As Jacobson, Raub, and Johnson have pointed out, supporters of these taxes have seen their moral purpose as “preventing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a relatively few powerful families.” It’s fair that very large estates should pay these taxes because they have benefited from the government’s work more than others. A few examples include government regulation of securities, police protection (having more property and wealth to protect than others), and low tax rates on capital gains income.
I don’t want America to be a country in which dynasties hand vast wealth down to their children while the rest of us tread water or fall into poverty.
The taxes should be called what they are: estate and inheritance taxes. If we want to make clear that only a few pay them, we could call them “taxes on very large estates and inheritances.”
The phrases “debt ceiling” and “debt limit” are misleading. While they make it sound as if Congress were debating whether to spend more money, raising this limit merely allows the U.S. Treasury to pay the bills that Federal law has required it to pay. It’s like paying off a credit card: Any additional debt incurred by the government compared to last year has already been billed and therefore must be paid. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains.
Progressives should avoid using these phrases because they confuse the public about what is happening and serve the interests of opponents. Instead, they should explain that the issue is whether the government should continue paying its bills on time and in full as it has for more than 200 years. Demanding legislative concessions first is irresponsible and unpatriotic because it shirks the duty of Congress to protect the credit rating of the United States.
Should it be known as the pay-the-bills measure or the billpay OK? What do you think?
UPDATE: The Omaha World-Heraldpublished a letter to the editor from me that reframes the debt ceiling as a billpay authorization.