the wealthy owe a large part of their fortune to the country and its government.

[Bogle stated,] 'Our birthright has created enormous wealth and stability of property and for us to think that we don’t want to pay our fair share of the costs running this nation when our young citizens, let us not forget, are dying in wars out there trying to protect democracy and the nation we built up, it seems to be quite outrageous.'

Bill Gates Sr., father of the Microsoft founder, made a similar argument. He cited economists who estimate that the nation’s stable market for goods and assets adds 30% to the goods we own.

He said 50% of the annual growth in our economy is a function of new technology...often created with government support [...]

'The largest and most generous venture capitalist in the universe is Uncle Sam,' he said. 'And it’s clear that those who become wealthy did not do it alone. The people owe something back to society that enables them to create that wealth.'"

Read the full blog by Robert Frank on Wall Street Journal Blogs.

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