There are millions of Americans without adequate healthcare and potentially millions more soon to be added to their ranks. There are tens of millions of working poor on food stamps. Total debt on student loans is well over a trillion dollars. Home ownership is more elusive than it has been in decades. The median family retirement savings is around $8,000. The economic problems of the middle class, working class, and the impoverished often seem deeply embedded and utterly insurmountable. So, naturally, now is the time for all good taxpayers to come to the aid of spoiled superrich heirs.
The House version of the U.S. tax reform bill calls for eliminating the inheritance tax entirely, regardless of the sum. Currently, the first $5.2 million left to one’s heirs is not taxed, with a graduated rate above that figure. Tax rates can reach as high as 40 percent, but with gifts, corporate structures and creative accounting few superrich now pay anything close to that rate. The folks who leave $5.2 million or less to their kids, nieces, nephews and dog groomers constitute 99.8 percent of the population.
Of course, it is the other 0.2 percent we must mollify, stroke, and coddle, for they are the combustion engine that drives our economy. Truth is, the blindingly brilliant fusion reactor animating the inner essence of our material existence is a bunch of crackheads wiling away their time reliving boarding school hijinks and waiting for Mommy and Daddy to die. In their honor, let us take a brief historical walk down poor little rich kid lane.
Paris Hilton’s great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton, began a business at the turn of the century providing affordable rooms in a Texas silver mining town and eventually parlayed his assets into a worldwide hotel empire. Paris Hilton invented the selfie. Paris Hilton’s modern day marketing empire includes a string of skanky perfumes and a reality show that made Jersey Shore look like The Big Bang Theory.
However, few contributions to Western civilization rival Ms. Hilton’s exquisite sex tape, 1 Night in Paris. This timeless hour-and-23-minute drugged out naked romp with gold digging party boy Rick Salomon inspired a generation of hopeful young Midwest cheerleaders to make their own foray into the world of online adult entertainment and in doing so generated countless millions in suicide hotline charges and internet defamation attorney fees.
In 1972 Seymour Durst pressured his son, Robert, to return to New York City and help run the family’s real estate empire. Robert had been managing a small health food store in Vermont but ceded to his father’s wishes. However, like all young men with a vision, Robert Durst eventually made his way in the world pursuing his own dream—killing and dismembering a series of wives, concubines, and neighbors.
Durst reached what was perhaps the pinnacle of his career on November 30, 2001 while on the lamb after skipping out on bail in Galveston, Texas for the killing of Morris Black. On that evening, Robert Durst was arrested in a Bethlehem, PA Wegmans supermarket for shoplifting a chicken salad sandwich, even with $37,000 in cash found in his rented car, thus validating the family ideals of thrift and frugality and helping usher in a prosperous new millennium.
Reginald Claypool Vanderbilt
While Reginald Claypool Vanderbilt did not inherit his great-grandfather Cornelius’s penchant for tireless effort and enterprise, after dropping out of Yale Reggie excelled at drinking and betting on horses. Not long after taking an itinerant teenage bride and siring daughter Gloria Vanderbilt, Reginald died of cirrhosis having squandered the bulk of the family fortune in his short lifetime. However, few can dismiss his towering singular contribution to life as we know it—ensuring that one day grandson Anderson Cooper would have to find a real job.
Anthony D. Marshall
Son of fur and real estate heiress Brooke Astor, Anthony D. Marshall played a critical role in maintaining worldwide U.S. hegemony by serving at various times as ambassador to key strategic allies Trinidad, Tobago, and Seychelles. Later in life, Marshall was better known for briefly serving jail time after fleecing his ailing nonagenarian mother’s foundation of millions and, according to the UK Telegraph, allowing her to live “in squalor off peas and porridge.” However, there was a method to the madness of Anthony D. Marshall and a noble destination for the embezzled funds—the Tony-nominated Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland.
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden is a prime example of someone who did a lot with a little. As the only son of Saudi construction magnate Mohammed bin Laden and his tenth wife, Osama was forced to split his inheritance 54 ways and was reportedly left with only $25 to $30 million. But that did not stop the younger bin Laden from funding and training the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union, co-founding al-Qaeda, forming an alliance with the Taliban, instituting a draconian form of Sharia law and declaring a fatwa against the United States.
Though considered unjust and inhumane by many, bin Laden’s September 11 attacks ushered in a new worldwide era of international terrorism and counter-terrorism and stimulated trillions of investment dollars in military buildups, security measures, and nation building, proving that even Jihad has its trickle-down effects.
The 1974 kidnapping of the young coed newspaper heiress Patty Hearst promised to be a typical case of extorting money from a wealthy family. But it proved to be so much more. Rather than merely a victim of the violent radical Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hearst proved to be a capable terrorist and gun moll in her own right, serving as a key member of a team that robbed banks, set explosives, and targeted police in the Bay Area over a period of many months
Her alleged affair with SLA leader Donald DeFreeze helped heighten the prurient interest in her saga, and footage from security cameras consistently riveted attention on the nightly news. While the media empire founded by grandfather William Randolph Hearst had long since peaked, it was granddaughter Patty’s wacky antics that almost single-handedly revived tabloid journalism in the mid-‘70s.
Walter Inman Jr.
Duke tobacco heir Walter Inman Jr. preferred mountain retreats, pet lions, snorkeling in Fiji, and shooting heroin to stuffy boardrooms. As he blew through most of his billion dollar inheritance, he found it challenging to provide adequate care for his twin children, who were often locked in a basement filled with feces and scalded by boiling baths. However, Inman Jr.’s death due to a methadone overdose in 2010 ultimately proved instrumental to finally getting the family finances in order.
Though extensive research has to date failed to unearth any redeeming qualities or productive activities whatsoever for Walter Inman Jr., his life serves as a virtual cautionary tale playbook for future heirs to fortunes looking to avoid the pitfalls of the idle rich, and as such will continue to be valued and treasured by the American donor class.
Donald Trump Jr.
As executive director of the trust that controls the Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr. is in charge of coordinating policy decisions by the President of the United States with the various financial needs of money launderers in Russia, Hong Kong, Dubai, Turkey, and the Ukraine. “Fredo,” as he is affectionately known, has also spearheaded his father’s efforts to collude with Russia to sabotage the 2016 Presidential election, served as a liaison to Julian Assange, called Representative Maxine Waters a stripper, and compared international refugees to a bowl of Skittles.
Back in 1990, seeking to help his son Donald J. Trump avoid defaulting on a loan payment on the Trump Castle, Fred Trump walked into the casino, placed $3 million in newly purchased chips on a blackjack table and walked away. Thankfully, the pending changes to U.S. estate tax law will ensure the very, very rich never again have to undergo this sort of indignity.
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.