Bush’s inaugural address holds out exactly the image of a just society that provides a moral foundation for the estate tax – the idea of “a single nation of justice and opportunity.” He was right to say that the differences between prosperous and poor Americans “run deep.” They run much deeper than they do in other developed nations, and they have become deeper over the past twenty years. Although America is one of the world’s richest nations, the proportion of the adult population living in relative powerty is more than twice as high in the United States as it is in France, Germany, or Italy – 19 percent as against about 8 percent. American children do even worse – fully one-quarter of them live in powerty, compared with about a tenth or less in the major nations of continental Western Europe. Nor is this only because the wealthy United States has a higher benchmark below which people count as poor – on the contrary, those in the poorest 10 percent of the American population are worse off, in absolute terms, than are those in the poorest tenth of the populations of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. A Swedish family with children that is at the threshold of that poorest 10 percent will have an income that is 60 percent higher than a similar family at the threshold of the poorest 10 percent of Americans. The Swedish family will also have the security of a safety net of income support and free health-care services that far surpasses anything available to the poor in America. The public provision of such services has long been taken for granted in all the nations of Western Europe.
– Peter Singer in The President of Good and Evil (2004)