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Letters to the Editor

Monday May 28, 2001

Estate tax is killing family owned business 



Bill Gates Sr. is wrong about The estate tax. He is a lawyer and lawyers consider form more important than substance. He said that family farms are not affected by the estate tax. This is an outright lie. Family farms have been devastated. Lawyers have no clue how a family a family business works. All of us American work and produce food, housing, products, services, etc. and lawyers feed off of our hard work. 

Since 1960 we have lost 80 percent of American larger family businesses because of the estate taxes. All we have now are big stores like Costco, Target, Albertson’s, Safeway, WalMart, etc. Local factories have been liquidated or sold to big corporations because of estate taxes after death or sold out before death in order to avoid estate taxes. The big corporations then manufacture the goods off shore. 

A very small minority of estates have been affected by the estate tax, 1.5- to 2-percent of the estates after death and about 2- to 2.5 percent of estates before death each year, but this adds up to 80 percent of our larger local family businesses since 1960. 

This is communism. Stalin did this in order to keep central control. Lawyers do it because they collect money from everybody. Now we have central control by big corporations and big government. This is not good and it is all because of the estate tax. We must have local family business control. Lawyers and big business corporations do not prosper with local control. 

Here is a scenario of what happens to a larger local family business. A father and mother start a small business 50 years ago. Their supermarket keeps growing because of hard work. The son and daughter start working there when they are small. The whole family works very hard. They keep enlarging the store. Eventually they buy 10 acres, build a big store and build a small shopping center around the store with six small rented stores. The business that started with nothing is now worth $9 million. The father dies. His estate is worth $4.5 million. The exemption is $.7 million. The family must pay 55 percent of the $3.8 million, or $2 million. They mortgage everything and pay the $2 million estate tax. Next year the mother dies. Another $2 million is due. What do they do? They sell out to Albertson’s. 

During the last 40 years, because of the estate tax, the big corporations have changed the ratio of personal income tax to corporation tax. In 1960 the corporation tax and personal income tax was about the same. Last year the corporation tax was $200 billion and the personal income tax was $1 trillion. Lawyers like Gates and the big corporations are underpaying their tax by $800 billion each year. Lawyers and Microsoft pay little or no tax because of trusts and tax law manipulation. This is all because we have allowed the estate tax to destroy our larger local family businesses who pay their full taxes. Last year, the estate tax and the gift tax combined was only $29 billion. This is nothing! 

If we could resurrect all of the large family owned community businesses that the estate tax has killed, we would be collecting an extra $250 billion per year. This is more than all the large corporations, who are cheating us out of $800 billion per year, are now paying us with the $200 billion we now collect from them. Stop the estate tax. The estate tax is a freedom killer!  


Mike Vukelich 

El Sobrante 




doctor shortage is a crisis too 




The time has arrived when health care consumers truly reap what has been sown, regardless of whom you blame for planting the seeds. Medical doctors have been leaving Bay Area and California hospital staffs faster than they are joining — the average age of internists and family practitioners at community hospitals in this area rises every year. Those physicians who stay in practice here have little or no success in recruiting new associates to join them after the recruits consider their medical school loan balances, the high cost of living and housing in the Bay Area, and the fact that they can earn a much higher salary almost anywhere else in the country. 

So, the doctors who remain try to be creative in order to stay in practice. 

But I do not believe patients will be pleased with the latest innovation in medical care: Hospitalists! Within a few days at Berkeley’s Alta Bates Medical Center, where I have been practicing with an excellent record for over 25 years, my colleagues and I will no longer be able to deliver medical care to the vast majority of our hospitalized patients. Not because of the quality of care we deliver, not because we are too busy to go to the hospital, but because the hospitalist (who works only in the hospital, renders no continuing medical care, and goes home at the end of his or her shift) might be able to see our patients a little earlier in the day. That earlier visit might result in a slightly earlier discharge from the hospital, and that might save some money!  

Never mind the comfort most patients derive from continuing care by their long-time physicians. Never mind the complications that might be prevented by having the physician who already knows the patient actually care for the hospitalized patient. Never mind how much harder it will be to recruit new doctors when they find out we only want them to do half the doctor’s job. Continuity of care might be great for patient health, but let’s get real here. It’s not cost efficient! 

California has decided to spend more money to make up for the power shortage. What about the current and worsening doctor shortage? 

Stephen J. Whitgob, M.D. 




If you don’t like the power crisis — then revolt! 


As our electricity rates keep going up, the price of natural gas keeps increasing, the cost of gasoline keeps rising, and pretty soon all the manufacturer will begin raising their prices because their fuel cost are going up, some people will complain about “overcharging” and “price-gouging.” But this is unfair. What we are seeing is only the normal workings of a profit-oriented economy, in which every business exercises its God-given right to maximize its profits by any means. 

The morality of this system, whose generic name is “capitalism,” is based on greed, although it is supported by all major religions. 

The basic idea is that it is fitting and proper and desirable that a small, elite portion of the population should live in luxury and enjoy great wealth and power by appropriating the major share of everything produced by the rest of us. 

But this is not the only way things can be organized. And if enough people get really fed up with what the system is doing to us, we can always exercise our constitutional right to change it. 

Or our revolutionary right to overthrow it. 


Marion Syrek