Essay Response to 'Asymmetries in the Generation and Transmission of Wealth'
Ohio State Law Journal Furthermore, Vol. 79, 2018
7 Pages Posted: 10 May 2019
Date Written: 2018
What role should wealth transfer law play in reducing economic inequality? In “Asymmetries in the Generation and Transmission of Wealth,” Professor Felix Chang proposes thoughtful reforms to reduce economic inequality by altering the rules of wealth transmission. The current state of wealth inequality in the U.S. may, indeed, justify regulatory intervention, but this is a complex, subjective question. Consider, for example, a recent social policy experiment in which Yale Law School students self-identified as politically progressive but exhibited self-interested distribution preferences that favored efficiency over equality. Nonetheless, objective economic indicators published by French economist Thomas Piketty show that wealth inequality in the U.S. has, in fact, increased in recent years. That trend lends support for Chang’s normative claim of asymmetry between the regulation of wealth generation and transmission. In response to Chang’s call for redistributive reforms, this Essay proposes repackaging the federal wealth transfer tax structure and applying it to a postmortem system of “means testing” for federal entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare. This system would recapture federal entitlement benefits from wealthy decedent estates, but to protect the vested interests of aging current beneficiaries, postmortem means testing would have to be phased-in gradually by exempting anyone currently over the age of fifty.
Keywords: inequality, social security, medicare, estate tax, trusts, estates, wealth, tax
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation