"FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY"
The Death Tax, lets call it what it really is! You dont have to pay it until youre dead. Then you dont have to deal with ityour children do.
While you are still on this good earth, your struggle with whatever life deals you. You might be born into unfortunate circumstances. Your dad only has part time work and takes any odd jobs to help support the family. Your mom is crippled with polio, but cant afford a leg-brace to help her walk better. Your family (Mom, Dad, two sisters and you) shares your blind uncles cramped houseboat on a river that is constantly floodingyou occasionally go to sleep in one town and wake up in another. Each time the houseboat finds high ground you start your lives over again. What little money your dad does make is taxed to pay for World War I but he doesnt mind, it's "for the good of the country." And little Leonard Slye is taught to be thankful to live in America rather than Germany and Scotland where his ancestors had come from.
Things seem to be going along okay, when the river floods and youre off to places unknown again. Your Dad finally scrapes enough money together to buy a small farm in a little community away from the river. The only problem, its too far from the town where hes finally gotten a job in a factory for him to come home more often than every other weekendyoure suddenly the "man" of the family at seven. As you get a little older, you start a real job in town and both of your paychecks reflect the taxes you pay "for the good of the country." Finally, the war debt is paid off, but then the depression sets in. The shoe factory jobs disappear but you have managed to save $90 between you, so you and your father join your oldest sister in California where you hear there is still some work.
When you finally reach the Promised Land, you find everyone else had the same idea as you. You end up in an itinerant camp picking peaches for 5¢ a lug. Sitting around the campfires at night, you polish the musical skills (mandolin and fiddle) you learned as a boy on the farmplus you learn how to play a guitar, harmonica and Jews harp. Its hard work, picking crops in the heat of Southern California, but the farmers feed the work crews, so youre happy because you have a full belly, but you worry about your Mom and sisters left in Ohio.
You finally get a job driving a sand and gravel truck, a truck that you load yourself with a scoop shovel and drive from the beach to the new Los Angeles Airport. It is hard backbreaking work, but you are thankful just to have a job that pays money. You and your Dad drive back to Ohio to bring the women to California.
You are now in your early-twenties. To this point in your life you have not been able to save anything for your future. You are too busy trying to surviveto save is out of the question. However, you do manage to put a little aside for that pocketknife you want to give your dad for his birthday or the new apron for your mom.
Your guitar playing is constantly improving, your singing voice is pretty good and, boy, can you yodel! Your fellow pickers in the camps and the guys at the sand and gravel company are encouraging. Plus your older sister is downright pushy. She wants you to try out for a talent show on a local radio stationthere is a small cash prize each weeks winner. You try it, you win and you get your prize money!
"What good luck!" Someone heard you sing on that live broadcast and they want you to join their singing group. There are six guys and while the pay is not much, its a start and a chance to better yourself. Your first gig is playing at a high school dance. You all get to split $13.00 in cash and the money is "for the good of the family".
Your new "career" progresses slowly. Youre working on three or four different radio shows, each with a different group of guys, each time splitting the $13.00 between five or six guys. You finally decide to form your own group. Just two of you to start with, that way there would be more money between you. You add another singer to form The Pioneer Trio, then a fiddle player because you want to be more professional and have a bigger sound. Bigger and better sound, means bigger and better jobs.
The Sons of the Pioneers are now playing "paying" gigs on the local radio stations from midnight to 6 a.m. Weird hours but decent money. The group gets a call from a major motion picture studio to back some singing cowboys. You sign a contract for more money per picture than you have ever seena few hundred a picture, two or three pictures a year, split between the six of you and youre still working on radio and going on tour.
You were married in 1936 and you want to start a family, but money is tight and touring with the group takes you away from home. Suddenly you learn that another studio is looking for a new cowboy hero. Through a stroke of good luck, you walk onto the lot, get an audition and you land the job. At the stroke of a pen, you sign a contract, get a new name (Roy Rogers) and $75 a week! More money than you could ever believe. Wow!!! $75 a week! In 1938 that was a whole lot of money.
Your first picture is named the best Western of 1938 and is the #1 Western in box-office receipts that year. However, you are a contract player and, no matter how much money you make for the studio, you still only get $75 per week for the seven years of your contract. But its every week, you can finally support your family and you cannot believe your luck.
Being successful brings new problems. Your popularity with the fans is so great that you are receiving 600,000 pieces of mail a month but youre not making enough money to pay the postage it takes to answer all of your fan mail. You ask the studio for helpthey just laugh at you and say, "How much can all those kids matter?" You get upset and dump a months worth of fan letters on the lawn in front of the office of the head of the studio but still, no help.
When the United States finds itself embroiled in another World War, you want to do your duty, so you go to enlist. They are not taking anyone over thirty with kids, you are thirty-two and have two daughters. You ask yourself how you can help your country in this time of great peril. The government provides an answer; "Because you are so popular with your fans and they trust you, why dont you go on the road and sell War and Savings Bonds to help raise the money it will take to defeat our enemy? Tell people how great our wonderful country is, how much you love Uncle Sam and that they should do everything they can to support the boys who are fighting to keep our country free." So you do what your country asks of you and you sell millions of dollars in bonds over the next couple of years. You also appear at Army, Navy and Marine bases around the country and the USO to help keep morale high. You dont get paid anything for these activities; all of this is your contribution to the war effortthis and the new taxes that have been levied to pay for the cost of the war. However, you are happy to do what you can "for the good of the country." What recognition do you get for all your efforts for your country? A small piece of paper with the picture of a patriot on the front that says, "Thank you".
All the while, you are making personal appearances at rodeos, state fairs and anywhere else that offers to pay you so that you can augment your $75 per week. Because you are making a little more money, you are paying more taxes. You dont complain though because its. "for the good of the country" and you are sure that the taxes will cease when the war is over and the national debt is once again retired. Not all of your luck is good, however. As the war ends, your wife dies following the birth of your third child. By the end of the war, you finally get an increase in your contract it doubles, but now there is no partner to share your luck with.
A year later you marry your favorite leading lady, herself a single mother with a son in college. As the years pass by, your work schedule keeps increasing. Name merchandising begins to appear and the first Roy Rogers jeans go to marketbut now your have employees of your own and their families are relying on you for support. You add a weekly radio show and make records to add to your income, all the time continuing the personal appearances and movies. You figure you cant afford to stay at the studio any longeryou have been the #1 box-office earner for 11 years, but Republic cant afford to pay you what stars at the other studios make.
Television is just starting to get popular, so you form your own production company and put more people to work. You also now have eight children: some your own, some adopted and one foster daughter from Scotland. The government is now involved in another foreign enterprise, the Korean War. As there is still debt from World War II to be paid, the government decides that they need to raise more money by raising more taxes, and you end up in the 90% tax bracket. That means you get to keep 10 pennies out of every dollar you earn. But you are earning more and, after all, its "for the good of the country."
Korea ends but, alas, the Cold War starts. We are in the Space Race, then the conflict in Vietnam flares up. The national debt has still not been retired, the communists must be defeated, and you are still paying most of what you earn in taxesbut you still dont complain because it is "for the good of the country." And, you are blessed to live in a free country and to still be able to work and earn money.
Over the next several years you try to save what money you can. Not one to take chances, you dont invest in the stock market, you put your cash into savings bonds, CDs and real estate. The money you have in your accounts earns interest dollars for you, which are, of course, taxed. If you are fortunate and turn over a piece of property, you are taxed for the capitol gains. You reinvest whats left into your savings accounts and again, you are taxed on the interest earned but the money you pay in taxes is "for the good of the country." But Uncle Sam does appreciate you and your elected representatives have decreased your tax bracket, now you get to keep about half.
You and your wife have shared a dreamto have a museum that will house your personal collections of things you acquired during the active years of your careers. As your television series finishes, you move where you can afford to buy some property and you put up your museum. Everything is fine because you can now earn almost as much from making guest appearances as you once did from having your own series (you no longer have to pay it all out in salaries to your cast and crew).
As your earning years wane and your senior years approach, you try to decide how much you will need to survive as a senior citizenhoping all along that you remain healthy and dont become a burden to your children. You are lucky; however, the business you were in will still provide you with health insurance, even though you are no longer active in show business.
You decide that you need to keep your museum going far into your senior years, as your employees are counting on their jobs and some have been with your museum for over 25 years of loyal service. Also, your fans continue to make their way to share their memories with you.
All these years your family has sacrificed too. They were virtually raised by others, as their parents were busy earning money and taking care of children and adults in less fortunate circumstances. You told them how fortunate they were to have food, clothing and shelter, and loving parents. You taught them your love for God and country and to thank God every day for being born in a free country and they bought into the American Dream.
Your family now steps up to the plate and strives to keep the business going. They know what the museum means to you, your wife and your loyal fans that come by the thousands each year to see the legacy you have left them. Because of the legacy, this world is a much better place to live in. The family believes that it is important to remind everyone of simpler times when love of God, country and freedom were really important. This is "for the good of the country."
The senior health problems arrive, big time! You and your lifes partner suffer physically and emotionally but you strive to carry on. You see the future looming on the horizon and it will not include youbut you accept this because individual lives do not go on foreverbut families do! Your father and his father before him, and so on and so on, were only worried about where the familys next meal would come from. They knew that they could only count on themselves and their own family. You, on the other hand, were more than fortunate to live in a country that rewards hard work and perseverance. You have been able to leave something for your familynot a lot of jewels, cash or houses, because thats not what you believed in. You were from the old school. The one that said, "dig your hands into Gods good earththat is where your riches are. Land is foreverjust like family.
You do all you can, including setting up a trust, to protect your inheritance. But is it enough? As you leave this earth you pray to Almighty God that you have done all you can. You trust says that when you pass on, all your assets are moved over to your wife for her use and charge.
All is well and gooduntil your lifes partner also leaves this good earth. It is then, just when you both thought all would be well, that the government that has taken so much from you in taxes throughout your life, who has taken its share (and then some) of every dollar you have ever earned, steps in for another 55% at your death. That means 55% of everything you have worked for your entire 86 years. Everything the government has already shared in.
For example: You paid $2,500 for Trigger in 1938 (an incredible amount then and it took you years to pay oft). When Trigger died, you paid $30,000 to have him mounted like they do in natural museums because you could not bear to put your partner of nearly 30 years into the ground. Now an appraiser says that, since there is only one Trigger, the horse is worth 400,000. That means that you have to pay the government $220,000 to keep Trigger. Gene Autry (a good friend of yours) had a hole dug and buried Champion when he learned from you how much it would cost to have Champion preserved. You are a sentimentalist, and Gene is a good businessman.
No, the government does not want 55% ownership of Trigger, nor of the business it took you al lifetime to build. It does not want to stay up with the family nights wondering where to raise the money to pay the taxes. It does not want to explain to the employees that the business your parents built might have to close. It does not want to do anything butit wants $ash in 9 months of your last parents passing.
Now you hear a lot about the "super rich" from the politicians who say we shouldnt do away with the "Death Tax." Our father and mother were not among the super richthey always took care of too many other people to amass great riches for themselves. What they left is some barren land that it might take some years to sell and an almost intangible inheritancethe memories of better times, some show clothes, movie posters and photographs. The contents of a museum where people still come to and try to recapture their youth or to show their grandchildren who their role models were and who set them on the right path.
Reality is that no family-owned businesses, farms or ranches have the kind of cash or liquid assets that are required to pay a 55% tax burdenonly large corporations could possibly be able to do this, which is why when you look around most large farms and ranches are now owned by large corporations.
So what can families do? The many hopes and dreams that the family shared have to be sold to cover the 55% "Death Tax." Yeah, yeah, the Senate has finally passed a bill that will do away with this unfair tax by the year 2010. That doesnt bring any relief to families now. The business and the few assets it took their parents a lifetime to earn have to be sold to cover the debt. However, everyone involved knows that the property is being offered at an IRS fire sale and the family is forced to sell for pennies on the dollar. Not only has the family suffered a staggering loss, so have all of your employees who have relied on your family for their employment for decades. Now there will be no more business to tax, no income to taxa loss of revenue for everyone in the community. But the government really does not care, for they do all of this "for the good of the country."
I really wonder!!!
Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr.