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Bill Gates Sr fights Dubya's estate-tax ban

His kid's rich enough, apparently

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The father of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has initiated a high-minded petition to fight Dubya's proposed estate-tax cuts and has enlisted support from some of America's wealthiest Vulgarians, though not his own son, the New York Times reports.

The senior Gates was a successful lawyer in Seattle for decades and earned himself a quite respectable nest egg independent of his son's vast fortune.

The petition will appear as an advertisement in several US newspapers on Sunday.

"Repealing the estate tax would enrich the heirs of America's millionaires and billionaires while hurting families who struggle to make ends meet," the petition reportedly says.

According to Gates' reckoning, if the estate tax goes, then the poor will have to be taxed more or be offered less in crucial social services.

Furthermore, charitable giving will be discouraged, as it is one of the ways the rich can decrease their estate-tax burden.

Signatories include George Soros, David Rockefeller Jr, Steven Rockefeller, Agnes Gund, and ice-cream magnate Ben Cohen, the Times notes. Billionaire Warren Buffet declined to add his signature because he doesn't believe the petition goes far enough, the paper says.

The junior Gates is not involved, but Dad was ready with an explanation. "My son is sympathetic but he wants to stay focused on three things: his family, Microsoft and world health," the Times quotes him as saying.

Quite right: picking up a pen and signing a petition would undoubtedly create an intolerable distraction.

Now, before all the high-mindedness makes us toss our cookies, we might consider how easy it is for the very rich to take such an apparently noble position on social responsibility. Their descendants will inherit at least the means to do well, estate tax or none; but the merely rich, particularly those with family-owned businesses, may not be so lucky.

It's not unknown for small to medium-sized businesses to 'downsize' (sack people) or even go bankrupt under the burden of death duties when the patriarch dies.

Perhaps, then, the estate tax should be reserved solely for the super-rich. Maybe it should even be increased for them, so they can better enjoy its many blessings, soon to be enumerated in Gates Sr's published petition. ®

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