Speech by Project 21 Advisory Committee Chairman at a Press Conference on the Estate Tax – March 1997

For Release: March 3, 1997

Contact: Arturo Silva at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]

Project 21 Chairman Edmund Peterson’s Statement
on the Repeal of the Estate Tax:
Leader of African-American Group Condemns Death Tax
I’m not here today to endorse any legislation. Project 21 doesn’t endorse bills, we endorse ideas. Especially ideas that can be found in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. I believe when those two documents are heeded, the freedom of the individual supersedes the might of a greedy Government.

But apparently some of our political leaders do not agree. The death of an individual, while to many Americans is a time for mourning — is to some politicians — a time for taxing. In addition to the grief of losing a loved one, today many families have to struggle to withstand the assault a greedy Government unleashes upon their inheritance.

One such family going through this tragedy are the Thigpens of Montrose, Mississippi. A grandson of slaves, voted Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year, a Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum Hall of Famer, 84-year-old Chester Thigpen is so ill today he is unable to fly to Washington to testify before Congress. And while both God and Government may be smiling on Chester today, it’s for two very different reasons. God sees the good he has done, and Government sees the land he owns. The calculators are out of the bureaucrats pockets ready to ring up the bill. Chester’s family knows when that bill comes, they’ll have to sell the land to pay it.

So a man who once plowed fields behind a mule finds that the little land he bought in 1940 and expanded to 850 acres today is at risk of existing no more. In effect, when Chester and his wife die, the government will conduct a burial of its own — a burial of everything the Thigpens worked for to pass on to their children. That’s what the death tax does: it turns the American Dream into a Government-sponsored nightmare. Everytime we think we’re free, Government reminds us that it just isn’t so.

Not long ago, the Underground Railroad took blacks to freedom. If the estate tax remains as is, the ride over the bridge to the 21st Century threatens not to lead us into greater freedom, but into slavery once again.


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