With Philosophies Aside, Compromise Achievable

Tina Haapala |

Every week, I meet with a group I belong to called the Associated Business Partners. Each time we have a designated presenter with a specific topic to discuss,  but frequently, the discussion becomes a free-for-all. I think we often violate every rule for effective meetings, and love doing so.
During one meeting a while back we covered topics as diverse as the sociological and behavioral aspects of online gaming, client advisory boards, and estate taxation.  Some of the group said that the new estate tax exemption of over $5 million was way too high. Their argument was that almost no one would end up owing the tax and thus massive amounts of wealth would end up in the hands of those who did nothing to earn it.
The arguments on the other side came down to two: First, a lot of that money had already been taxed when it was earned; and secondly, the person who earned it should be the one who decides where it should go, not the government.
Whether you want to make the dividing line Capitalist/Socialist, Republican/Democrat, or Conservative/Liberal, we see in these and other arguments two very different philosophies at play in our nation. How much of a person’s success is due to their own efforts as compared to the systems and infrastructure that society has provided them? How much is “too much” when it comes to income and assets? Is your success in life due to your hard work, your work ethic, and your good habits? Or did your successes or failures evolve through a random and uncontrollable mix of your genetics and upbringing? Of course, the question then becomes if you should be “rewarded” any differently based on the answers to those queries. No matter the prevailing philosophical arena, we then ask what’s more important: Individuals who want to take care of their families and  themselves first and society second, or a society whose primary mission is to take care of All, no matter the cost?
These ideologies are prevalent around the world, have been around for a long time, and have very smart, responsible, honorable folks who believe in them. (Though generally each side thinks the other is rather idiotic.) No one I know is all the way on one side or the other in these and other beliefs that might influence their opinion on estate taxation. Instead our opinions are distributed across a wide range of ideas and ideals.
The estate tax issue seems to be settled (at least as long as any tax issue is “permanent”). Now there are many other decisions on revenue and spending that our law makers will be deciding over the next few months. Have you considered what you believe, your philosophy? Like most, I doubt that you are firmly planted on one side of the issue. Compromise is more easily found in those areas closest to the middle. And since any solution will involve compromise, your elected representatives can use your input. Let them know you support a solution, even one that is not firmly planted on one side of an issue.

This article was published  in the Wichita Falls Times Record Newson February 3, 2013.