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Teddy Roosevelt on the Estate Tax, 100 Years Ago

(AP Photo)

We speak Wednesday about the estate tax debate in Congress. That tussle comes 100 years after then ex-President Teddy Roosevelt gave his famous “New Nationalism” speech, in which he discussed how America should deal with fortunes and inheritance.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT ON THE ESTATE TAX, 1910:

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community … The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and … a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

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