“The idea behind the estate tax is to prevent the very wealthy among us from accumulating vast fortunes that they can pass along to the next generation,” said Patrick Lester, director of Federal Fiscal Policy with the progressive think tank — OMB Watch. “The poster child for the estate tax is Paris Hilton — the celebrity and hotel heiress. That’s who this is targeted at, not ordinary Americans.”[emp added]
This is just one problem with that little story:
Conrad Nicholson Hilton (December 25, 1887 – January 3, 1979) was an American hotelier. He is well known for being the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.
In 1979, Hilton died of natural causes at the age of 91. He is interred at Calvary Hill Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Dallas, Texas. He left $500,000 to each of his two surviving siblings and $10,000 to each of his nieces, nephews and to his daughter Francesca. The bulk of his estate was left to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which he established in 1944. His son, Barron Hilton, who spent much of his career helping build the Hilton Hotels Corporation, contested the will, despite being left the company as acting President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Directors. A settlement was reached and, as a result, Barron Hilton received 4 million shares of the hotel enterprise, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation received 3.5 million shares, and the remaining 6 million shares were placed in the W. Barron Hilton Charitable Remainder Unitrust. Upon Barron Hilton’s death, Unitrust assets will be transferred to the Hilton Foundation, of which Barron sits on the Board of Directors as Chairman.
On December 25, 2007, Barron Hilton announced that he would leave about 97% of his fortune (estimated at $2.3 billion), to a charitable unitrust which would eventually be merged with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. By leaving his estate to the Foundation, Barron not only donated the fortune he had amassed on his own, but also returned to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation the Hilton family fortune amassed by his father, which otherwise would have been gone to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation 30 years previously had Barron not contested his father’s will.[emp added]
So, not only has Paris Hilton not inherited anything yet, because her grandfather is still alive, she won’t inherit anything major ever. It all goes to charity. Paris Hilton is a sleazoid, but she is a largely a self-made sleazoid. Her personal financial assets are almost entirely the result of her leveraging her, uh, other assets via secret sex tape into a bizarre celebrity career. She’s worth several hundred million now, none of it inherited.
Paris Hilton has been trotted out by Leftists for years as an example of the need for the death tax and yet apparently none of them bothered to actually check if she was actually an heiress. The elite Democrats who carefully construct the party’s talking points, don’t seem to even bother to check Wikipedia. (Or they do and just assume that the average Leftist voter won’t.)
The real point of interest here is not the inanity of the death tax, but rather the studied indifference of the Democrats and Leftists in general to actually studying the wealthy and telling the truth about them.
Leftists tell us repeatedly that wealthy business people are literally the source of all the world’s woes, both present and historical. Leftists continuously assert that the wealthy form a coherent and self-reinforcing class who systematically plots against and exploits the rest of the population. Contemporary Leftism basically boils down to the assertion that we non-wealthy need a powerful, invasive Leftists controlled super state to protect us from the evil wealthy.
Given that their ideology hinges on the premise that the government must protect us from the wealthy, you would think that they would invest a great deal of time and money in the deep, scientific study of the behavior of the wealthy. Yet they don’t. There is only one existing scientific study of the wealthy, Thomas J. Stanley’s The Millionare Mind, and even that one is a fairly limited study based on a self-selected population of millionaires answering a questionnaire.
By contrast, Leftists have churned out hundreds of thousands of studies of the poor, middle-class and just about everyone in the world except the wealthy, especially the American wealthy. The hole in the data is glaring and obvious. It’s like listening to a medical researcher going on and on about the horrors of AIDS only to discover that in his lab, he spends all his time studying fleas on hamsters.
The obvious explanation is the the Left doesn’t study the wealthy scientifically, systematically or, at all, because they are afraid of what they might find. Stanley’s work reported that 65% of American millionaires are self-made having worked 60+ hours a week for 20 years or more building a business. Most live far below their means with only a upper middle-class lifestyle. Such hard working, job creating, thrifty people would be hard to vilify in a political debate.
Instead, the Left relies wholly on stereotypes, rumor and literary tropes to cast the terms of the debate. The Left is in the business of savagely attacking and looting the core economic-creatives of our economy. If the science reported that the wealthy earn their wealth by being significantly and disproportionately more productive than the rest of us, the Left would be finished. They don’t want a real scientific model of how these people came to be wealthy. Such a model might not say what the Left wants it to say. Instead, they want a fantasy narrative that they and they alone control
In the Democrat’s fictional, fantasy narrative, Paris Hilton is a archetypical spoiled-little-miss-rich-bitch who obviously doesn’t deserve a billion dollar windfall just because of who her great-grandaddy was. That fictional narrative will sell the tax increase that will provide the mound of cash the Democrats so desperately want to get their hands on. The fact of Conrad Hilton being a self-made man who started the Hilton chain in backwater Cisco, Tx and who worked for decades creating much of the modern hotel industry, doesn’t justify as much looting. The fact that he left it all to charity, really, really doesn’t fit the fictional narrative of a wealthy, evil capitalist. The suggestion that sleezoid Paris Hilton owes her current wealth more to Feminist and other Leftists who tore down traditional sexual mores while glorifying porn and self-indulgent promiscuous sexuality, actively hurts. No, better the debate stay in the realm of fiction.
Even if they are forced to admit that Paris is not the fictional character they claimed, they will airily assert with a casual wave of the hand that there are large numbers of other heirs out there who could fulfill the role. What they won’t do is actually try to test that assertion scientifically. They don’t want to risk finding an “inconvenient truth” and tearing another hole in their plot.
It’s not just the issue of the wealthy and death taxes that Leftists turn into moralistic fictional narratives. They do it for everything from alternative energy to war to history. Unlike the rest of us, Leftists politicians, activist and intellectuals, pay no natural penalty for treating fictional narratives as fact. As long as enough people mistake the fantasy for reality, they can weave vast fantasies e.g. Freudianism, over the course of many decades and prosper doing so. When a particular narrative no longer serves its purpose e.g. American military people turning into Nazis in Vietnam, they just drop it down the memory hole , invent another and pretend the old story never really had any importance.
For Leftists, the fictional narrative is everything. The fiction is their truth, the truth they absolutely believe…for now. Orwell warned us about this.
Fictional narratives, cultural stereotypes and outright bigotry are not the basis for a sound and just tax policy. They’re just the basis of the Left’s success.