Liberal Timothy Egan Passes Moral Judgment on "Truly Awful Rich People"

Timothy Egan was a liberal reporter for the Times who now blogs for the paper every Thursday on his "Outposts" blog.Yetinhis latest entry, "Greedand Need," the liberal Egan lays down some pretty Old Testament-style judgment, at least on"truly awful rich people," and ponders whether there is a "Hell painful enough for them."

In Seattle, Egan discovered his unique idea of a capitalist hero - Bill Gates Sr., who is against the estate tax. (Gates Sr. is not the founder of Microsoft, but his lawyer father.)

There are plenty of rich people to hate these days, starting with Bernie Madoff, who will face a judge Thursday as well as the possibility of spending his remaining years in a cell where he can think about all the lives he ruined.

Is there a Hell painful enough for him? A place where, say, he can listen to Bush economic theorists espouse the joys of toothless regulation while looking at pictures of the Holocaust survivors who are among Madoff's victims?

I was thinking of the Ponzi scheme thief and his cellar mates in the dungeon of truly awful rich people - Ken Lay, late of Enron and this world, and Leona "Only the Little People Pay Taxes" Helmsley - while working up a froth of good cheer over some other tycoons.

What's so great about Gates Senior? He loves the estate tax, a tax levied by the IRS on the property of the wealthy upon death, which has a current maximum rate of 45%. It was even higher before Congress intervened in 2003.

Bill Gates Sr. is 83 years old, six-foot-seven inches tall, with the kind of thin-haired crown that newborn babies and older men have in common. Though he looks like an avuncular conductor of a giant toy train set, he labors daily trying to give away one of the world's biggest fortunes, that made by his son at Microsoft.

Senior, as he's known, has a short, big-hearted book coming out next month, "Showing Up for Life," which should be handed out to all those hedge-fund managers now filing for bankruptcy or otherwise wondering why their lives are so empty. His book is a sort of Last Lecture from the Greatest Generation, similar to the collected musings of Randy Pausch, who died last year of cancer at age 47.


In the political realm, he is best known for fighting George W. Bush's efforts to repeal the estate tax, a tax he feels is needed to prevent a permanent economic aristocracy in this country. If you need a moment of instant populist outrage, imagine all those children of people who made billions in the casino of credit default swaps passing on the gains to their little darlings, tax-free.

(Times Watch digression alert - isn't the distancing phrase "in this country" a pretty much dead giveaway that the speaker is a liberal?)