Maybe it’s because I was a history major in undergrad at Miami University, but I thought this was one of the most interesting PolitFact articles so far since the Plain Dealer started it.
During the press conference unveiling their plans to repeal estate tax, State Rep. Jay Hottinger attributed a quote to Ben Franklin about the only thing certain in life was “death and taxes.” Hottinger’s implication was that Founding Fathers like Franklin opposed inheritance or estate taxes.
Well, the PD’s PolitiFact dusted off the history books and found that Hottinger was wrong. Horribly, Glenn Beck ignorant level wrong:
In a letter to Robert Morris in 1783, Franklin wrote about the right of the public to regulate property passing to heirs: "All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it."
Basic property necessary for man to live should be left alone, Franklin wrote. But he continued that "all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition."
We thought one sentence has particular relevant here: "Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it."
In the book "Wealth and Our Commonwealth," William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins write: "The nation’s founders and populace viewed excessive concentrations of wealth as incompatible with the ideals of the new nation. Revolutionary era visitors to Europe, including Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, and Ben Franklin, were aghast at the wide disparities of wealth and poverty they observed. They surmised that these great European inequalities were the result of an aristocratic system of land transfers, hereditary political power, and monopoly."
Yeah, it seems to be forgotten that while folks like Franklin were considered “wealthy” by American societal standards at the time, their revolution was born from frustration by aristocracy that created monopolistic economic and political family dynasties.
If the Founding Fathers were in office today, Glenn Beck would be screaming about how Franklin was a womanizing socialist.
In the future, conservatives will be misquoting Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to support positions they never supported in their lives, too.