The Disney brothers’ first success wasn’t all
that lucky for the company. The cartoon’s distributor wrested the
rights to Oswald away from Walt and Roy almost as soon as he had become
popular. This loss was a huge setback for both men, and my grandfather
vowed never to let himself be taken advantage of again. He soon
registered a copyright on a new character named Mickey Mouse. It was
1928, and it was neither the first nor the last time the Walt Disney
Co. benefited from a federal system of protections, laws and taxes that
created fertile ground for building a business empire.
In addition to the copyright protections for Mickey, theFederal Communications Commission regulated the airwaves that carried theDisneylandtelevision series and, of course, theMickey Mouse Club. The transportation and federal highway system built in the wake ofWorld War II
took millions of visitors to Disneyland. The Marshall Plan helped
rebuild devastated European markets into which Disney poured its
products, turning a quaint American company into a global brand.
Taxes are on everyone’s mind lately for good reason. Not only will Congress have to make some tough decisions about theBush
tax cuts soon, but if lawmakers do nothing, the estate tax will
automatically be reinstated after a year’s hiatus — in its 2001 form. A
great deal of misinformation isflying around out there about this, but
most agree that the tax is flawed and needs to be modified.
One thing I do know is this: In a far stricter
tax environment, my grandfather still managed to accumulate and pass on
ample funds to make three subsequent generations very comfortable
indeed. And as an inheritor I am here to tell you, the estate tax is
not as much of a bogeyman as you’ve been led to believe.
According to the teabaggers, all the system does is take your wealth. The system also helped you make it, and few and far between are the times those who benefited from it recognize that.