I’m taking a different approach to my weekly interview. Instead of interviewing someone about a variety of issues, I’m taking one issue – the very controversial death tax – and finding out what a variety of people say about it.

It’s been a yo-yo of a tax over the years; 55% a decade ago falling gradually to zero this year and threatening to immediately returning to 55% at the stroke of midnight 12/31/2010. One of the Christmas gifts from the lame duck congress was an almost-too-late cut to 35% in the New Year.

It’s a beginning. Thirty-five per cent is still enough to shut down too many ranches and farms but it won’t be as staggering as 55%. The best way to describe most pro-tax relief comments, then, is semi-delighted. Here is what people are saying:

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. President Steve Foglesong said, “I speak for all cattlemen and women when I express my gratitude to those members of Congress who understand the importance of keeping small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, from receiving a financially devastating death sentence on New Year’s day.”

National Corn Growers Association. President Bart Schott said, “We are very happy to see the one-year extension of the ethanol blender’s credit and a two year reformed estate tax move. These extensions were among the top priorities for our organization in 2010; failure to renew both would have done much to harm our nation’s rural economy and the future of America’s farms.”

Dr. Tony Beam, Christian Post Guest Columnist. “The death tax is immoral and should be eliminated, not negotiated down from an insane 55% to the merely obscene 35%. Making the argument that keeping the tax at 35% is a victory because the democrats wanted 55% is like a man who cuts off his right arm and then says, ‘well it could have been worse; I could have cut off both arms.’ Using the opportunity of a person’s death to tax the fruit of their labor yet again is nothing less than government confiscation of private property. The government has already had their bite at the apple. Taking another big bite on the occasion of one’s demise is like crashing the wake and eating the food brought for the family.”

American Farm Bureau Federation. “We commend President Obama and congressional leaders for being committed to securing passage of this tax bill. It offers considerable relief that will help farmers, ranchers and rural communities in these difficult economic times.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL "If someone leaves an estate of a billion dollars, under (the compromise) proposal, they would gain $100 million over what the Democrats are proposing for the estate tax. Imagine, Paris Hilton will be able to get an extra $100 million under their plan. It's obscene."

Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe. “The estate tax is pernicious because it punishes precisely the kind of behavior society should want to reward - work, prudence, savings - and it rewards behavior that should be discouraged - profligacy, overconsumption, and leisure. The easiest way to avoid all death taxes, after all, is to spend your money before you go. Work hard, reinvest your earnings, and leave your life’s savings to your loved ones, on the other hand, and the IRS becomes one of your heirs. As economist Arthur Laffer memorably put it in an essay last year, “Spend It in Vegas, or Die Paying Taxes.’’ That is hardly the message we should want our tax laws to convey.

Whoopi Goldberg, The View. "I’d like somebody to get rid of the death tax...If I have to give something to my kid I already paid the tax, why do I have to pay it again because I died? It’s horrible. It doesn’t matter if you have or you don’t have money. Once you paid your taxes, it should be a done deal. You shouldn’t have to pay twice. No taxation without representation! Sorry." (Quote date: December 4, 2007)

Video (0:55): Real (1.48 MB) and Windows (1.70 MB), plus MP3 audio (424 kB)

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com