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Is Envy More Important than Prosperity?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is making a name for himself.

He wants taxes raised on wealthy Americans and is one of the more vocal opponents to the deal that would retain current tax rates for everyone.

“An estate tax cut for millionaires adds exactly zero jobs. A tax cut for billionaires – virtually none,” says the congressman.

But what does Weiner know about job creation, about work, about being an entrepreneur?

Looking over his resume, you see he’s never held a private sector job.

Right out of college, he went to work on the staff of then-Congressmen Chuck Schumer, followed by six years serving on New York’s city council, and then ran for congress in 1999, capturing the seat he currently holds.

Mr. Weiner is a politically ambitious young man who has built power and career by confiscating and redistributing other people’s money.

Consider who the wealthy are that Weiner wants to punish.

Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book called “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy”.

They produced a portrait of who America’s millionaires are and show that by and large these are quiet, understated, self-reliant Americans who are committed to hard work, education, and family.

Their portrait shows that eighty percent of our millionaires are first generation affluent, that less than half received a cent in inheritance funds, and only 19% get any income from a trust fund or estate.

Most Americans – 80% - are not self-employed. But of those that are, two thirds are our millionaires.

Seventy five percent of these self-employed millionaires are entrepreneurs and the remaining quarter are self-employed professionals like doctors and accounts.

These are overwhelmingly self-made individuals, by a large founders and proprietors of prosaic businesses like “welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers and paving contractors.”

Sure, we have high profile billionaires in America. But most of America’s millionaires, those whose income is in the $250,000 and above category whose taxes Anthony Weiner wants to raise, are our nation’s bread and butter entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Regarding the estate tax, or what has come to be known as the death tax, it is probably, of all the ways in which our government takes revenue, the most immoral.

As noted, 80% of millionaires are first generation and two thirds are entrepreneurs. The death tax punishes the very behavior that defines the economic heart and soul of American prosperity.

But perhaps worse, it attacks our most important social institution – the American family.

A recent Pew Research Center/Time Magazine report shows the collapse over the last half century of the traditional American family.

Today 52% of adult Americans are married compared to 72% in 1960. Forty one percent of our babies today are born to unwed mothers compared to 5% in 1960.

It was once a given in our nation that there were inviolable truths that precede government. Once most believed that one of those truths was the integrity of the American family.

The death tax tells us that that government now supersedes family. That politicians like Anthony Weiner can go inside of a family and confiscate the wealth that a breadwinner has accumulated over a lifetime of hard work and prevent parents from freely passing the fruits of their labor on to their children.

Three of four Americans say that the country today is on the wrong track.

The key question today is where we want to go and what it takes to get there.

If we want to get back to prosperity, then it should be axiomatic that protecting freedom, entrepreneurship and family is the answer. Not the politics of power and envy.

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