Unnecessary Divisiveness

March, 2015

Lincoln -- There's enough divisiveness in the world as it is, so why acquiesce, without protest, to more? Recently I ran into two divisive practices, one private, one public, that should be done away with.

Usually I travel by air individually, but on occasion I fly accompanied. Not long ago my son and I had airline tickets for seats together, we thought. We had purchased both seats at the same time on the same credit card, long in advance of the flight. Our last names are the same. But when we checked our seat assignments on our boarding passes the day of the flight, we had been placed in different rows, far distant. There was no last-minute changing of seats, so we flew apart, as assigned.

Once burned, twice shy, so the next time I flew accompanied, I tried to make certain the seat assignments were together. I was informed there would be an extra $40 fee for sitting together, per seat. This practice is apparently sweeping the airline industry. What if you have a young child? What if you merely want to be crushed up against someone you know rather than against a stranger in the tightly packed seats? Airlines: it's hard enough to keep friends and families together as it is; please don't break us apart further with these exorbitant fees, just to appear to have low ticket prices.

That is the private example; the public example of unnecessary divisiveness involves Nebraska inheritance taxes. Recently two of my relatives died. They had no children, so their wills passed their farm on to their first cousins, their closest family. But this was news to the cousins, who were notified only after the farm and household possessions had been sold in order to collect inheritance taxes, which in Nebraska are 18% for cousins, for any amount over $10,000. What if one or more of the cousins wanted the farm, or some of the household possessions, to keep the connection with the family?

The Nebraska inheritance tax is an important revenue source for counties, which oppose its repeal or even raising its exemption levels. Unless, of course, the Nebraska legislature would replace the revenue with state aid to counties from its larger sales and income tax base. Only then would the counties acknowledge the family-unfriendliness of the inheritance tax, even as it continues to be one obvious factor in de-populating many of them. But apparently a revenue-neutral solution is beyond the ken in the legislature, so committed are the senators to their anti-tax sloganeering.

I write this blog to make it clear that I would gladly pay a somewhat higher airline ticket price so as to avoid the gimmick of charging for seat assignments, and pay higher state sales and income taxes if necessary to raise inheritance tax exemptions to keep family properties together. Enough with this unnecessary divisiveness.