Warren Buffett has done a fine thing in signing over billions to the Gates Foundation-but take his pronouncements on the death tax with a grain of salt:
“After signing over $30.7 billion to the Gates Foundation – and thus depriving the government of upward of $17 billion, depending on when he ultimately expires – Buffett told reporters, ‘I would hate to see the estate tax gutted. It’s a very equitable tax.’
“It’s understandable that Buffett believes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will do a better job spending his fortune than the U.S. Congress. For the impoverished, disease-stricken of Africa, the Gates Foundation is a far more reasonable source of hope than, say, the United Nations.
“Less understandable is Buffett’s opinion of the death tax, which he describes as an equalizer for newborns. …
“In fact, some Americans work their whole lives just for the satisfaction of knowing they’re leaving their children with greater comfort than they themselves had.
“Their children, that is, are their favor- ite charity – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Actually, it seems that even Buffett feels this way. Before signing over $30 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he made $1 billion pledges to foundations run by his children, Susie, Howard and Peter.
“‘Tax documents show that in 2004, Peter Buffett and his wife Jennifer each took a $40,000-a-year salary for what they reported was 30 hours a week each of work on the foundation,’ The New York Sun reported Monday.”